How to work online on the move

Thursday 5 September 2013

Technology innovation over the last decade or so means professional people no longer need to be tied to their desktop PC to get online. There are a number of different ways of connecting to the internet, depending on your location or the type of web-enabled device you are using. So as employees look to get online - to access their files, documents and data, communicate with colleagues and customers, or use cloud services - they have a range of options.

Using mobile broadband on your laptop

If you are using a laptop, it is possible to connect to the internet using a mobile broadband dongle. Simple plug-and-play technology enables users to get online in a matter of minutes - the modem fits right in to your laptop's USB port. Employees can either use their own dongle or one paid for by their company - monthly subscription and pay-as-you-go options are available from a number of UK mobile operators. Similarly, mobile Wi-Fi devices allow users to create personal wireless broadband hotspots on the move.

Mobile broadband on smartphones and laptops

Mobile broadband is now accessible on the majority of feature phones, smartphones and media tablets, giving remote workers an increased range of options. If you are unable to carry a full-size laptop around with you, handheld devices may present a more viable alternative. Mobile broadband capability is in-built, with inclusive data available as part of service contracts or on a pay-as-you-go basis. Employees need to ensure they remain topped up with data - although increasingly tariffs offer unlimited monthly downloads. Simply opening up the web browser on a connected smartphone or tablet should allow the user to connect to the internet.

Are broadband speeds fast enough?

Mobile broadband speeds have gradually increased over the last few years, although 3G performance and reliability has always lagged behind that associated with fixed-line connections. But the advent of 4G technology is something of a game-changer. A number of UK network operators have now launched limited next-generation mobile broadband services, offering super-fast download speeds to dongle, tablet and smartphone users. This means remote workers are able to access higher bandwidth services, and do more on the move.

But what about service reliability?

4G services are continuing to be rolled out across the major UK towns and cities, although rural areas are less likely to have access to a super-fast network. Over the coming years, mobile broadband is set to extend into 'not-spots' which currently have patchy or non-existent coverage. This should mean greater service reliability for 4G users, such as rail passengers using a mobile device while passing through the countryside. When coverage catches up with speed, professional people will have access to super-fast broadband on the move without the fear of a drop-off in performance. At present, when users enter areas without a 4G signal, the connection automatically switches back to a slower 3G connection.

Using public Wi-Fi services

Depending on the broadband provider used by a company, employees may have access to a network of public Wi-Fi hotspots which allow subscribers to connect for free. In London, for instance, there are thousands of public Wi-Fi zones, operated by the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin Media. The latter has created a Wi-Fi network on the London Underground, enabling passengers to get online while waiting for their trains. Where employees have Wi-Fi capability, there is no need to use mobile broadband services. Increasingly, businesses and public organisations are launching their own in-house wireless networks, recognising user demand for broadband services on the move.

Find out how Microsoft solutions can help your people make the most of mobile broadband and public Wi-Fi connectivity to work remotely.

Posted by Alex Boardman