For freelance entrepreneurs, mobile workers and digital nomads, working remotely is a way of life. Thanks to awesome mobile technology and wireless Internet access, you no longer have to be chained to a desk to get the job done.
But that doesn’t mean finding a reliable Wi-Fi connection is an easy task – especially when you’re combining work with travel.
We asked wandering worker Josh Rigo (Wander With Josh) how he finds a good reliable Internet connection on the road:
“As we know, finding Wi-Fi can be difficult and spotty and I’m still on a quest for a good portable Wi-Fi solution. However, many countries have great cell service. If you get a local SIM card you can usually get pretty decent (if not excellent) data speeds, and then use your phone as a hotspot to tether your other devices.”
If you can get a reasonably stable 3G or 4G connection, your mobile cell phone makes an excellent portable Wi-Fi source. Bear in mind that not all smartphones support tethering, and you’ll need to make sure it’s included on your contract too – otherwise be prepared to pay extra. Check out PC Advisor’s step-by-step guide on smartphone hotspots.
There are plenty of other ways to get connected, too. Here’s a quick overview:
As we discussed above, you can use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot and tether your laptop to your cell phone connection. Be sure to set a secure password so only you can access the wireless connection. That way, you’ll keep your online activity safe and you’ll also prevent others from stealing your Internet bandwidth!
Nick, a photographer and blogger of Nick’s Wanderings, says: “I tend to use a local SIM if I can get one and a MiFi when out and about.” MiFi is the brand name for a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Depending on your network, it may look like a miniature router or a ‘dongle’ that plugs into your laptop’s USB port. Ask your smartphone operator about mobile routers and compare prices against other operators, too.
3. Local Cafes:
While small independent cafes provide a more authentic local experience – and support the local economy – the larger chains do tend to offer a more reliable Wi-Fi connection. If you’re just replying to emails, an independent cafe should work fine. For more demanding tasks such as Skype calls or uploading large files, you’ll often have better luck at a chain cafe or fast-food joint.
Most hostels offer Wi-Fi, but be sure to check the speed and whether it’s in your room or only in shared spaces. If you can only get Wi-Fi in the common room, it may hinder your concentration and you’ll also have to share your bandwidth with several other users. Check out AirBnB apartments if your budget allows; you’re more likely to get faster speeds and more privacy.
5. Day Desks:
Coworking spaces are springing up in towns, cities and off-the-beaten track locations all over the world. Wi-Fi quality is often of a high standard, although the cheaper options usually require you to share an open-plan office with other users. That’s great for collaboration and networking; less so when you need to jump on a private Skype call.
For a more professional experience, you can rent meeting space and day offices on-demand. Prices vary enormously, but they’re not as expensive as you think. For instance in the US, $10 per hour gives you a private cubicle on 5th Avenue in New York (right near the Empire State Building) or a business lounge in Orlando, while this business center in Miami provides individual office pods for $12 per hour.
What Wi-Fi Speed Do You Need?
This awesome infographic from Live Work Anywhere tells you how fast your Wi-Fi needs to be for certain tasks. For instance:
- Low bandwidth ranging from 100 kb/s to 1 mb/s will give you reasonable Skype calls (not video) and email access.
- Medium bandwidth ranging from 1 mb/s to 4 mb/s will give you GoToMeeting calls, Mailchimp for e-newsletters, social media uploads, Google Hangouts and Skype video calls.
- Push it up to 8 mb/s and you can go wild with Skype Conference, Dropbox, Google Drive and more.
Tip: Test your current Wi-Fi speed at any time by using www.speedtest.net.
Some of these apps work on lower speeds too, although you’ll probably notice a difference in reaction speed, upload times or output quality. Bear in mind that ideally you’ll have a dedicated line that’s not used by other people, too.
What’s your top tip for finding the best local Wi-Fi connection when you’re working on the road? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.