The days used to be so simple. I’d get home from school, go down into the family room, and open up AOL. The sound of the modem buzzing was soothing at the time. It meant I was getting online, where I could explore a whole different world. For myself and many people of my generation, those early experiences with AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy led to an insatiable curiosity about the web. It’s a reason so many of us conduct our business online today.
So much has changed since then, though. For most of us, the phrase logging into the internet no longer exists. We have always-on connections at home. Not only that, but we have always-on connections through our cell phones as well. In fact, we can get internet from a whole host of sources. It might seem redundant, purchasing the internet in various forms, but it can have great use to the telecommuter. It means more places to access the web.
Of course, it also raises the question of how much internet is too much internet. There are so many choices, and each has its own advantage.
This is a pretty necessary service for, well, everyone. For telecommuters it’s a cost of doing business. Not only that, but it’s worth a heavy investment. If your internet provider offers higher speeds for a slightly higher monthly cost, it’s highly advisable. For instance, my cable carrier offers 20Mbps internet for $10 more per month than 10Mbps internet. I pay the $10 without hesitating. In fact, I would be paying $15 extra for 50Mbps, if I didn’t need a special router and modem for it. Point is, fast internet is worth the additional cost for telecommuters.
Need to justify the cost? Take it out of what would have been your commuting fund. Where others need gas to fuel their cars or money to buy transit tickets, you have no commute. So invest those funds in something that will benefit you greatly. A fast internet connection leads to greater productivity. Anyone who has been stuck with a sluggish connection knows what I’m talking about.
Another necessary cost for most at-home workers is internet via a smartphone. If you’re working at home, you might say, why do you need mobile internet? Because without it we can’t take advantage of many freedoms that telecommuting affords us. Plus, living at home can allow us to live a fluid lifestyle. But while we don’t necessarily need to be in front of our desks all day, we do need to answer when the boss, or business in general, calls. Having a smartphone ensures that you’re on the up-and-up when necessary.
Last year I wrote an article for I’ve Tried That about whether smartphones are necessary for at-home workers. The conclusion was pretty much yes. You need great freedom from your boss, or from clients or whomever you answer to, if you want to avoid paying for a smartphone. Even if you could, though, a smartphone is useful enough that you can get plenty of value out of it. It’s a worthy investment in any case.
While smartphone and home internet connections are pretty essential, mobile broadband goes on a case-by-case basis. That is, it’s not something that everyone needs. For some people, the smartphone data plan is enough for their mobility needs. Others, however, need to work wherever they are. For those workers, a mobile broadband connection can be necessary. It can be pricey, of course, but if you are often away from the office but still need to get work done — e.g., if you’re always traveling to meet with clients — a mobile broadband connection can be essential.
The trick is finding the best signal in your desired area for the best price. Which is to say, it’s not an easy proposition at all. For instance, I get great T-Mobile reception on my train line, so perhaps I’d check out some mobile broadband T-Mobile plans and see if anything catches my eye. But even if T-Mobile were the cheapest, I couldn’t choose it if the reception weren’t up to par. That means moving onto the next one.
One important consideration with mobile broadband is tethering. Many carriers will simply charge you an extra $15 per month for the privilege of tethering your smartphone to your laptop. This is a much better deal than getting a separate data plan with a laptop card. If your carrier doesn’t offer tethering and makes you purchase a separate plan for mobile broadband, it might be time to find a new carrier.