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The business travel technology low-down

While technology can make working on the go a whole lot easier, choosing the right technology in the first place can make a big difference.

We’ve all been there – you’re on a business trip and have an eight-hour flight ahead of you. It’s the perfect opportunity to power up your notebook and get through some urgent work, leaving you free time to relax once you land. But then you realise there’s no plug point near your seat and the person in front of you has their chair back making it virtually impossible to get to work on your notebook. In these situations, being able to do business effectively on the go in different environments is often challenging, but choosing the right technology can make life much easier.

If you’re planning on travelling a lot for work, but don’t have time to compare multiple products, here are some helpful points to consider when choosing the right technology to help you do business, whenever and wherever you are.

Sizing up your options

The size and weight of a device makes a difference both in terms of portability and ease of use. While you may not think that carrying an extra kilo in your notebook bag will make much difference, a recent survey has revealed that 86 percent of chiropractors believe the primary cause of poor posture is use of laptops and computers for extended periods of time, so it’s important to weigh up your options.

When choosing a notebook for business use, a 13-14” screen is ideal and provides a great viewing experience, without requiring a large amount of set-up space or heavy lifting. A screen of this size will often translate to a lightweight design as well, with some new notebook products averaging as little as 1-to-2kg. The added benefit of these slimline products is that they still run on fast processors, so you don’t have to sacrifice power or performance for portability.

For less frequent business travellers, a 15-17” notebook screen is also a good option and these products usually offer additional features, such as DVD Drives and Blu-ray burners, which are useful if you’re working on complex presentations or documents.

Weigh up the alternatives

Before packing up your notebook, it’s worth thinking about other portable devices designed for working on the move. For a short trip or a day’s meeting out of the office, a tablet may be a good alternative.

As well as being ultra-light – with some products weighing as little as 535g – the most commonly used tablets feature a 10” screen. This combination of size versus performance means you can easily work remotely with access to all the files and applications you need to do business.

Staying charged

Just because you’re out of the office, work doesn’t stop. Typically you’ll go straight from one meeting to the next, without time to recharge either yourself or your devices in between. However, the reality is that while a flat battery can mean hours of lost productivity, not to mention ideas, most notebooks are designed to last a maximum of around eight hours through active use.

If you’re likely to be on the go all day it’s worth choosing products that have removable batteries. This will give you the ability to simply swap out the flat battery and continue working, adding hours of productivity to your travel time.

Another useful feature for the time poor traveller is USB Sleep and Charge technology, which lets you charge other devices – like smartphones and MP3 players – without having to turn on your notebook. Even when your notebook is switched off in your bag, you can still use it to charge your other devices, simply by connecting them to your notebook via a USB cable.

As well as being able to charge your phone waiting in the taxi rank or airport lounge, this also means you only need one power cord to charge multiple devices. Your bag will be lighter and you’ll avoid worrying about whether you remember to pack all the right chargers. Simply pick up a universal adaptor and you’re good to go.

To 3G or not to 3G?

It’s easy for companies to get caught up in the mantra that 3G connectivity means increased efficiency and output, but it’s important to consider whether having access to 3G networks is business critical and worth the investment for every device. It can be cheaper to purchase two or three 3G dongles to share around the business rather than investing in 3G devices for every employee. You can be charged with hefty global roaming rates if you are using your 3G connection to access the internet while travelling internationally, so make sure you’ve checked costs with your network provider to avoid any unexpected bill shock. If you’re on a plan and exceed your cap, you can face a higher than expected bill and a budget blow-out so make sure you check your limits in advance.

Planning for the unexpected

If your notebook or tablet isn’t working, neither are you. So you need to make a decision about whether you think investing in an extended warranty is worthwhile. To help with this, ask yourself:

  • Do you plan on travelling frequently with this device?
  • Will it blow out your budget to replace parts if they go missing or to fix any problems while you’re away?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, it might be worth spending a little extra to ensure you’re not caught out when you’re travelling or away from the office.

Saving your business money 

Buying products suitable for business travel can be more costly, but there are a number of Government incentives worth being aware of:

  • There are a number of tax breaks available for small to medium sized companies purchasing products for business use. Check out the Australian Tax Office website to find what your business qualifies for.
  • Looking ahead to 2012/13, SMBs will be entitled to claim an immediate write-off of all assets valued at under $5,000, increasing from $1,000 currently. This increase will help you invest in the best quality product for your business.

There’s no question that technology is a great business enabler, especially in today’s age of the mobile office. But with so many products now targeted at the business traveller, it’s important to think about the type of work you need to do as well as the capabilities that you need to have at your fingertips while on the go, to help make an informed choice for your organisation.