educational

Sever the Tether: How to Leave Your Desk Behind

Stewart Tongue
For more than a decade webmasters have 'tanned' themselves in the warm glow of oversized computer monitors while coding websites, updating content, perfecting designs and trying to find ways to enhance their profitability. In the last several months the tasks have remained the same but the locations are definitely starting to change. No longer do many webmasters feel as if they are chained to their desks and a growing number of readily available mobile technologies are allowing work and pleasure to be mixed in a more favorable ratio as site owners and affiliates step outside for a change.

"My Blackberry is my brain while traveling," said HoneLynn of Fubar. "I can get my emails, ICQ messages, phone calls, and even surf through message boards while away from my desk, and it really is freeing. Recently I discovered that a few airlines including AirTran are offering Wi-Fi service while in flight. I made use of that service on my trips to and from Ft. Lauderdale for Internext. The price for their "GoGo" Internet service was $12.95 for 24 hours, which is a great bargain considering I was able to have productive flights rather than hours of downtime."

For some the problem has been maintaining an always-on connection without always being seated at their desks. In the international online industry a lot of communications have been done via email or instant messenger, which limited the usefulness of old style cell phones. Now, as the iPhone and other smart phones dominate the market, staying in contact has become much simpler.

"Staying connected with my affiliates as an Affiliate Manager for ColdHardCash is very important," Aimee Sweet of ColdHardCash.com said. "These days, being away from your keyboard really isn't an excuse for being inaccessible."

"Skype is a very useful free tool that many webmasters do not use to its full potential yet, and it's even available as an iPhone App. When I'm away from my computer, I'm still available by IM or voice for affiliates when they need me, which means their services and convenience aren't interrupted by me being out of the office."

Industry event hotels have gotten mixed remarks from webmasters over the years for Internet access in the rooms that was often either overpriced or unreliable.

"One of the biggest issues I have experienced in the last year of traveling to shows is flaky Wi-Fi at hotels," said Vlad of TooMuchMedia.com. "The majority of my meetings consist of showing software demos on my laptop. So, my most essential piece of mobile equipment is an Internet card that works both domestically and internationally."

Having your own Internet access card is affordable and reliable. Several major carriers now offer 3G modem cards which allow download speeds of about 14.4 Mbit/s for stationary users. Now the offerings are being expanded to include wireless router capabilities allowing your Mi-Fi device to handle multiple connections at the same time. Verizon offers 3G Mi-Fi cards for under one hundred dollars with data plans that are easily affordable for even the smallest affiliates. Sprint has already began to up the ante by promising in a large advertising campaign that they will soon be offering a nationwide 4G network with data transmission speeds of more than 1 Gbit/s for stationary connections.

For other mobile webmasters, changes in travel services are another key element of the new working environment beyond the walls of any main office.

"While I was working on creating the new Playgirl.com website I was going from city to city a lot," said Jay, owner of ObjectCube.com. "One of the big things I learned is that you can actually get really great deals on room rates and business services now just by staying at the same brand hotels. The reward point packages being offered these days are much more valuable than they used to be thanks to a down economy and less people traveling. I always stay at hotels owned by spg.com which means the nights I rack up give me seniority for better rooms, free meals and other perks at many major luxury properties in every city world wide."

With the travel industry feeling the crunch of a down economy, webmasters can also find exceptional deals on flights. Recently JetBlue created their 'All You Can Jet' deal allowing anyone who signs up to fly as many times as they want between September 8th and October 8th for a total price of only $599.00. Whether the person wants to travel domestically or intentionally the deal is available on any JetBlue flights, so long as the flight has an open seat available. There are a good number of rules and booking requirements so customers do need to do their homework before signing up, but it seems to be an important symbol of the kind of unconventional travel deals that will be available for business flights moving forward.

Forward thinking Internet B2B companies are also adapting quickly to the mobile webmaster environment. Hosting and processing companies have started to produce and release exciting new tools designed to help webmasters sever the tether that has kept them at their desks for far too long.

"We understand that more and more webmasters are becoming increasingly mobile," said Gerard Helton of Webair.com. "At Webair we already provide custom SMS server monitoring for our mobile clients and we are continuing to add services designed to save time while reducing the need to be tethered to your desk. We plan to launch a completely mobile version of our proprietary Webair Control Panel which will allow our hosting clients to have full access to all of their administrator controls and every other aspect of their Webair account from anywhere in the world, or even while they are out on the road."

NETbilling is also releasing exciting new mobile utilities including a virtual terminal iPhone App. For merchants who sell a combination of subscriptions, services and tangible goods the new App (available in the iTunes Store) allows clients to process transactions by using their iPhone as a virtual terminal from anywhere that they have cell phone or Wi-Fi access with their mobile device.

Even the desktop applications and web-based productivity tools being produced these days seem to have a sense that webmasters want to get faster access to information so that they can get in and out of their offices more quickly.

"WhoPaidMe is definitely designed with saving time in mind," said Michael Knight of WhoPaidMe.com. "We aggregate review scores and provide a very simple but powerful database that lets users cross-reference check names and affiliate program names with only a few clicks. Getting out of the office is important and wasting less time on mundane tasks while in the office is the best way to do it. WhoPaidMe.com me is here to help."

Of course the long-standing advice to pack spare batteries for your cell phone, netbook, laptop and other mobile devices is still worth mentioning. Bringing a reliable plug-in power converter on international trips is also an essential tip for a competent mobile webmaster. However when asking the webmaster who has traveled more than any other for his words of wisdom it became clear that people will always be the backbone of any successful business, whether it's in the office or outside it.

"For me the key is having a great group of people at the office who I can relay things to from the road," said JFK of Fubar. "There isn't a technology out there yet that can replace quality people. When I'm shooting at an event I need to know things are getting taken care of without worrying about some kind of tech issue. So having new toys and gadgets is great, but my advice is to make sure your home office is still well staffed and fully motivated."

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