Making Mobile Productive and Secure for Small Business Travelers

March 4th, 2007 |
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Mobile technology isn’t just cool; it’s essential for today’s small business. Our experts separate the hype from the hard truth when it comes to getting business done securely on the road. Join Anita Campbell, founder of Small Business Trends and small business thought-leader; Jeff Zbar, “The Chief Home Officer” and nationally-recognized expert in living the home-office lifestyle; and Pamela Baker, technology guru for Success Magazine, as they share their insights into making mobile technology pay off for you.

This podcast was commissioned by Success Magazine.

Transcript:

Host: Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

Guest: Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends

Guest: Jeff Zbar – ChiefHomeOfficer.com

Guest: Pamela Baker – Success Magazine

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

This is Catherine Girardeau with PodTech.net bringing you a panel discussion sponsored by Success Magazine. We will be talking today about small business travelers from solo entrepreneurs out on the road to teleworkers or corporate employees working from home. How can you be more productive when you are mobile and how can you make sure your company is productive and profitable while you are out on the road? Here to enlighten us are Jeff Zbar who is the Chief Home Officer. He is a nationally-recognized author, columnist, television host and small business advocate. Also on the line is Anita Campbell. Anita is the founder of Small Business Trends, a media and information Company. Anita follows trends in the small business market and in technology.

And last but not least, we have got veteran tech-writer Pamela Baker, who is Success Magazine’s brand-new technology guru. I asked Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends to talk about the best way to stay connected via laptop when you are out on the road. Do you need to hop hotspots, use wireless broadband or what?

Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends

Well, the up incomer I think is the wireless broadband. It’s still not completely available to everyone but it’s certainly something that lets you be mobile just about anywhere. You can be moving on a train, you can be in a car hopefully not driving, you can be in a coffeehouse somewhere and using net and you do not have to worry about finding a hotspot or searching around to find some kind of a connection. It travels with you.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

Jeff Zbar.

Jeff Zbar – ChiefHomeOfficer.com

Well, I tell you I have demoed the wireless broadband cards, which slip into the slot in the side of your laptop, to the PCMCIA slot. They slip in there and you subscribe to the service. The card is probably $40 to $60 or cheaper. They can be free if you subscribe to a two-year service not unlike a cell phone. So, I am a true believer in net because it enables you to access wireless Internet anywhere a cellular signal is available. So, if you are in the boonies you might not, but if you are in area anywhere you get a cell signal, it is strong option to just stay connected and work at broadband speeds.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

So, now that we have got connected via our laptops, if I am a small business owner and I am traveling, should my laptop be Wi-Fi or WiMax configured? Jeff Zbar.

Jeff Zbar – ChiefHomeOfficer.com

WiMax is a new technology that is emerging on the scene right now, and it is not broadly distributed yet. It is essentially a broader area where Wi-Fi is considered a hotspot. WiMax is a more broad area that is covered by miles and have antennas and repeaters, they create a broader cloud as it were of coverage, but it is not there yet. So, I think Wi-Fi remains the standard and so if you have a wireless embedded or built-in wireless Internet card in your laptop, as many of them come with now, that’s going to be the standard until further notice, it becomes more broadly deployed and you can actually go out there and use WiMax on a regular and reliable basis.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

Now, what about security issues with wireless connectivity? Are firewalls and antivirus software programs enough protection for business data while on the road or do you need more beefed up security measures on your laptop? Pamela Baker, technology guru for Success Magazine.

Pamela Baker – Success Magazine

Well, what some people do not understand or do not take into consideration is that firewalls and antivirus software is basically protecting your laptop from attack by an outsider, but you forgot to remember now, especially when you are using wireless on the road or in the office or in a hotspot or anywhere, that you are broadcasting your information and the same with mobile phones. There is very little protection for data that is sent by email via cell phones or smartphones yet.

So, for example, if you are sitting in a coffee shop and you are working on your laptop in this nice and nifty, neat, free hotspot and you decide to, say, pay a bill online. Well, your computer is protected and, and let’s say, maybe you are paying your power bill, the Website of the power company is protected, but it is the space in between as the data travels from your laptop to that Website that is not protected, if you do not have some form of encryption. So that is the most vulnerable spot, also there is considerable risk with anything Bluetooth related. So that nice little earpiece is also making data accessible by anyone else sitting in that restaurant using that same hotspot, but also even in just passing by. So, those are some of the risks you need to consider when you are traveling.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

I asked Anita Campbell to outline the trends in mobile security and also to tell us what mobile workers can do to respond to security risks?

Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends

Well, there are four trends that I would like to address. First of all, when it comes to really sensitive customer data, if you are thinking about putting that on any kind of a mobile device, think twice; no, actually think three times. We’ve had some well-publicized incidents where laptops have been stolen, for example, that have had tens of thousands of customer credit card numbers and other sensitive data on them. You really should not be putting any kind of sensitive customer data on a mobile device because you do not want to be in a position of actually having to tell a customer that their data has been compromised in anyway. As Pam mentioned, the second trend is Bluetooth and you have to make sure that you do not have your settings open for Bluetooth when you are not using it and be careful how you are using it, so that others don’t access your cell phone or devices without you realizing it.

