Airline rules regarding carry-on toiletries and laptop computers continue to change. Some airlines banned the batteries of certain laptops because of the risk of a midair explosion. As of this writing, rules for each were easing.
But other perils threaten those who travel with electronics. If your laptop or BlackBerry acts up while on the road, you can try to sleuth the problem yourself, call a tech-savvy colleague, access your company’s IT department remotely, or see if the hotel you’re staying at has an IT person who can help.
Another option is to use an online repair service. PlumChoice Online PC Services (http://www.plumchoice.com) can solve computer problems remotely by viewing your computer screen through the Internet and controlling your keyboard and mouse while you watch. To take advantage of it, of course, your computer and Internet connection can’t be completely trashed.
One company that does offer rescue services to travelers whose laptops or PDAs conk out is RESCUECOM Corp. (http://www.rescuecom.com). Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., it has 95 franchises around the country. Those franchises are concentrated on the East Coast and in California, but it also has a fair number in the Midwest and Texas as well as other large cities.
RESCUECOM provides 24/7 emergency on-site service, which you can access with a contract or without by phoning 1-800-RESCUE7. The company’s main selling proposition is its fast response time. If you request and pay for it, RESCUECOM will guarantee a 1-hour response.
“Traveling can be stressful, and technology should make your trips easier, not add to that stress,” said David A. Milman, founder and CEO of RESCUECOM. The company offers general technology tips such as these to make your trip successful:
- Check the airline’s rules. Airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, and Korean Air banned certain Dell and Apple laptop batteries on their flights because of concerns about overheating and potential explosions.
- Load up. Don’t get caught without a needed program. Particularly if yours is a company computer, make sure you have all of the programs you’ll need installed and working properly.
- Power up. Fully charge your laptop before traveling. Bring all of your chargers and adapters, not only for your laptop but also for your handheld, cell phone, and other electronics you may be packing. It can be smart to have spare batteries, and make sure you charge and pack them as well.
- Look for outlets. Save your battery power for when you need it. Some airplanes provide electrical outlets, accessible with an adapter. The same applies for some hotel lounges and coffee shops.
- Check with your hotel. More and more hotels provide high-speed or Wi-Fi Internet access, but not all do. Visit your hotel’s Web site, or phone to confirm.
- Check with your wireless phone/PDA provider. You want to make sure you’ll have voice and data access along your route. Several cellular phone providers, for instance, have come out with internationally compatible cell phones in recent years (most using the GSM standard). But many phones only work in the U.S., so you may have to rent a phone if you’re traveling abroad.
- Protect your data. In case of theft, encrypting and password-protecting your sensitive files will ensure that your data is safe. Don’t conduct confidential business over a Wi-Fi connection in the airport or at your hotel because it may not be secure. One option for conducting important business through e-mail while on the road is to have your IT department or computer support consultant set up a virtual private network.
- Consider a USB thumb drive. These handy little drives, about the size of your thumb, are becoming more and more popular for storing and transporting presentations and other important files. If you’ll have a laptop waiting for you at your destination, you can save space by traveling without your own. Make sure that you also encrypt and password-protect sensitive data stored on the computer.
- Have fun. Movies, games, and audio books can make a long flight or an unexpected layover less stressful.
- Respect others. Using noise-reducing headphones when tweaking a presentation or watching an in-flight movie will prevent you from disturbing others.
If you’re working on a critical presentation and experience a computer glitch late at night, solving it quickly can mean the difference between a successful trip and a wash-out.