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ROAD WARRIORS.

TECHNOLOGY WAS SUPPOSED TO PUT AN END TO BUSINESS TRAVEL, RIGHT? A FEW SHORT YEARS ago, we believed that evolving technology, such as videoconferencing and virtual-meeting software, meant that no one would need to leave their home turf to attend an important meeting. Although technology has advanced and the economy is slower, there's no rest for the weary road warrior. Companies are tightening travel budgets, and executives who travel feel the pressure like never before to make their road trips count. Now, a business traveler's ability to access information at a moment's notice--whether it comes from a colleague or the corporate intranet--can make or break a deal.

Goldie Taylor remembers a time when the lack of technology cost her a contract. Before she joined Atlanta-based RocketHouse Communications as chief strategy officer, Taylor worked in technology sales. The contract she lost was a major part of a $3.3 billion expansion of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which was worth $15 million to $20 million to her firm. "The technology to retrieve internal data inside a firewall from an external location did exist, but my firm did not have it. After that incident, I promised myself that technology would never be a barrier to getting the job done while traveling."

Taylor, whose main connectivity tool is the Palm VIIx (www.palm.com), was able to negotiate the cost of the technology into her benefits package. "I told the company that the money they would pay out in technology would be returned to them in my accessibility, so now I'm a 24/7 employee," she says. It takes approximately $4,500 to outfit each executive-level employee. "Maybe I'm a fanatic, but I'm now preparing to install headrest- and dashboard-mounted TVs in my sport utility vehicle to keep up with business and financial news when I'm on the road."

Taylor believes so much in using technology to keep in contact that she recently gave her three school-age children RIM BlackBerry Internet Edition wireless pagers (www.blackberry.net) so the family can keep in touch and in sync while she's away.

The right technology can also reduce travel expenses on business trips, says Melvin Flowers, chief financial officer at Novatel Wireless in San Diego, whose specialty is taking companies public. Years ago, when traveling overseas, Flowers recalls incurring $200 and $300 hotel phone bills from using the Internet and e-mail. "I remember fairly large hotel phone bills when I traveled in the U.S. because of the same problem," he says.

Web connections are faster now, which makes Flowers' job easier when he's on the road talking to potential investors. "There's a big difference between managing a public company now than a few years ago," he says. "It is critical that you maintain contact with the corporation and stay connected to the company's e-mail and business systems. Technology, especially wireless modems, makes the process smoother when I'm on the road presenting to investors. For example, I can adjust my presentation, adding or changing a slide, by accessing the company's intranet."

If it weren't for his cell phone and a service that United Airlines calls push messaging, Larry Atwell, director of business development for the AT&T Digital PocketNet service and responsible for the travel services channel, might have lost a large chunk of business. "I was in New York City working with a client when I realized I had to cut the meeting short to catch a plane," he says. "But I checked my cell phone, and found a message from United letting me know that my flight was delayed an hour. I stayed and closed the deal."

Atwell likes to spread the news about the services airlines offer travelers with wireless technology because they save him time and money. Delta's e-business division now allows travelers to download the airline's Electronic Timetable from the Website (www.delta.com) to a PC or a handheld for immediate access to flight schedules. If you need info on other airlines, a new service called NotiFlyer (www.i-tinerary .com) can alert any cell phone, PDA, or PC about airline delays and other real-time travel snafus. To get this information, you'll need to pack some hardware.

THREE TOP TOOLS

Getting connected means toting one to three essential pieces of hardware to get you through your trips. Open most road warriors' survival kits and you'll find one or more of the following tools: a notebook computer, a PDA, and a cell phone.

Novice business travelers tend to overpack, lugging hardware that they may not need. Seasoned travelers usually leave their laptops at home in favor of handhelds, but what they take often depends on the length of the trip. "Laptops can be redundant, so on day trips to San Francisco and Los Angeles, I won't bring the laptop and instead rely on my Palm Vx and Ericsson 280LxR PocketNetphone (www.ericsson .com)," says Atwell, who travels from his base in Redmond, Washington, two to three days a week. "Any trip over two days, I take the laptop so I can work at night on a larger screen."

