Continuing my series on productivity gadgets, I wanted to talk about my dongle! Well, it’s not really a dongle, more of a pebble actually, but this gadget allows me to connect all my devices to the internet while I’m out of the office, using the 3G mobile data network.
The MiFi is different to a conventional dongle because it creates it’s own WiFi hotspot. You don’t need to plug it into your laptop’s USB slot, and you can connect several devices at once so long as the devices themselves can use WiFi. It allows me carry my own WiFi access around with me.
Why not just use WiFi at my local Starbucks?
If your out-of-office work generally takes place in urban areas, particularly cities and large towns, then the chances are there’ll be a WiFi hotspot near you and you could argue that you don’t need one. I don’t like relying on other peoples broadband. If you’re travelling between towns WiFi hotspots become scarce and if you do find one, how do you really know what your connecting to? There are security risks with free WiFi services – see http://bbc.in/36VcnG.
In my experience, free WiFi is generally slow, unreliable and often down right frustrating. Ever been met with a ‘sorry, we can’t get the internet working today’? Or inexplicably found yourself unable to connect no matter how many times you enter the password? I haven’t got the time or the inclination to mess about trying to get it to work.
The MiFi stops all that. I know I’ll be able to connect wherever I am (signal allowing) and can use a trusted source.
Simplifying meetings and presentations
I’ve attended meetings and presentations where, for some unknown reason, our laptops and iPads simply can’t connect to the WiFi. We call IT, they make a few changes, run a few tests and we waste valuable time.
With the MiFi, I can walk into a meeting with my laptop or iPad (or both) connected to the internet and ready to go. No messing around with network connections and passwords, it’s straight down to business.
At the very least, it gives me extra confidence. If access to the web is important for a meeting, it’s reassuring to know I’ve a backup if all else fails.
Here’s 2 examples where it really saved my life!
I attended a workshop recently which required access to the web for certain activities. In the morning the hotel’s WiFi credentials flashed up on screen and we all tried to connect. Many of us couldn’t. As 150 delegates tried to connect to the WiFi at the same moment, perhaps that’s not surprising. For me, it didn’t matter. I was online in seconds with the MiFi.
During a 4-day conference at another hotel, all delegates had to use the free WiFi in reception. There was a lot of work to be done between sessions and reception wasn’t the easiest place to concentrate. But, we needed access to the internet so there we were. Internet access was slow too, with so many people connected at once. The MiFi really came into it’s own – I could concentrate on my work in the privacy of my hotel room and get much faster access to the internet at the same time. It really helped me to get more done.
An extra safeguard
If I’m working on the move, I want to know that everything I’ve done is backed up straight away. I use cloud services such as Evernote (more about that later) and when I finish a document, the work is automatically sent to (or synchronised with) the cloud via the MiFi. If I drop my iPad under a bus, or leave my laptop in a taxi, at least I can pickup my work when I’m back at the office. (Provided I can overcome the emotional trauma of losing my iPad of course!)
It can also be a useful backup for broadband internet access. We have two internet lines at our offices. There’s never been a situation where both have failed at once, leaving us with no connectivity, but, what if that happened? Well, the MiFi could get us back online straight away. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but it’s a very handy extra contingency.
What are the draw backs?
It’s not always the answer. You’re reliant on the strength of the 3G (mobile data) signal and there are times when you simply can’t use it. Thankfully these are pretty rare. It also needs to be charged every 4 hours or so and it can get a little warm if you keep it in your pocket.
Overall though, the MiFi is a great way to stay connected whilst on the move. If, like me, a lot your work is done ‘in the cloud’ and/or working remotely, it’s well worth considering.
Coming next week; Creating, sharing and remembering stuff…
P.S. You can find out more about the MiFi at: www.three.co.uk/mifi