What Mobile Connectivity is Right Your SMB?

Small business owners like a traveling salesperson, lawyer or accountant are on the move regularly and in this day and age when typically our main means of communication (at least in my case) is voice and email, it’s imperative to always be connected or at least have the ability to be.  You can’t walk into a coffee shop without seeing an open laptop.  These days it’s also tablets, here there and everywhere.  If you want to make a call with the Phone.com Communicator on your laptop, check your email and send instant messages you’ll need to be connected to the web.

So what are your options when you are out of the office and not at home?  What questions should you ask the sales person at the store? Plus keep in mind using the coffee shop wifi isn’t nearly as safe and secure as using your own personal hotspot.  

There are 3 options, turn your smartphone into a hotspot, a USB stick that you plug into your laptop and 3 is a MiFi.

Utilizing your smartphone with it’s data plan is a splendid option.

  • You’re not adding another device to your already too heavy bag including not buying another device.
  • You can share it with your coworkers or family/friends and it’s most likely always with you.
  • On the other hand, it will drain your phone’s battery in a matter of a very few short hours.
  • It typically (in my unscientific experience) is a bit slower than a dedicated device.
  • Being that it’s not a separate unit from your phone you can’t just let your business partner borrow it when they leave the office to meet a client.

The USB stick

  • It’s been a popular option for companies to issue their employees for years now.
  • It’s the fastest means of getting your computer connected to the web.

That’s all the positives I can think of.

  • Most of the time you can’t easily share your precious connectivity with anyone else.
  • Most tablets and phones don’t have a USB port so they can’t suckle from it.
  • When it is plugged into your laptop it is just begging to be bumped into and broken off (I’ve seen it too many times).
  • Most of the units I’ve seen need the laptop to run some sort of proprietary driver software to use the USB stick.

The wireless portable hotspot also known as a MiFi.  Novatel is the manufacturer of the MiFi but people refer to all the portable hotspots and MiFi like people call tissue a Kleenex.  This is my prefered method and what I think is best.

  • It’s very easy to share your internet connectivity with anyone in range, usually no more than 30 feet.
  • It’s easy to connect to (same way as connecting to a phone hotspot).
  • It’s easy to hand off to anyone else in the company for them to take with.
  • It will keep you connected and not drain your phone battery.
  • You can typically connect up to 5 or 10 different devices at once (the more devices the slower your internet).
  • From lots of experience I can tell you that it’s fantastic to use for kids in the car that have a phone or tablet, you’ll be a hero.

Now one big drawback for the USB stick and the wireless portable hotspot is that you need a separate contract for them unlike tethering via your smartphone.  It’s typically a 2 year stint and spending all that extra money every month.  This can be a big undertaking for a small business but it may be well worth it in the long run taking into account how much more productive the user may be.  Using your smartphone as your hotspot can cost also but typically much less.  Many carriers charge an additional fee every month JUST to have the ability to tether your phone to a computer.  It’s usually around $10 per month which is much more reasonable than a dedicated device.

A few questions and topics for the salesperson…

  • Discuss your data allotment.  I suggest starting small instead of large like the salesperson will try to insist on.  Carriers will typically allow you to backdate your plan if you go over your data package.
  • Ask for a business plan or family plan instead of totally separate accounts for each of your devices.
  • 4G LTE over 3G or HSPA+ will give you a sizeable speed boost.
  • Prepaid or postpaid if you’re hesitant to get into a contract.

Being able to connect to the web is so important in this day and age.  Don’t miss out on an important Communicator video call when you’re late getting back to your office.

Do you already connect your laptop to the web when you’re out?  What method do you use?  Chat with us on Facebook and Twitter.