Staying in touch and productive without a laptop requires a PDA or pager, and many road warriors have both. Whichever handheld you choose--the popular ones include Handspring Visor (www.hand spring.com), Sony CLIE (www.ita .sel.sony.com/CLIE), and Palm--make sure you get into the habit of synchronizing information with your laptop or desktop computer. If you prefer the Palm V model, you'll be happy to know that you don't have to carry bulky AC adapters or other multiple and sometimes incompatible syncing devices and power cords anymore. Targus recently introduced the USB Charge-Sync Cable, which serves as a USB/serial cable and an AC/DC adapter ($49.99; 877-4-Targus, (www.targus.com).

If you travel frequently to major cities within the United States, consider investing in a wireless data network, such as Ricochet (www .metricom.com), to make travel a better experience. Instead of trying to find a data line in a hopelessly overcrowded airport pay phone area, a wireless modem can deliver 128Kbps Internet speed to laptops and handhelds so connections can be made from the airline gate, a coffee shop, a client site, or even from the back of a taxi speeding along at 70 miles an hour. Currently, Ricochet's network covers 15 greater metropolitan markets in the United States. A wireless modem costs around $99 to $300, depending on whether it's an external modem or an internal PC card, and the monthly cost to subscribe to the service is about $60 to $80 a month.

Airports around the country are beginning to offer more services for business travelers who want wireless connections while waiting for takeoff. For example, if you're flying in and out of airports in San Jose, California; Seattle; Dallas; and Austin, Texas, you can use wireless high-speed Internet access service from Wayport Inc. (www .wayport.com). The Austin, Texas-based company offers the subscription-based service to travelers with wireless Ethernet cards in their laptops. Each link to the service lasts until midnight or until checkout time at a Wayport-linked hotel and costs less than $10. (You can prepay $49.95 for 10 hookups if you're a frequent flier.)

OFFICES TO GO

If your technology crashes, or you don't have a wireless modem, or you need space to spread out to work on a project, don't despair. It's easy to set up a temporary alternative office in an airport lounge, Internet kiosk, cybercafe with data ports, or even in a coffee shop or a McDonald's.

Taylor is a veteran when it comes to creating temporary office space out of thin air. She's pulled an all-nighter in a Kinko's in New York, using every copier and computer from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.; she even set up shop at a McDonald's in the Eaton Center in Toronto for three hours to finalize a deal; and she took over the Free Library--a public library in Alameda, California--for three days while she prepared a presentation.

"I had a layover at the Miami airport when I realized the business center was closed," says Taylor. It was 10 p.m., and I had to hop in a cab to take me to Kinko's to get work done before my next flight."

On another recent layover in Minneapolis, Taylor relied on an Internet kiosk in the airport to produce a press release on a deal that closed when she was on the plane. "I managed the complete document approval process through wireless e-mail, including collaboration with the new customer, partners, legal counsel, and our company executives. I organized the news announcement and coached each spokesperson via video conference the following morning from a Kinko's in Las Vegas," she remembers. "I sent out a broadcast fax to the press from the business center at a hotel in Los Angeles and within 48 hours, we produced an entire news event. I'd completed the task without once physically touching my office in Atlanta."

If you have business that can't wait until you're out of the airport, try Laptop Lane and Aerzone Business Center (both at www.lap toplane.com). The fully staffed business centers offer private offices so you can access the Internet, e-mail, print, fax, copy, shred, or scan documents. The cost for a single cubicle is 65 cents per minute after a $5 minimum. Conference rooms run $60 per hour to $400 per day. More than 30,000 travelers a month check into one of the 29 centers located at 21 airports in North America. One of the perks: You can work on a project in one airport and have it printed, collated, and ready to pick up at another airport with a Laptop Lane. And if you're in New York and need a quiet place to work in the middle of a noisy trade show or conference, check into a cubicle at the newly installed Laptop Lane at the Jacob Javits Center.

Most travelers know the joys of setting up an office in a comfortable hotel room. Hotel chains, such as Marriott and Holiday Inn Express, have data ports, so you don't have to worry about logging on to the Internet. If you don't have a wireless modem and you must plug your laptop modem into a hotel room phone line that is not designated a data port, beware. Many newer hotel phone lines are digital, not analog. Notebook modems communicate with analog signals. Your modem may refuse to work with a digital phone signal. Worse yet, the higher power of a digital signal may damage or destroy your modem. If you are a frequent traveler who stays in various hotels around the world, you may want to get a device to test hotel phone lines to see if they mesh with your modem. Check out the IBM Modem Saver ($40) and the Modem Saver International ($60) at eTravelerGear's Website (www.roadwarriorgear.com).

