Online Business Travel Tips: Lessons From The RoadThis past summer I took a great 9 day vacation with my daughter, driving from Arizona to the midwest and back. Even though I’ve made the drive many times in the past, the views were still captivating and we both had experiences to remember.
Thanks to my online businesses, I’m normally able to pick up and get away at most any time. It’s one of the things I’m most grateful for... the ability to help others, spend time with my family, and work from home on my own schedule. Truly a blessing!
I also learned a few things that were quite helpful over the past few weeks and may be beneficial to you as well.
First, the phone.
One of my businesses require that I stay in touch by phone occasionally. I prefer not to have a bunch of phone numbers to confuse the issue when I’m out, so after a little research I found a remarkable service. It’s called GrandCentral and basically it’s a central phone management system that can help you stay in touch (or not if you prefer).
You can select a number in the area code of your choice, and then give out that number as your main contact number. Add your home, office, cell phone or any other phone into the system and advise it when and where to ‘look’ for you when you get a call.
That part is available with many other services, but here is what sets GrandCentral apart. You can manage all your messages online, categorize them, take notes on each call, email the messages, email the caller, record your calls, post the messages online (great for testimonials!) or download them to your computer.
You can manage your contacts, add their email address, mailing address, notes, etc. You can also tag any caller to be automatically sent to a SPAM folder, automatically play a ‘this number is not in service’ message, filter calls and more. The system asks your caller to record their name the first time they call to announce the call to you and you can then choose to take the call, send it to voicemail or listen in on the voicemail. Another neat feature is that you can break into the call as they’re leaving the voicemail at any time.
You can also call back anyone directly from the web site, just click call and it asks what phone number you’d like to call from and in a few seconds your phone is ringing. Put a button on your web site and GrandCentral will call you and the person clicking on the button.
There is also a mobile version so if you have a web browser on your phone, you can do most everything without your computer. And since the service is still in Beta, it’s free. Believe me, this is one service that once you try you won’t mind paying for.
Google has recently bought the company so you know it will be around for a while.
Second, internet access.
While traveling I found no lack of wireless internet hot spots or networks at hotels, travel centers, coffee shops, cafes... there are plenty available. As long as you have a wireless network card on your laptop, you’re good to go. But one issue bothered me - security. You don’t want others snooping on your computer so I found a free service called AnchorFree Hot Spot Shield that assigns a VPN (virtual private network) to your computer that you connect through and keeps your online session secure. It works great, just start it up after connecting to a wireless hot spot and you’re in good shape.
When traveling and using hot spots and wireless networks, your regular email will often not work properly. You can usually download it ok, but not send. This is because you normally use your ISP’s outgoing (SMTP) mail server and when you are on another network, it often doesn’t allow you to connect. One way around this is to change your outgoing mail server to the one assigned to your domain (ie, mail.yourdomain.com), this often works. Another alternative is to use the web mail version of your email system. If you don’t have webmail available, try gmail.com. You can setup the ‘from’ addresses that match your own domain and send email from your gmail.com account directly.
Fourth, handy software.
When at home or traveling, I find myself taking notes often. Copying links, phone numbers, addresses, web sites, maps… just about anything. I started looking for an application that can handle all that and found a great note package that does it all. Copy snippets of a web site, drag a link, copy an image, take notes, just about anything including to-do lists. You can search through all your note, categorize them, print them, add web links, go the site you got the snippet and more. It’s called Evernote and they have 2 versions. The standard version is all you need and it’s free. Check it out, I think you’ll like it.
To your best success