By Bahar Ferguson
Mobile computing has come a long way since the days when a computer took up an entire floor. Now the computers in our pockets can run almost everything we need to run a business. Still, it is sometimes important for people who are constantly on the run from location to location to be able to use something that has a larger screen and more functionality than a basic app. In order to work from location to location like a real estate mogul would need to, there is an important checklist of items that we need to consider.
Each of these are important in their own way and build off of the step before:
The first thing to consider is the platform we are working on. Mobility means that you can’t be hauling a desktop from location to location; especially some of the high-end desktop computers can have cases that on their own weigh 10 pounds to 15 pounds without anything in them. Instead, a focus on lightweight laptops and tablet computers is needed. The specifications of these lightweight laptops and tablets can be lighter than normal desktop computers because we are only accomplishing certain things with them. Namely, we normally aren’t running major graphicly intensive programs or running complex mathematical simulations of astronomical bodies. The ultimate in freedom of mobility is what many affectionately call a “laplet” — the hybrid of a laptop and a tablet. The two top choices are items from the Microsoft Surface line or members of the iPad Pro line. Both are awesome options for mobile computing power of a laptop in the body of a tablet.
The next thing to consider in the quest to technologically upgrade is bringing the Internet to your device. As a gateway to everything from your company’s website to the real-time status of your competitors, it has become an incredibly crucial and dynamic tool that deserves to be in everyone’s toolbox.
Sometimes a house you are trying to sell comes pre-established with Wi-Fi and all it takes is a quick password and you are connected. If this isn’t available, most laptops and tablets can connect to a mobile hotspot network produced from your phone. Fair warning, though: Sometimes this can be an expensive option, so be sure to consult your carrier for specific information on how data and hotspots work for your unique case. Some tablets are even able to generate their own mobile hotspots if needed or they may have access to a mobile carrier network.
Mobile hotspots are useful; however, it isn’t always the best option as mobile hotspots can be unpredictable or unreliable, depending on the scenario and network capabilities. Keep this in mind when you are attempting to transfer large documents, sync large amounts of data or use a VPN to access those files from servers or computers at the office. Try to limit downloads to the basic necessities and wait for large downloads and database synchronization for a time when you have a stable connection or stable wireless connection. That way, it prevents you from having only partial downloads, corrupted downloads and other problems. It would be tragic if you were to discover that listing you had for a perfect house didn’t show up because the database only showed half of your list.
For a quick security win, never connect to a free open (meaning that it doesn’t have a password) Wi-Fi connection. When you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot that doesn’t use a password, hackers could be creating that hotspot and acting as a "man in the middle" stealing passwords, credit card information and any other sensitive data that you are transmitting over the Internet. If you are constantly on the go, this can be tempting, especially if you have a large download that won’t work over a mobile hotspot, but I promise it is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to Internet security.
At this point, with a laptop or tablet and a stable Internet connection, you can effectively be working from any location or any home you want to show off to potential buyers or investors. Still, there are other things that can be added for convenience and practicality. While these are optional, they may be recommended by your IT team.
Now that we have a mobile platform to work in any office, home, car, or apartment under the sun, we need to make sure that we are still able to access our office resources like servers, active directories and databases. To do this, as long as you have a mostly stable Internet connection (something that you can use a mobile hotspot for), you can turn on a VPN to connect yourself to the office. VPNs function much like a tunnel or bridge between yourself and the office. You can be across town showing off that fantastic three-bedroom, two-bath on half an acre of land and still be able to access the Excel sheet that shows how many other buyers are looking at this exact home that is stored in the office server.
Looking at the fantastic mobility options found in tablets and laptops, occasionally you might end up in an area or situation that could result in a stolen computer or tablet. This could be devastating to lose all that important data. Encryption can help protect it so that if there is ever an issue where unsavory individuals steal your belongings, you won’t have them looking though the pile of important information you have stored in there.
There are several ways to do this, but the most recommended ones would be Bitlocker for Windows 10 Professional operating systems and Filevault for Mac operating systems. These two methods are very similar, but the end goal is to prevent people from accessing a computer’s data without your permission. The protection gained is something that is hard to ignore and even harder not to justify, as it takes moments to set up Filevault and a lunch break to set up Bitlocker (Bitlocker can take upwards of 24 hours to officially encrypt the data although most is done in the background without you needing to notice). Once this encryption is done it would take a supercomputer over 80 years to brute-force its way in and steal your data. For such a simple process it seems like it would be an amazing win against stolen data.
We covered a lot in this article — mostly what you need for being able to do work on the go. Boiling it down to the bare-bones basics, you need a computer that you can take on the go. Laptops and tablets are best for this. Those computers need to connect to the Internet. Standard Wi-Fi is the best for this since you are moving around and can’t just be tied to an ethernet cord connecting you to the wall. Worst-case scenario, you can utilize a mobile hotspot but those have their own unique challenges to consider. After connecting to the Internet, you need a VPN connection to make sure that your data is safe and that you can access the data from around the city, state or world. There are lots of other special steps that you can do for extra comfort, productivity and security but these are the basics of what is needed for you to get out there and conquer the real estate world using cutting-edge technological advancements.
Bahar Ferguson is the president of Wasatch I.T., a Utah provider of outsourced IT services for small and medium-sized businesses.