SMB Mobile: Notes from a cafe

When I was at TechEd Pro, I noted that SMB mobile computing was a major subject of sessions, and a major focus on the vendor floor. A couple of days ago I was sitting at a table in my local Panera when I took a good look at my fellow patrons. Nearly one third of the tables in the restaurant had laptop computers sitting on top. At several others, business discussions were taking place around forms and spreadsheet

When I was at TechEd Pro, I noted that SMB mobile computing was a major subject of sessions, and a major focus on the vendor floor. A couple of days ago I was sitting at a table in my local Panera when I took a good look at my fellow patrons. Nearly one third of the tables in the restaurant had laptop computers sitting on top. At several others, business discussions were taking place around forms and spreadsheet printouts. There might have been a handful of folks in there just sipping coffee and munching Cobblestones, but it was largely a business crowd. Here's the thing: I think this may be much bigger business news than today's plunge of the Dow.

Hear me out: I remember when rent-by-the-hour office suites were thought to be the Next Big Thing in business. After all, when you were traveling or just out of the office, you still needed a place to make phone calls, meet with clients, or whip off a photocopy or two. Now, of course, telephones are in our pockets, customer meetings happen wherever we and our customers get together, and there are almost as many Kinkos as there are Paneras. Doing work from the bakery cafe made me realize that there are several bits and pieces of the computing environment that should be taken into consideration when putting together a workable environment.

1. Upgraded audio interface

I'm going to do a quick review on a unit I’ve been using for the last few weeks (the Andrea Electronics Pureaudio USB-SA) shortly, but I'll start here by saying that it makes a big difference in how well my rather beaten-up headset works for Skype and other audio communications when I'm in a noisy environment. A number of companies make similar products, but having one in place makes VoIP from a cafe much more effective and pleasant.

2. Security cable lock

Because, if you work at the cafe long enough, you'll eventually have to visit the loo. Cable-lock your computer and bag to a table, then don't dawdle. Everything (in my experience) will be just fine when you get back.

3. Full security protection

OK, you start with firewall and A/V, but I'd keep going. Antispyware and at least a minimal IDS are good to have. Speaking of minimal IDS, if you run Windows, then you might check out DecaffeinatID. It is truly minimal in that it looks at the security log, firewall log, and ARP table for changes. Still, it can give you a nice heads-up if someone starts playing with the gateway.

4. Online apps

I do a pretty good job of keeping my critical stuff backed up, but I've started keeping copies of truly critical things in online versions. Why? I figure that, if the system is going to fail, it's going to do so at the worst possible time. If I have copies of critical documents and files on a server that can be reached through the Internet, I can go to an Internet cafe or borrow a system at the client's office and keep working.

There are others but this should get us started. I've already heard from a couple of readers about their mobile environments: Let me know what you're doing to be productive from the "Third Place" in your business world.

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