||Reliable information can make or
break your next trip, whether it's the ability to cultivate a
business contact, ensure accurate company records or keep you safe.
In other words, your PC data is
priceless. You just can't afford to be without it. Consider:
Travellers are relying on accurate
information to ensure their security, according to a survey by
American Express. In an age when terrorism is a persistent threat to
air travel, who can blame them?
Most companies have strict policies
regarding the use of a corporate travel agent and company charge
card, according to a Runzheimer International poll. In other words
meticulous record-keeping is now more essential than ever.
Some 25% of all business travellers miss having
access to their internal company systems, British market research firm
Continental Research recently concluded. It's not hard to guess why: having
the latest information keeps them productive.
Put another way, information is more than power.
It's the thing that powers your business trip. That is why I have outlined
the steps below to help you avoid losing one of your most precious assets
while on the road.
Take it from someone who has left his office
without synching his laptop and PC, who has wiped out days worth of work
because he neglected to install a backup system and who even has lost
clients because he ignored the importance of good, reliable, actionable
Don't make the same mistakes I have. Here's what
a career on the road has taught me about computer data:
1. Start every trip with a synch.
Making sure your PDA and PC are on the same page
is pretty easy. Generally, you just slip the handheld into its cradle and
the computer does the rest. Synching one PC to another isn't as
straightforward. I've tested every conceivable synching tool, including the
one that came with my computer operating systems, and they can be tricky.
But they're definitely worth learning, because once you leave the office, I
guarantee you'll be glad you updated your laptop.
2. Don't trust your computer.
Memory sticks that plug into your laptop, such as those from manufacturer
DiskOnKey, are absolutely essential to the integrity of your data. And with
some units now carrying up to 32 gigabytes of capacity, you can easily fit
your essential files on it. Andrew Steele, a media consultant to charities
and nonprofits in Great Britain, routinely does a double backup. It recently
saved his trip. "I had a laptop power supply fail," Steele recalls. "So even
when the laptop battery was finally exhausted, I could carry on without
embarrassment on borrowed machines.
3. Stay in touch with the office.
There are several useful remote
connectivity applications that let you connect to your computer or network
from afar, including GoToMyPc, PCAnywhere and Microsoft Windows XP's Remote
Desktop Connection. I like these options because they allow you to "catch
up" on any information that you may have forgotten to synch up before you
left on your trip. My biggest gripe with these programs is that they tend to
be slow -- particularly with a dial-up connection -- making large data
downloads impractical. But if you couldn't synch up before your trip, they
can be a real lifesaver.
4. Collect information - and back
"Normally, road warriors are good at
collecting business cards, sales leads and receipts. But does it always make
it from their folders to their PDA or laptop, and back to the office? Not
necessarily. Believe me, I know. My record-keeping was so inadequate when I
started traveling on business that I missed numerous charge-card payments,
and I ended up losing money because I couldn't get reimbursed. Fortunately,
there are products such as ExpensAble, which allow you to create expense
report as you incur the expenses. I have never used the product, since I'm
now an independent contractor -- but I wish it had been available when I was
still employed by a company.
5. When in doubt, switch to paper.
"This is an obvious piece of advice,
but it's so obvious that we sometimes forget it's even an option. We've
become so dependent on our PCs, phones and PDAs that we don't remember:
"Hey, wait a second, I could still write this information down." My partner
used to make fun of me when I printed out the names and addresses of people
I was visiting when I left on a business trip. Why do that when everything
was on the computer (and backed up on a memory stick)? Well, there are still
some things paper can do that a PC can't. Like operate without batteries. So
when my laptop ran out of juice and I switched to paper, I didn't look like
a dummy anymore. Not entirely, at least.
When I was a rookie business traveller, I wish
one of the more experienced employees in my company had offered me these
simple tips about information. They would have saved me time and money and
maybe helped me do my job better. But alas, it took many years on the road
-- and a few clients lost -- before I could come up with these five tips.
Here's hoping they'll save you a few headaches on your next business trip.