The third thing is spam and viruses on cell phones and smartphones and the fourth trend is password protection. If you are like me, I have got probably a hundred passwords for Web applications and others things that I use and maybe a dozen that I use regularly. So, how do we keep track of those passwords? Well, we tend to write them down on little lists or worse, we keep them on our cell phone or we keep them on our laptop and of course should there be any theft, those things are going to be compromised. So, what we are seeing come on the market are, for example, biometric security in the form of little fingerprint pads for example in place of having passwords to get into your computer.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

How much gear do you really need to carry when you are out on the road? Do you need a laptop and a smartphone or is there one device that can do it all? Pamela Baker, technology guru for Success Magazine.

Pamela Baker – Success Magazine

Well, it’s funny, but when the smartphones first came out, everybody predicated they would replace the laptop but, of course, they haven’t and they never will. Anybody that is in a line of work that requires an extensive amount of input is going to prefer the laptop. It simply has better functionality for that and it is easier to type on the larger keyboard. That said, it is typically easier to work with the smartphone while actually en route. So, while you are on the plane, while you are in a car, while you are actually traveling, it is typically easier and faster to use a smartphone and save the laptop for when you get to the hotel or you get to the restaurant or you are sitting in the lobby waiting on your next appointment, somewhere that is a little more stable. We are going to see more convergence as well, the entire industry is moving towards IP or Internet based convergence.

So, you are going to see some new devices coming up, for example the PSP that is a handheld device for gamers. Ask any teenager or somebody in their 20s what that is and they’ll tell you all about it, but the majority of it is video screen, it has high graphics cards for these very demanding gamers to use, already there is a keyboard out for it and looking at some phone functionality. When convergence is complete, we will have things like new PSPs and other devices that are a blend of the laptop and smartphone. We are going to be in the same dilemma, it depends on what you actually do as to which tool you are going to prefer and it probably still will be a situation where you carry more than one device.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

Jeff Zbar.

Jeff Zbar – ChiefHomeOfficer.com

What is key here with anyone who is listening saying “Hey, what should I do?” Assess your need, assess what you do, how are you different, how are you unique in the needs of your technology? You may not need a laptop, you may be able to get away with an email enabled device or you may need both or you may need neither. It all depends on how you work.

Catherine Girardeau – PodTech

Now, talking about staying in touch, is there a way to know what employees are doing while I am away on a business trip? Pam Baker.

Pamela Baker – Success Magazine

It’s a balance, this whole concept of staying in touch and that includes being aware of what your employees are doing, but, you don’t need the constant interruptions and there are several ways of doing that, for example GPS. People think of that more in terms of telling you to turn left here and take a ride two blocks down the street, but it does more than that. GPS enabled cell phones can tell you where your sales people are or your delivery people are, so you can look at that and see where everybody is. There is a variety of software that can tell you what’s being done in the office. CRM for example, Customer Relationship Management software will tell you what customers ordered, what delivered, by when, all the details, which salesperson sold it and what promises they made because it is all online; pull it up at your leisure.

This works a lot more smoothly than having your people call in to report they are doing this or they are doing that. You really should have your calls from your people to a minimum and to the more important or pressing questions rather than to the routine. CRM software is a way to do that, so is BPM, Business Process Management software, and what that does is automate a lot of the routine matters.

Catherine Girardeau, PodTech

Now, we were talking a little bit earlier about security. How can I protect or retrieve information from a lost or stolen laptop or a cell phone and Anita Campbell, I would like you to address that.

Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends

Here is a statistic that will turn you white. 97% of stolen laptops are never recovered and it’s about the same for cell phones and handheld devices. What that means is the odds are that if a device is stolen, your data is lost forever. So, the best chance you have is to take action ahead of time and I have four tips for you.

First of all, this may sound a little obvious but it’s really important and it’s something you should not overlook and that is prevention of the theft in the first place. Secure your laptop, your mobile phone, BlackBerry or whatever. Second tip is backup your data and this is probably the key thing. You have got to do backups frequently. If you do not have an IT department, or an IT person and you do not have the patience to do backups regularly yourself, this is something you can actually outsource. There are managed IT services today. In fact, it’s one of the hot trends in IT services today.

Third tip is you can buy software to put on a PC that will allow the PC to be traced in the event it is stolen. Basically, what it does is that it will connect the laptop to the Internet periodically and send out little signal as to where it is. The fourth tip is one I alluded to earlier of when it comes to confidential customer data; don’t put it on your laptop because then you do not have a compounded problem of having to tell a customer that their sensitive data has been compromised in anyway.

Jeff Zbar – ChiefHomeOfficer.com

Well, that I would add a couple of thoughts on all of this, especially when speaking of security. A lot of it boils down to common sense. Even when I am staying in hotel, even if it’s a nice hotel, I always carry a cable lock with me that locks my laptop to a fixed object in the hotel and not the leg of a table that they can just lift the table and then remove the cable lock from. Data is never on my laptop. It is always on a thumb drive or it’s been e-mailed to me, so I can get it through a password protected access. I think that, again, common sense rules when you are talking about data, when you are talking about information, especially when you are talking about someone else’s information that you have been entrusted with.

Catherine Girardeau, PodTech

This is Catherine Girardeau with PodTech.net and I have been talking with a group of panelists on our panel sponsored by Success Magazine. We have been talking today about small business travelers on the go and how to be productive when you are mobile. I want to thank all three of you for joining me for this special Success Magazine podcast. Thanks again.

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