When your laptop Is your office: preparing To go mobile.

A mobile office gives you a level of autonomy you can’t achieve in a traditional office. While this can be liberating, it can also be inconvenient if you’re not equipped with the equivalent of items you would have available in a regular office. Whether you’re transitioning or looking for ideas to make your mobile office more efficient, we’re here to help!

Hardware

The most important element to your mobile office is your computer! Having a machine that can handle your workload on the go is imperative, so you must determine if your laptop has the required specs. Consider battery life, storage, graphics, WiFi and Ethernet capabilities, as well as the number of USB ports you’ll have available. Laptop Mag has an easy-to-follow buying guide that discusses everything from choosing an operating system, to size, and even what to look for in customer support.

Next, think about how much printing, scanning, and faxing you’ll be doing. If making a trip to Kinkos every once in a while will cover you, that’s one less piece of equipment to worry about. Otherwise, can find a relatively inexpensive All-in-One machine to keep at home.

There’s also a number of other helpful components to consider. For example, I spend most of my time on a desktop, so when I’m working on my laptop the touchpad slows me down. A wireless mouse is cheap and can slip right into a laptop bag. Most are battery powered and require only a USB port to send information from your mouse to your laptop. Of course, this may require a bit of coordination if you use flash drives or other USB devices simultaneously.

Even with an excellent battery life, available public outlets are scarce, so think about grabbing a backup battery for emergencies.

Aside from security software (which we’ll get to in a moment), there are a variety of locks and security cases to prevent laptop theft while on the go. For PC users, check out PCWorld’s article providing an overview of locks and tracking software. Apple consumers can visit sites like Maclocks, which provides a number of cable and security case options.

Software

Most new laptops come pre-programmed with a hefty amount of junk you may never use that slows down your system. A free program called PC Decrapifier will scan your computer and give you a list of programs they recommend kicking to the curb. I recently downloaded this program to test it out, and it worked like a dream! It shows the percentage of users who chose to delete each program, which made me more confident about getting rid of them. In case you get a bit trigger happy, you have the option of creating a restore point each time you delete something. You can also download another free software program called Recuva to retrieve lost items.

As for cyber security, you can find a lot of great free antivirus software, as well as free encryption tools to keep your personal and confidential information safe. File storage can be messy, but using cloud storage allows you to tag your files for easy retrieval and share them instantly. PCWorld’s article on integrating cloud storage into your workflow will help you decide if, and how, you can use it to your advantage.

For added security (and to clear some space off your computer, an external hard drive is great for the mobile office. Digitizing physical files allows you to access them on the go and send to clients in a convenient format, which can be accomplished with an OCR (optical character recognition) program used in conjunction with a scanner, and sometimes even a smart phone.

Beyond the basic software you’ll need to run your business, Tech Hive has compiled a list of great free programs that will enhance your computer’s capabilities. I personally use CCleaner to keep my hard drive in tip top shape, and VLC to play audio and video files that aren’t compatible with other pre-installed programs. Lastly, if you’re planning on grabbing a bunch of new software, the Ninite Installer is a simple way to download or update many programs all at once.

Funware

An office is a reflection of your personality and preferred working style—and a mobile office is no different.

  • For those with the gift of gab: When giving presentations and hosting virtual meetings, Bluetooth headsets cut down on delay/echo, improve sound quality, and minimize background noise.
  • For the fashion-conscious: Travel in style with a custom messenger bag or attaché that will protect your equipment and keep you organized
  • For the couch-surfers:  Keep yourself and your computer comfortable with a laptop stand and fan combo. You’ll keep your laptop cool and give yourself an ergonomic edge. Also, a clip-on light provides a better lighting source when you’re in a public place.
  • For the textile types: Griffin’s stylus/pen/laser pointer is super sleek and will take you from jotting down notes, to navigating your smart phone, to presenting in style.
  • For the multitaskers: Juggling a bunch of tasks at once? A virtual receptionist frees you up to meet with other clients or work on a deadline by handling your calls. Instead of getting voicemail, your clients get to speak with a friendly voice that can relay information and take detailed messages—allowing you to focus.
  • For everyone: You spend countless hours staring at your laptop screen—make it personal! Keep a folder with pictures that inspire, calm, or motivate you and set up your desktop image to rotate between the images. In need of a few ideas? Desktoppr has thousands of free wallpapers to choose from that sync right to your desktop.
  • A mobile office doesn’t mean depriving yourself of what you need. When preparing to go mobile, be sure to read up on consumer reviews to find the best technology options for you, as well as talk to colleagues in your industry. Start with your equipment, then move on to software individualized to your needs. Once those are in place, you can choose fun extras to give you all of the convenient features of a regular office!

Looking for more tips on how to go virtual? Download our resource “What is a virtual office?” for the full scoop.

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