For his summer vacation this year, Richard Hayman toured the Canadian Rockies with a lightweight phone attached to his shorts.
It was all he needed to maintain contact with clients back in Maryland where he is president of Just Moulding Franchising, an American company specializing in interior trim carpentry.
“In the past, I used to lug around a laptop and then a netbook,” says Mr. Hayman. “But both have been replaced with the Motorola Droid on Verizon, which has made my life so much easier. Except for a couple of places with no cell coverage, it was all I needed to keep in touch and connected.”
Mr. Hayman is not alone in wanting to stay plugged in while travelling this summer.
Across the continent, road warriors are relying on a range of gadgets, technologies and software to stay in touch while on the go.
They include Steve Hampton, a marketing specialist with BIGLocal.ca, a Canadian owned and operated, Google-authorized search-engine advertising agency based in Ottawa.
Mr. Hampton already runs a virtual office, “so we’re well-experienced in communicating off-site,” he says.
His favourite communicating tool while travelling is Skype, which, in his experience, offers the lowest prices on outbound calling in addition to other features such as desktop sharing, call recording, video-conference calling and more.
“It’s really the cornerstone of our business,” he says.
“If you’re not able to get to a computer while on the road, through Skype you can set up a free phone number that is local to where you are. When you call that number you will be given the opportunity to call anyone in the world for free.”
But Skype isn’t the only voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service around.
Eric Loyd, president of Bitnetix Inc., a New York-based firm specializing in business phone systems, provides a more customized voice service using VoIP.
Using a combination of routing, forwarding and local phone numbers, his service helps clients create a virtual presence from any location across the continent and points overseas.
“If you'll be summering on the French Riviera, you can get a number in the U.S. or Canada that people can call that will forward through the Internet to a local number in France. This saves on the cost of international dialling, for instance,” Mr. Loyd says.
“We offer this service to professional clients and individuals, from one-person, work-from-home consultants to large corporations. This is technology that helps people stay in touch, whether for business use or just for fun.”
While smart phones save time and provide convenience while on the road, phone technology is limited.
Lee Deas of Obviouslee Marketing, a marketing and public relations firm in Charleston, S.C., recommends tools such as Google Apps that allow users access to a complete suite of office applications through the Web.
“It’s free, Web-based and does not crash frequently like our Outlook used to,” Ms. Deas says. “We also use Google docs for sharing and editing documents with each other when out of the office.”
For his business needs, Scott Smigler, president of Exclusive Concepts Inc., an online store resource company based in Burlington, Mass., relies on salesforce.com, a customer relationship management (CRM) system for keeping organized while travelling.
“When you are in your office it is easy to stay organized and be responsive to the needs of your customers. When you are on the road, however, and you don't have access to your normal organizational systems, it is much easier to let small things fall through the cracks,” Mr. Smigler says. “Having a good CRM is an absolute must.”
One service that does take care of all the details is SugarSync.com, a tool that provides mobile workers with the convenience of accessing, syncing, backing up and sharing documents, photos and music on any device anywhere in the world.
SugarSync allows users to “quickly access and edit files currently stored on their home or work computer and easily share with colleagues or clients directly from their smart phone, iPad or laptop from any location without having to carry USB keys or external hard drives,” says spokeswoman Jill Mayer.
But for work that requires intensive document processing, consider travelling with a portable scanner like the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300, recommends Brooks Duncan of DocumentSnap.com, a Vancouver company dedicated to helping businesses go paperless.
NeatReceipts and Doxie are other portable scanners Mr. Duncan likes.
For printing while on the road, the new Canon i80 Printer offers a range of connection options and the ability to print directly from a camera without the need of a computer. Weighing just 1.8 kilograms, it travels light.