Q: I’ll be taking a working “vacation” soon and want to stay connected to my office while on the road. I don’t want to use hotel dial-up connections, and I hear those wireless cards are pretty good. Problem is, I don’t know which one to choose. Can you help?
V. Johnson, Via the Internet
A: Well, if you’re like me, the phrase “light travel” probably isn’t in your lexicon. I’ve been known to lug a laptop, cell phones (yes, phones), a PDA, a digital camera, and just about anything else that will give me that office feeling while on vacation. Unfortunately, I then rack up expensive phone charges on a hotel dial-up. My advice, don’t do the same.
For starters, if you must stay connected, find out if you hotel offers high-speed wireless connection (many do, particularly those that cater to business customers). Next, make sure your laptop has an available PC Card slot, then decide which card/service you will use. For T-Mobile and AT&T service, consider the Sierra Wireless AirCard 750 (www.sierrawireless.com; $349.99). You can also try the Proxim ORiNOCO® 11a/b/g ComboCard Gold ($80—$130 online). Cards from Actiontec, Linksys, and NETGEAR are also good selections. Besides your hotel, there are a host of venues from which you can connect — Starbucks immediately comes to mind.
Regardless of where and how you connect, be sure you load your PC with antivirus software (say, from Symantec or McAfee) and strong firewall protection (I suggest ZoneAlarm Pro; $49.95). With a good combination of a wireless card and solid protection, there’s no reason to stay room-bound — you can work while lounging poolside. Enjoy.