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How to run your business from the beach!

October 11, 2011

When most people start their business, there are several things they happily give up for a while: a guaranteed salary, sleep – and holidays.

It’s one of the hallmarks of a start-up. In the first year, the founders can find it really tough to take time off.

So if your start-up’s stopping the summer sun, how about building your business from the beach instead?

Thanks to significant advances in mobile technology over the last few years, it’s perfectly possible to access the tools virtually every business needs, from nearly any location.

Email: BlackBerrys were once the toys of city execs. Now you can walk into any mobile phone shop and buy one. A BlackBerry is the perfect way to keep in touch out of the office. Your emails just appear – no dialling up, no logging on. And as you deal with an email on the road, it synchs up with your email in the office, so you won’t read it twice. There are other devices available; just make sure you get one with “push email” – that’s where your email just appears.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: As long as you have a mobile phone signal, your BlackBerry will work fine.

Laptop / PDA: To run your empire from a beach you’re going to need a laptop or PDA – Personal Digital Assistant. Laptops are cheap and sturdy; just ensure yours has excellent battery life to last the day on the beach. The more complicated things you do on your laptop the faster the battery will run down.

PDAs range from smart mobiles to mini laptops. No matter what the manufacturer says, most are not really suitable for anything more than occasional business use. For most people, the screens and keyboards are too small for full-time use.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: As long as there is a nearby café where you can recharge your laptop over lunch, you should be fine.

Wireless broadband: Most businesses have broadband, and many are now freeing their internet connection from the need to have wires. A wireless router only takes a few minutes to set up, but will allow you to access the internet anywhere in your building. You can buy a laptop that’s wireless ready for just a few hundred pounds. Or if you already have an older laptop, buy a “wifi dongle”; it will connect to your wireless network. More and more companies now offer monthly wireless “hotspot” accounts. Trustive, for example, offers unlimited European hotspot access for a low monthly fee.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: Increasingly hotels and cafes are providing wireless networks – sometimes with free access. All you do is get your computer to look for wireless networks, then connect. If the hotel has locked it, they will give customers the password. So check for a café or hotel near your beach spot.

Mobile internet: If there’s no wireless available, you can connect your laptop to the internet using your mobile phone provider. You will probably need to buy a data card to go into your laptop. It could be slow. And watch out for data charges – some mobile phone providers will give you unlimited data for a day for £1; others will charge according to how much information you download. And that can be very expensive.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: You just need a mobile signal.

Phones: Apart from entry level models, most mobiles currently on sale will work in virtually every country on earth. You could divert calls from your business number to your mobile. But that may not give the right impression to new customers. An alternative is to sign up for a VoIP phone like Skype or Vonage. VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol – where you make phone calls over the internet. The beauty is you are not fixed to a location. Customers call your number and the calls find your computer, wherever it is.

There are many providers that offer VoIP. Some like Vonage allow you to pick a number local to your area and use your normal phones. With others like Skype you need to buy a new phone and plug it into the computer. But you can call other Skype users free. Either way, all have the ability to receive and make calls wherever there is a wireless network signal. You can now get phones that will make VoIP calls without a computer; they just attach themselves directly to a wireless network.

One thing to watch out for is call quality. A weak wireless signal can mean you sound like a Dalek.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: All you need is wireless internet access

Online services: So, you’re sorted for kit – now you need information. There are hundreds of free online services that are starting to replace applications on your computer. The beauty of using an online service is that your information is accessible from any computer anywhere in the world, plus if your laptop gets stolen – you haven’t lost your data. You can arrange your calendar online, have a simple to do list, and keep track of your customer database.

BEACH ACCESS CHECK: You just need a wireless internet connection.

LINKS: http://calendar.google.com, www.rememberthemilk.com, www.highrisehq.com

FINAL REALITY CHECK: Tapping on your laptop from a beach might sound like the perfect way to run a business, and it’s certainly possible, but you will probably spend all day hoping you don’t get sand in your laptop, and the wireless internet doesn’t go down. Plus, what’s the point of being on a beach if you can’t enjoy it? We suggest you stick to work 50 weeks of the year, and enjoy 2 weeks of relaxation on the beach when you can.