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The Basics of Setting up your Mobile Office

Written by Jared on March 19, 2011

Setup your mobile officeA mobile office is a essential to being able to work on the road. A laptop computer, accessories, phone and Internet connection are the core components of a mobile office. Although your choice of gear maybe be deeply personal, you should build your mobile office based on reliability, redundancy and restraint.

Software is another important part of your mobile office. Make sure you have what you need to do your work and stay connected. Test everything before you leave! Dealing with software problems on the road is frustrating, especially in a foreign country. Know how to back up your important files and how to restore them in an emergency. Also consider online software storage solutions that may reduce risk and make life easier.

Choosing the Right Gear

Reliability is the main concern when shopping for mobile office gear. Gear will need to last in a wide range of environments. Make sure it can handle temperature changes, high humidity and a bumpy ride. Check that warranties are valid internationally!

Avoid buying models that are new or untested before leaving. A slower laptop that is proven to last is far better than the latest and greatest. Also check on the availability of repair shops and parts in case the unexpected happens.

Redundancy should be built into your mobile office where possible. An extra battery may come in handy if you are in an area with limited electricity. Power adapters are one of the most commonly broken laptop components and can be difficult to replace on the road. A spare hard drive or memory card is useful for backing up your important documents. Network, USB and device charging cables tend to be lost or left behind at the hotel. Know what you’ll be able to replace on the road, and bring spares or research other options to protect your important gear.

Exercise restraint when choosing your mobile office gear. Electronics are expensive, bulky and heavy. They are a burden to a lifestyle in constant motion. Keep size and weight in mind when purchasing gear. Buy gear that is designed for travel. Bring only what you think is necessary to keep your office running.

Find the balance between maintaining a functional mobile office and reducing the stress and physical burden of travel. Decide what you must have, add redundancy where possible, and research what you can buy on the road.

Refer to our articles and reviews in our travel gear section for our personal choices and experiences.


Mobile office software can be divided into two categories; pre-installed and web-based. Pre-installed software comes on disc and is probably what you’ll use most for work. Be familiar with this software before you leave. Make sure you have digital help files or manuals so you don’t need an internet connection every time you have a problem.

Bring a copy of installed software with you. Preferably on a spare hard drive or flash drive instead of CD. CDs take up a lot of space and can get beat up on the road. Don’t forget to write down your registration keys and serial numbers!

Pack what you need to completely reinstall your computer, including your operating system. If you’re unfamiliar with this process give it a shot before you go. Relying on a tech for this can be risky, especially with a language gap. Or maybe you prefer the German edition of Windows?

The use of web-based software is a boon and bane to the location independent professional. Also referred to as cloud computing, this trend will continue to grow. Storing data online reduces some risks of working remotely. Cloud services also allow you stay in touch with friends, family and clients more easily.

The down side is that you become a slave to Internet availability. This effectively tethers a lifestyle that desires freedom above all else. Unreliable internet connections or speeds will also limit your ability to make use of online tools.

Keep Your Office Operational

It’s common sense these days, but backing up your files can save the day while you’re traveling. This is especially true of business documents and anything crucial to your remote job. We like to keep paper copies to a minimum. Lugging around heavy notebooks isn’t our idea of a fun time. This means we have a lot of digital records that must be kept safe. Our business depends on it.

Keeping your digital assets safe is simple. Make three copies of important files. Use your laptop, a spare hard drive (or thumb/flash/USB stick) and the Internet. Make sure you backup to a remote location. You’re asking for trouble by carrying all of your files with you. There are many online tools you can use to painlessly backup documents, or your entire drive. Most are free but have storage limitations.

Electronics are expensive, fragile and send a clear signal to thieves. Consider how you will pack your gear, especially your laptop. Soft cases are small and lightweight but won’t offer much protection and few are actually water proof. On the other hand you probably don’t want to lug a bulky hard-shell case across several continents. Regardless of your decision, keep your electronics in a water proof bag. It’s cheap insurance against something that can ruin everything.

Keeping your laptop safe from theft is a major source of stress while traveling. Avoid using bags that look like they have a laptop inside. Get rid of that big Dell logo or Apple sticker. Invest in luggage locks and a laptop lock, and use them!

If you have to leave your gear, keep it in a locked room, in a locked bag that is locked to something immobile. Consider small alarms or other theft deterrents. Hotels and hostels may offer a safe that can be used to store your valuables. If you’re driving, never leave gear in an unsecured parked car.

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