What do you recommend for Internet access if I am going to be on the road for a while?
This question was answered on April 29, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
In the past, the only real option was to sign up for a dial-up account from one of the large national or International ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and pay whatever access charges were required for a local or long distance call.
Today, in addition to dial-up, you can access the Internet via wireless ‘HotSpots’, cellular devices, hotel broadband services or Internet kiosks to name just a few.
The actual direction you decide to go has more to do with your usage and budget than anything else.
If you occasionally connect from the road and have your own laptop computer, then the least expensive method is to use the same dial-up service provider that you use for your permanent Internet connection.
Companies like AOL, EarthLink, NetZero and MSN provide the largest number of POPs (Point of Presence), which means there are more local phone numbers to connect to when you are on the road.
For those that have a high-speed connection as their primary access, signing up for an additional monthly dial-up account that will only be used once in a while may not make sense.
The ‘pay as you go’ method may make more sense for the periodic road warrior Many hotels now have some sort of broadband Internet access available in each room that can be wired or wireless.
Most of these services are high-speed and an ‘all-you-can-eat’ offering, which means that you pay a fixed rate per day and can use it as much as you want You simply plug your laptop into the Ethernet port and activate the service much like you would with pay-per-view movies in the room.
Most mid-level hotels also have a business center that has various types of Internet access available.
If you already connect to a wireless network at home or at the office, the same equipment can be used to connect to any number of wireless ‘HotSpots’, which are publicly accessible wireless Internet connections.
Starbucks, for instance, has installed T-Mobile HotSpots in thousands of its locations (which is a pay service) or you can find thousands of free and low cost HotSpots by searching web directories such as wififreespot.com, intel.com/unwire or wire.com.
You can also download a free hotspot locator program from jiwire.com/hotspot-locator-laptop.htm for your portable devices so that you don’t have to have an Internet connection in order to find an Internet connection!
Many of today’s cellular providers have phones with Internet access (all be it quite useless on many displays) or actual cellular based Internet services that you can use to connect your laptop.
Cellular based services can be expensive (often charged by the minute) and are generally mid-speed, but they are very flexible in that anywhere there is cellular service, you can access the Internet.
Finally, you may find that you don’t need to buy or carry anything around if you only need to check your e-mail or surf the Internet.
Internet kiosks are springing up all over the world in airports, hotels, shopping malls, coffee shops and restaurants As long as your e-mail system is accessible via a web interface (check with your provider on how to do it) then you can gain access to it via any of these Internet connected devices
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on April 29, 2004
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