free wifi

Free WiFi for the Portable Office: General How-To Guide for Finding Free WiFi When Working On the Road

I realize this may sound unusual, but truth is always stranger than fiction: I worked from my own (makeshift) portable office using free wifi most of last year while traveling.

In a ten month span I found myself in strange, out-of-the way places with oftentimes no power, much less an Internet connection. It was my first vacation ever as an adult, and I had planned on making it well worth the wait.

During this long, somewhat relaxing span, I also ran my business. Luckily, all I required to keep things running were the Internet and a power source – both of which were in short supply in most places. However with some creativity and a lot of luck, I found both in almost every locale imaginable. Since power isn’t normally an issue for entrepreneurs on the road, I will focus exclusively on finding free wifi access points for the portable office enthusiast.

  1. Hit the Library

Strangely, almost all of the small towns I spent time in had free wifi access (or at least a connection to the Internet) available for visitors at their public library. For the very few that didn’t – they knew the closest place that did.

  1. Find the Visitors’ Center

Usually run by local Chambers of Commerce, most North American cities also have a Visitors’ Center for travelers looking for something specific. The Kelowna Visitors’ Center, for instance, gave me a one-page handout of all paid and free wifi hotspots in town for portable office purposes when I moved here.

  1. Check for Free Wifi Hotspots Online Before You Leave

Before I returned to Vancouver, B.C. (my hometown), I checked online to see if anyone had mapped out the free wifi hotspots in town. Luckily the WifiMug does just that. I even posted a own new location myself! Although this particular company is only listing Vancouver (Canada), Boston, Chicago and Seattle, a quick check for other free wifi hotspot listings netted thousands of websites.

  1. Ask the Locals

In two of the more unusual locations I visited I had to resort to asking passersby on the street where I could find free wifi for my portable office setup. Both of these situations netted beautiful, one-of-a-kind spots to check my email and get a bit of writing done. One, the Landmark Bakery (250-353-2250) in the small town of Kaslo, B.C. offered free wifi to anyone who stopped by, and even kept the signal on at night so you could sit out front afterhours on their quaint park benches. Another, in the tiny City of Slocan, was housed in what looked like the addition on the side of an elementary school, where unlimited access cost only $5 for a lifetime membership to the Society that ran the place.

  1. Check Out the Independent Coffee Shops

When all else fails, stop by or call the coffee shops listed in the yellow pages. Most of the larger chains have wifi, but it’s rarely free – except in rare cases such as:

  • Blenz (Canada)
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar (US)
  • Office Depot (both US and Canada)
  • Staples (both US and Canada)
It in business

IT In Business: The Quality of IT: Quality, Security and Resilience Must Not Be Compromised

Well qualified people can always be found who will work at a lower rate, but there is no substitute for experience and proven track record.

Having established the business need and researched the IT marketplace to determine the cost, the business will have an IT strategy.

The business need/benefit equation forms the basis for the plan and from this IT policies should be established and published to cover the use of all IT equipment and services from servers and software to personal computers and mobile devices.

Establish the Deliverables

It will now be necessary to exercise quality control over the package being delivered or being planned. To many this will equate to squeezing down costs to create a lean, mean service to the organisation. It is always relatively simple to find a cheaper method once a standard has been established, but great care must be exercised to ensure that economies are not taken so far as to compromise quality, security and resilience.

Best Versus Cheapest

Lower cost software and free applications often appear to be a tempting option, but consider why market leaders have bigger price tickets. Usually, the reasons come down to levels of ongoing development and quality of support.

Similarly, well qualified people can always be found who will work at a lower rate, but there is no substitute for experience and proven track record. Experience and knowledge of IT application to a particular business is often worthy of retention and loyalty also has a value.

All change must be measured against the business need/benefit equation and safety margins must be allowed for.

Quality Stems from Control

Many budding businesses allow IT to grow in an un-ordered fashion. New key people bring their own technology solutions into the organisation and these are often adopted without due consideration for the general work flow.

New software offerings come to the marketplace with low introductory prices or free trial periods to entice experimentation, but the question will always remain – How does it fit the IT strategy and the overall business plan?

Changes to the strategy must also take into account the mid and long-term support and maintenance requirement. Will a free download or low price package be adequately supported and developed over time? Will new employees, service providers and outsource solutions provide sound methodology and clear documentation to guarantee process redundancy in the event of forced un-planned change?

IT Must Serve the Business and Not the Individual

Poorly considered change in technology results in an IT function that serves individuals rather than the business as a whole. There may be a very convincing case for software that improves the efficiency of a function for a person or department, but the output must also mesh with the business as a whole.

Know What You Want

IT management for an organisation may be full time, part time or outsourced, but there must always be a clear strategy and enough policy strength to resist deviation from the plan.