Webless Web Worker? Have a Contingency Plan

11 Comments

Editor’s note: With this post we welcome Georgina Laidlaw to the WebWorkerDaily team. Georgina is a finance writer and editor who lives in Victoria, Australia. She divides her working time between home and employer’s offices.

850299_91271393What would you do if your web connection went down right now? You might have a fairly reliable web connection, but faults and maintenance inevitably leave each of us without web access some of the time. If you rely on the web to work, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place.

Being a “webless web worker” is a challenge I deal with often, because I use a wireless Internet connection that routes through a series of repeater stations dotted along the six miles between my house and the service provider’s base station. In the last year, we’ve had a number of service failures, including the weather knocking towers out for days, as well as the usual minor technical faults. There are also times, particularly when it’s windy, when our connection can crawl.

As a consequence, I’ve developed a few fallbacks for the occasions when I lose my vital connection to the web:

Use portable devices. Of course, a web-enabled cellphone or BlackBerry is great for keeping up with news, blogs and email. But it can be a life-saver when you suddenly lose your Internet connection — you can use it to send that critical email or even write a blog post. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to spend days completing online research or writing book chapters using my phone.

Have backup references handy. It’s all too easy to substitute physical references like books and CD-ROMs for their less bulky, at-your-fingertips online counterparts. That’s fine — until there’s no web. I always keep foundation references on my desk and a library of additional, particularly relevant or important information handy.

Know your local web hotspots. The coffee shops, bars and libraries around here are fairly free and easy with their Wi-Fi, so one option for me is to focus on the work I can get done offline and then go out for a coffee to access the web. It’s restrictive, and it takes a bit of preparation, but it’s better than nothing.

Phone a friend. I have friends who live nearby who have invited me to use their wired web connections if I need to. This can be a reassuring option if you have to rely on flaky wireless Internet like I do.

These are all only temporary solutions, though. If our repeater station’s been damaged by high wind and will take days to repair, I just have to face up to the physical commute to the office.

So, what would you do if your internet connection went down right now?

Image by sxc.hu user Rybson

11 Comments

Steve M.

I’m very surprised nobody has mentioned the use of their cell phones as modems. I use my Treo 755p as a modem all the time on the Sprint network. It’s obviously not as fast as a cable modem, but I can do pretty serious web design with it.

Plus, it’s an old phone – I’m sure that newer phones that make better use of modern phone data networks go much faster.

Georgina Laidlaw

Thanks for the comments — there are some great contingency plans (and horror stories!) here.

What comes across loud and clear is that we all suffer connection issues sometimes, but the solutions depend so heavily on your location and what’s locally and technologically available.

And Andy, nice pick up — thanks for pointing that out.

Linda Varrell

Having lost my power numerous times this winter / or Roadrunner was down! I rely heavily on my Blackberry as a literal “tether” to the internet.

With the new blackberry plans, you can use your USB jack as a “leash” and verizon software to access the internet remotely, around $15 per month.

And, most importantly, buy a power inverter for your car so your laptop, blackberry or other device doesn’t die on you. (I had two 6 hour batteries for my laptop, then we were out of power for 2 days!) Radio Shack $39.99 – worth every penny.

Michael fitzGerald

Managing the offline/online transition can be a nightmare. I have just moved into a caravan to test the feasibility of low impact living and moving from always on-line to using a cell phone modem has been the hardest bit to get organised

Andy Hollyhead

I know this sounds pedantic, but this article consistently says ‘web connection’, when in fact the phrase internet connection is more accurate. Sometimes web access can go down due to problems with your ISP, but the Internet (email, instant messaging and all the other wonderful, non-web applications we all use day on day) can still work.
I spend a lot of time explaining to my undergraduate students the ‘The Internet’ and ‘The World Wide Web’ are not interchangeable.

Sriram Vadlamani

This is a common problem in India. Though my Internet connection has been stable, the power outages are killing me.

I have a India telecom blog(indianomics.com) and keep my research material handy. I would make out at least 5 posts out of them.

This only helps if there is power. If I am out of power I will read a book.

Trina Roach

Welcome!

This happened to me recently while there was work being done in our village on the dsl lines. We were cut off from service for about a week while work was ongoing. When I had business dates in the city (Düsseldorf), it was not much of a problem. There was always some place with wifi access within a short walk. But when I just needed access to blog/research/check mail from our village, it was a bit more challenging. Although there is an internet cafè in town, I didn’t find the atmosphere conducive to doing anything more than quickly reading/answering the most urgent mails. Fortunately, I remembered that old staple: Mickey D’s. I found that – by preparing myself well while still in my home office – I could swoop in sometime in the late morning (before the high school kids got out) and work diligently through my to-do over a cup of coffee and a McSomething. As long as I got there before the kids stormed in, I could work with quite a bit of concentration and get my major tasks taken care of, as well as download any information that might be relevant for working in my home-office later in the day.

Eric Berlin

Second on the welcome!

It definitely pays to be prepared when traveling and web working. For example, at tech-drenched SXSW in Austin recently, I was in a situation where my hotel had a terrible wi-fi connection. I had my wife’s new (lighter) laptop with me, which had no default word processing software… so I made the mistake (in retrospect) of drafting a story in an online CMS. Long story short: story lost forever. Don’t repeat my mistake, be prepared!

Dawn Foster

Welcome to the WWD team!

When I started consulting full-time, I ran into this issue a couple of times (with the worst possible timing). I ended up buying a Verizon EVDO card. The monthly price can be a little steep, but it’s paid for itself a number of times both at home and when I was stranded between meetings in coffee shops with flaky or no wireless.

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