Magazine article Online

Going Online on the Road

Magazine article Online

Going Online on the Road

Article excerpt

When I'm outside my own country, combining work with pleasure is not a problem-when I do that, I am able to stay longer! While trying initially to run my independent information business while on the road, I found that having access to a cyber cafe wasn't enough. In order to communicate with my clients in a cost-effective way, perform projects successfully from beginning to end, stay in touch with my bookkeeper and administrative assistant, and do my banking, I needed to find and implement a few good electronic tools and programs. Luckily I've found some good solutions.

ONLINE FOR WORK AND PLAY

I have accounts with two Internet service providers (ISPs): AT&T Broadband for use while I'm at home in Portland, Oregon, and Earthlink for dial-up access while on the road. I selected Earthlink because it has hundreds of local access numbers in cities and countries worldwide. Whether I'm dialing up from a friend's home or a hotel, it is nice to not have to pay extra for 1-800 Internet access or a toll call to nearby city. And while many of the higher-end hotels in the U.S. now have DSL or cable modem access, the majority of the places I stay do not.

Before logging on, it is always good to find out what constitutes a "local" call from the place where I am staying. The first time I spent an afternoon online at my dad's house in Idaho, I racked up a significant phone bill because I assumed that Coeur d'Alene, the closest town with an Earthlink number, was a cheaper call. But, in fact, the Spokane Washington, Earthlink number is the cheaper way to go. Calling Coeur d'Alene is considered an intrastate call, with fees up to 14-15 cents a minute, while calling Spokane is a long-distance call, with a rate of 7 cents a minute.

KNOW LOCAL PHONE CHARGE CONVENTIONS

A world of caution while using an ISP in another country: While in Madrid, Spain, I had a local Earthlink access number to use, but could find no one at the hotel who could tell me if I would be charged a per-minute fee for the local call, as is the custom in many hotels. I found that out in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From the hotel I used the same local access number of the ISP I was using at the local office where I was working. Yet, when I checked out, I was confronted with a $90 phone bill because of per-minute charges!

However, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I was able to use a local access number from my hotel room without worrying because each local call was only 60 cents with no additional hotel charges. Yet what I didn't know was that Earthlink charges $0.15 per minute for international roaming. Because I had spent a total of 4 hours online, this seemingly insignificant charge added $24 to my monthly Earthlink bill. But I certainly didn't mind paying for the convenience of logging on from the comfort of my hotel room. In the U.K., the Earthlink access number is toll free. However, more and more hotels are adding the charge to your hotel bill.

While on the road I use the AT&T Broadband Web site [www.attbi.com] to send and retrieve my e-mail.

FAXES FOR FUN AND PROFIT

I got a chuckle and some affirmation about still using faxes when I read a recent article by Monte Enbysk titled "Fax Machines: Endangered? Yes. Extinct? No." [www.bcentral.com/ articles/enbysk/165.aspl. Several of my clients prefer to send me a fax with their project requests, rather than the telephone or e-mail. This really isn't surprising, given the fact that about 90 percent of businesses in the U.S. still have fax machines, according to Enbysk.

In order to retrieve my faxes while on the road, I use eFax [www.eFax. com], a free Internet faxing service from J2Global Communications Inc. Before leaving town, I set up the "call forwarding" feature with my local phone carrier by simply forwarding my fax number to my dedicated eFax number. Any fax sent to my regular JT Research fax number is automatically forwarded to my free dedicated eFax number. …

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