When I first graduated from College, the computer world was an interesting place to be. Corporations were shifting away from a model where thousands of users logged into a giant host (mainframe) computer to get their work done. Instead of relying on a glut of centralized horsepower processing hundreds of concurrent requests, companies on the brink of technology were getting rid of the “dumb” mainframe terminals on their employees’ desks. Instead, workers were getting personal computers that were capable of handling much of the daily workload themselves. Files were shared via a network of file servers, email was born, and suddenly the notion of “distributed computing” was all the rage.
Here we are, roughly 23 years later and guess what’s happening? After paying the expense of installing and maintaining thousands of copies of corporate applications on thousands of desktops, companies are going back to the “centrally deployed software” model. We’re using the internet to connect to a central store of computing power that holds all of the corporate apps, but concept is the same. The good news for you, the employee, is that you don’t necessarily need a powerful computer to get your work done. All you need is an internet connection, access to your corporate network, and a list of the links you normally use to get your work done. All of this can be carried with you on a small thumb drive, or, (if you’re smart), stored out there in the internet where you can access it from anywhere in the world!
Most companies require a secure VPN (virtual private network) to gain access to the corporate network from outside the company’s firewall. You probably have a VPN app on your desktop so that when you travel, you can access your corporate data and apps from any wireless internet connection that you may come across. If you ask your department’s IT group, they should be able to provide you with a “web-based” VPN. This is a website that opens a portal to your corporate network. Why do you want this? Because sometimes when you’re on the road, your laptop may die or be otherwise “out of pocket” and you’ll need to do some work. Most hotel computers, library computers, and other “public access” computers don’t allow thumb drive to copy files onto their hard drives (for fear of viruses), but they DO provide access to the internet.
If you were create a bookmark or a favorites list of your company’s web based VPN and all of the other corporate links to the apps you need while on the road, you can export that list of favorites to a simple HTML file. At that point, just email the HTML file to one of your internet based email accounts (Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, etc). With this handy list of tools at your disposal, you could literally walk into a random computer store, ask to test a computer with an internet connection, and BAM, log into your email account, open your corporate web-based VPN, and access whatever you need. I’ve used this countless times to update my corporate calendar from a hotel “business lounge” computer, update the overtime hours on my timecard, read some “required” corporate literature distributed from the central office, etc. You get the idea.
So, don’t rely on your laptop while you’re on the road. Batteries die, laptops get stolen, they break, they get dropped, lost, swapped, I even saw one sink to the bottom of a hotel swimming pool (oops). With your corporate favorites list floating out there in the internet with you, you’ll never be cut off from the office!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and sent to him. You can also follow Ken on Twitter @foodbreeze!