OVERSEAS CONNECTIONS

Staying connected while traveling overseas can be tricky, but it's definitely doable thanks to savvy hotels and cybercafes, says Sharon Davis, president of S.E. Davis & Associates Inc., an international executive recruiting and coaching firm in Farmington, Michigan. Davis, who frequently travels overseas, learned to navigate Europe's technological infrastructure. Last year, Davis traveled to Amsterdam. When her Palm IIIc wouldn't fire up, she headed to a cybercafe in the airport to finish her work. "I look for cybercafes as an alternative during overseas trips," she says. "Cybercafes are more prevalent in Europe than they are in the U.S., because U.S. citizens have more personal computer access." To find an up-to-date listing of cybercafes, Internet kiosks, and terminals worldwide, log on to cybercaptive.com.

Traveling abroad often means that your cell phone is out of commission. But there are ways to set up a temporary phone service while you're away. You may be able to purchase a cell phone at an overseas airport. Although not every airport overseas has cell phones for sale, business travelers may want to take advantage of the convenience when they can to reduce global roaming charges. "Cell phone purchase in Japan and some other countries is less complex," says Davis. "People don't seem to have to consider a variety of plans and options."

Davis cautions business travelers to mind their manners in international cities. "Don't be pushy when things don't go your way in another country," says Davis. "Technology is very expensive to operate in some countries, so we have to honor that." Davis was in Israel when she had to send an e-mail at the hotel, but the service wasn't operating when she needed it. Some countries, says Davis, don't like guests to use technology directly, or the service only operates at certain times during the day or night to reduce costs. "Expect those inconveniences, and write your e-mails offline so they are ready to go when the services are up and running," she advises.

A number of international hotels are installing high-speed broadband voice, data, and Internet services to cater to business travelers. The Singapore Marriott Hotel, the latest unit in the technologically advanced hotel chain, has installed a high-speed wireless network on its grounds to cover rooms, cafes, restaurants, and its convention center.

For temporary office space overseas, HQ Global Workplaces (www.hq.com) now has more than 500 centers in 25 countries where you can rent an office with high-speed Internet access, administrative support, printers, copiers--and coffee.

Although all these tools cover a lot of ground, most travelers have a wish list that includes two things: a unified global wireless area network to make travel from country to country run more smoothly and compact, all-in-one devices that incorporate cell phones, pagers, enough memory to download e-mail with attachments, and screens that support color and graphics--all of which will run independently if one service or program happens to crash.

"We are now beginning to see the possibility of images displayed as part of eyewear. Hopefully, soon, we'll be able to use this new technology for viewing reports, e-mails, etc. I can't wait to try new things," says globetrotter Davis. Until then, there are plenty of traveling tools and devices to help keep you moving smoothly along.

Make Every Moment Count

Whether you're traveling in the United States or overseas, you'll encounter the inevitable delays. Or your technology just won't work. Planning for problems will make the wait go faster and help you make the best of frustrating situations. Here are some tips on making the most of your travel time.

* Don't rely solely on technology. "My cell phone dropped in a puddle once and didn't work even after it dried, so t had to spend $200 for another one when t was on a trip," says Taylor.

* Back up your data. Take a good old-fashioned floppy disk on the road so you can access documents if and when networks are down.

* Battery patrol. Make sure your batteries are charged and you have extras packed away. Take two to three laptop batteries for a cross-country trip or a flight overseas. Be aware of standards overseas, and take along a bag of voltage and telephone adapters, since voltage differs from country to country.

* Keep your schedule flexible. Don't overbook your time; delays can ruin the best of plans.

* Prepare for downtime. Download and then draft e-mail messages onto your hard disk so you can work when you're sitting on the runway or in the airport. Most road warriors also pack magazines and trade journals to catch up on industry happenings.

* Learn the tricks. For more travel tips from the trenches and a wide selection of road warrior tech gear, log on to Connect Globally Inc. at www.connectglobally.com.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:telecommunications equipment and use of technology during business travel
Author:SYARTO, MARILYN ZELINSKY
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Words:2620
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