align="left">For Fausto Alvarez, it wasn’t enough to have wireless Internet access in his office, through his clients’ offices or at the local Wi-Fi hot spot.
At HBA Insurance Group Inc., the Miami, Fla.-based insurance agency he works for, all the company’s forms, files and client records are stored on its computer network. So when Alvarez or any of his agents would visit a client or prospect, the ability to log on and access those files was critical.
But Alvarez was concerned that logging on at a client’s office compromised HBA’s own security by opening a tunnel into his own network, he said. And waiting until he returned to the office to fetch updated information or input client data was time consuming.
So Alvarez, in May, bought two Cingular Wireless EDGE PC cards — one for him, and one for others in the office to share. The cards allow high-speed Internet access from anywhere Cingular has service coverage.
“Seventy percent of the time, I was dead in the water with no access to our network,” said Alvarez, senior vice president and partner at HBA. “The card lets me work where there’s no Wi-Fi.”
First came the in-office wireless network. Then came Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, where users could log on to the Internet from offices, restaurants or other locations with wireless Internet devices. Now, the wireless Internet is as boundless as a cell phone’s range.
Wireless data services allow users to access the Internet to send and receive data, files or e-mail on a mobile computer, phone or handheld device. Also popular is the use of wireless data services for short message services or mobile gaming. Nationally, the technology is growing in popularity, according to a study from research firm In-Stat/MDR.
The new technology, called EDGE (for Enhanced Datarate for Global Evolution), increases data transfer rates to those phones or laptops using EDGE-enabled cards. These are not cards that can access wireless networks such as those in homes or offices, but rather dedicated cards that transmit data over cellular networks.
With teleworkers and road warriors working from home or other remote locations, the need to access e-mail and download or access documents has grown, said Howard Packer, Cingular products and services manager in Boca Raton, Fla.
Cost of service varies, depending on the amount of data being transmitted, and whether the card is used for voice and data. At Cingular, five megabytes of data transfer, or about 2,500 pages of text on Cingular’s network, costs $19.99.
Unlimited access, like Alvarez’s plan, provides the worker a “virtual mobile office that’s online all the time,” said Packer. This application is ideal for those whose computer use is done mostly from the road, such as realty agents or sales representatives.
Any laptop running the Windows 98 SE to XP operating systems can use the card, he said. As with cell phones, anywhere the provider has coverage or roaming agreements, the cards will work — if the roaming partner has EDGE technology.
At a one-time purchase and price and activation fee of $180 each, Alvarez spends $85 a month for unlimited, high-speed Internet access. It has made him more efficient, he said.
“It can take a while to do my job sometimes,” he said. “Now, if I’m on it for more than a couple of hours, it’s not a big deal.”
WHAT: High-speed wireless cards for the laptop
COST: From about $150 for the card, and from $30 to $80 a month for service, depending on the amount of data transferred.
WHERE: Available from most wireless or cellular providers, including AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS, T-Mobile and Nextel.
Jeff Zbar, the
href="http://www.ChiefHomeOfficer.com">ChiefHomeOfficer.com, is a speaker, writer and expert on
alternative officing. He is the author of Teleworking & Telecommuting:
Strategies for Remote Workers and Their Managers (Made E-Z Products,
Safe@Home: Seven Keys to Home
Office Security (FirstPublish 2001) and Your Profitable Home Business
CD-ROM from Made E-Z Products). Visit his Web site to subscribe to Home
Office Success Stories, his free electronic magazine on home business