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Cool Tech Takes the Sting Out of Business Travel

After taking the summer off from business travel, I hit the road last week for the first in a long series of trips over the next few months. With the long layoff, I was able to reconsider some of my long-standing travel habits.

Let's start with backups. In the past, I would make CD-based backup sets—and then, later, DVD-based sets—of my data to ensure that I could access crucial information in the event of a disaster. However, with the size of my documents folder growing almost exponentially each year, even DVD-based backups were becoming problematic. So, I purchased a Western Digital Passport, a USB-based external hard disk for on-the-road backup and recovery. (The devices are available in 40GB and 80GB versions; I grabbed the 80GB version for about $230.) The Passport is a wonder: It gets power through the USB cable, so it doesn't need an external power adapter. And it's almost small enough to fit in a pocket. It easily slips into my carry-on bag. And it can old all my documents, music, and photos. It's perfect.

I also bring along a 1GB USB memory stick for my most crucial documents. That way, if I need to copy files quickly to a different PC, or access a file when my notebook isn't available, I can do so easily. These things are so cheap, it's almost shameful not to have one. And you have to keep it on you, preferably in your pocket or on a keychain.

This summer, I upgraded to a 6.2-mega pixel digital camera, and I grabbed a high-speed 1GB Secure Digital (SD) memory card on which to store photos. The card has enough capacity to hold more than 330 photos, so I can't imagine I'd ever need more than that for a single day. However, I can't take that many pictures on the camera's single battery, so I grabbed an extra battery. This has proven immensely useful on vacation days on which I'm taking numerous photos.

Noise-reduction headphones are a must-have device for any business traveler, and I've tried a bunch of different models over the years. Although I'm a big fan of the popular (but expensive) Bose headphones, I recently settled on a pair of the smaller and more easily stored Sony MDR-NC6 noise-canceling headphones ($60). In a loud airplane, the difference between these phones and normal headphones is readily apparent. And the price isn't comparable to a car payment.

Finally, I also inadvertently ran into a useful idea earlier this summer: Various companies are now selling flat Ethernet cables that can be rolled up into a circular holder cartridge for easier storage. My unit broke apart, however, leaving me with the flat cabling. Now, I just bring the cabling, sans cartridge: It's still about the same size when folded up, but it's more malleable, making it an easier fit in my luggage.

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