So you’re on a business trip in Beijing and you can’t access the corporate network — that secure VPN is so secure, it won’t let you in. Or, you didn’t bring the right adapter to power your laptop, so you find yourself wandering the streets, trying to find an electronics shop where you can attempt to communicate with your Mandarin phrase book.
You could find yourself traveling for business to parts of the world — such as Asia, Eastern Europe and South America — that have different standards of connectivity (or privacy) than the Western world. Trying to troubleshoot technology while in a foreign country can be much more frustrating than back home, since you face all sorts of unexpected challenges. Perhaps the electricity keeps cutting out, or you can’t get decent coverage for your cell phone.
Here’s a road warrior’s crisis guide on how to be better prepared for potential IT disasters while abroad.
? the crisis: No Privacy
When Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting with AR Communications, traveled to Shanghai last year on a business trip, he planned to provide updates on his blog — not realizing the potential limitations imposed by the government, which monitors Web sites and e-mail. When attempting to update his blog, he discovered that while it wasn’t fully blocked, it was compromised. Fortunately, he recognized the layout of the page (the links were turned into question marks), so he was able to graphically pick his way through and eventually post his blog. But this significantly reduced his productivity.
“I should have identified alternative resources I could have used if that first resource was not available,” he said. If you’re responsible for updating a Web site or blog while abroad, identify those alternative resources before you travel. Levy’s blog, for example, is hosted by Google’s blogger service, so while the blogger interface was essentially unavailable, the service offers other ways of updating a blog, such as through e-mail or other Web sites.
“Redundancy is everything,” said Levy. “Companies learn from disasters that if you don’t have alternative methods of getting at your data, you are essentially out of business. The same thing applies when you travel.” Don’t assume that the one set of tools you rely on at home will always be available when you’re on the road (this includes virtual private networks), so broaden that tool set.
? the crisis: No plug, no play
When Levy went to Shanghai, he brought along a voltage converter that was certified for China. But as soon as he got into his hotel room, he realized the plug for his laptop was two-pronged and the laptop his company had provided was three-pronged.
Something as simple as this could leave you high and dry, unless you have a backup (or are able to find an electronics shop where you can buy the appropriate converter). Before you travel, offload the data you’re going to need onto a flash drive and CD or DVD (preferably a CD, because CDs will play in everything).
“I got the biggest flash drive I could and I wear it around my neck, inside a shirt that’s tucked in,” said Levy. Consider buying a U3 flash drive, which includes software, so you’re not reliant on the software installed on the host computer (in an Internet caf