Monday, November 20, 2006

Top Ten Tips When You Decide to "Go Mobile":

Converting from PC to Laptop by J.J. Murphy

Ever since I discovered it was possible to operate a VA business using a laptop as a primary computer, my goal has been to "go mobile," using a laptop and cell phone. It seemed a perfect fit for this career and I wanted to break the tethers.

In late November 2004, the laptop became my main machine, but getting there took a bit more time, skill, savvy than I realized. In fact, I'm still working on the cell phone part of this plan.
I wanted to share what I've learned along the way for those of you seeking to take the plunge.
1. Get IT support. Having IT support before purchasing a laptop helps with set-up. A laptop is not a miniature PC. It takes specialized knowledge to set up security, cope with pre-programmed elements designed to save energy, and transfer files.

2. Wired vs. wireless. Wireless networking is provides greater flexibility, so you can reconfigure your office space as your client base grows and changes, and you have the option of being in business while you are mobile.

3. Time to Transfer. Be sure to budget time for being connected to the PC and laptop simultaneously. When I first set up the laptop, the security and energy saving default was set to “Hibernate,” which meant that my computer screen went black and was unresponsive to the keyboard every time I took my hands off it for more than 20 minutes. It was a relief to have the PC for backup.

4. Backup and Wipe Clean. Before actually disconnecting your business from the PC, make sure all critical files and programs are backed up. Also, make sure that the software installed on the laptop is working. My old PC is now the property of a family member, so I wiped out all information from the hard drive.

5. Traveling. While you are in transit, make sure your laptop and any peripherals are safely encased in bags designed for this use. Always power off by using the Windows Shutdown option before moving your laptop.

6. Test drive. Before you need the laptop in a mobile situation, take it out. Be prepared by checking to see if everything is working properly. I quickly discovered a problem with the Bluetooth connection on my cell phone. For now I’m wired on cable again, but I know better than to expect to operate in a remote location until I get the cell phone issue resolved.

7. Battery power. My laptop’s battery is charging while the laptop is plugged into AC. While traveling outdoors, make sure you have enough battery power. Be aware of the differences in air temperature if you are using your laptop outdoors.

8. Overheating. When operating on battery power, to minimize your laptop’s tendency to get too hot to handle, work on a hard surface, rather than on your lap. Also consider a device such as CoolPad ( created to increase air flow.

9. Peripherals. The keypad on my laptop is comfortable, but the touchpad slows me down. Now I have to decide on whether adding a mouse and having something else to carry is worth it. I had not even thought of a printer. What I am using in my office is too bulky to take on the road.

10. Future needs. As computer technology gets smaller, faster, and more responsive to consumers with mobile work needs, I have to balance what I invest now with how quickly I can recoup the return on my investment. IVAA has been a wonderful resource because members who are hardware and software savvy share their experiences with their purchases.

J.J. Murphy is a nature writer, blogging hiker, curriculum creator and tree-hugging naturalist based in Harriman, NY. JJ offers creative nature curriculum, wild food recipes, fiction, poetry, articles and writing services for ecologically aware individuals and companies.

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