I admit it: I'm a bit nosy. I'm constantly looking over my travel partners' shoulders to see what's on their laptops or which apps are getting the most usage on their iPhones. I'm always on the hunt for efficiency when travelling. Luckily, there's a whole new category of fully digital travel gadgets.
I've had many instances when I board a flight, fire up my laptop and... nothing, followed by the realization that I can't recall the last time I backed up my hard drive. Carbonite takes care of that. This amazing application lets you back up all of your files to the Internet. No need to lug around external hard drives or USB keys anymore, and no need to stress if your laptop dies on the flight. The application runs in the background, and after the initial backup is done, Carbonite syncs your hard drive to the storage space online in real time. Once back on terra firma, you can download the work files you need right from the Carbonite website to any computer. You can try it free for 30 days, but you'll probably be instantly hooked like I was and pay the annual $54.95 (USD) fee.
Playing a close second to a laptop crash in terms of "bad travel days" is a slow Internet connection.
In a world where a four-meg PowerPoint attachment is normal, that means a lot of waiting around while my inbox spins its wheels and tries to download files. As we swap dull bullet-point slide shows for big images and embedded video, the file size can make it very difficult to send them by e-mail or to run them off a CD or USB key. Enter FILEminimizer Office. I have no idea how it works, but the program, formerly known as PPTMinimizer, has shrunk my huge 40-meg-plus PowerPoint file to under 1 meg. (The website claims it will compress your file size up to 98 percent.) The newer version also minimizes documents for other Microsoft Office programs, including Word and Excel. Along with making it easier to send smaller files, it helps by leaving me more hard drive space for things like music and movies, all for $48 (USD).
Keep the sniffers away.
Finally, if you're at all concerned about security while on the road - especially if you're constantly accessing public Internet and Wi-Fi networks - Hotspot Shield is a must-have. This tiny application not only secures your connection, it protects your identity by making sure that all transactions, including shopping and filling out forms, are safe. On top of that, it makes your online identity invisible to third-party websites and ISPs. Hotspot Shield keeps everything - including credit card numbers and passwords - safe from prying Internet eyes. And it's free.
The above posting is my monthly tech and gadget column for enRoute Magazine called, Ultraportable. I cross-post it here with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here: