7 Laptop-Ban Workarounds—If It Actually Happens
Recently, the prospect of a possible laptop ban has been generating quite a few headlines. Whether or not it actually comes to pass, the possibility of a ban has certainly gotten my attention, not to mention the attention of millions more laptop-reliant planners and business travelers. And we’re all asking ourselves the same question: how will we be able to do our jobs on the road, should a total ban (or even a partial one) become the new law of the skies? And, what happens if you fly overseas with your laptop, there’s a change in the regulations, and you aren’t allowed to fly home with it, or have to put it in your easy-to-steal-from checked luggage?
While it may be too early in the game to offer up any fool-proof solutions, here are a few thoughts on how my planner buddies and I plan to ride out the ban – if it happens – so we can still function on the road, at least until the situation gets sorted out:
1) Got trees?
Way back in the early ‘00’s, planners relied heavily on ‘event binders’ – the classic 3-ring kind – loaded up with printouts. On-site, updates were scribbled on to hardcopies until we could get to a hotel business center to update the files. Hardly a seamless system and the binders were heavy as lead, but it worked well enough. Fast forward fifteen years and most of us have no intention of going back to schlepping binders around the globe, but a change in the regulations may force us to carry more hard copies than we have in decades. So, prepare for more paper on the road – and consider investing in a roomier, travel-friendly carry-all to carry on.
2) Send in the clouds.
Whether you’re a committed iClouder or prefer to store files on Dropbox, a ‘filing cabinet in space’ will be more essential than ever to insure 24/7 access to all event files no matter where your laptop lives. The tricky part will be corporate policies. For me, as an independent planner, work will continue to be ‘Dropbox as usual,’ but an on-staff planner friend in the financial services field sees logistical trouble ahead, saying he’ll be all but useless on-site without real-time laptop access to his corporate email, shared drives and files. So what’s the corporate work-around? Identifying a cloud back-up solution that will cover your needs – and comply with company policies, many of which will likely need to be adjusted to accommodate the (possibly) laptop-less employee of the future. (Calling HR!)
3) Call your lifeline.
Planning is a pretty collaborative business, so if we wind up hitting the road without laptops, there’s likely going to be a lot more calling and emailing back to the head office to ask colleagues to forward any files you may have left behind. Do plan ahead though and remember, before you hit the road, make sure you’ve got a trusted co-worker at HQ on call and ready to lend a hand, can access your files easily and is able to log into your desktop if need be.
4) Pack-up your back-up.
Assuming your files do not contain especially sensitive materials, a small, portable drive, like a thumb drive, aka USB flash drive, aka data stick will probably be able to cover your needs for the event at hand. Or, if you need to carry all your files with you (relevant or not), a larger, portable hard drive with one or two terabyte capacity is more than enough for most planners. Working on something sensitive? Then go for one of the Cnet.com-tested portable drives with encryption to prevent access to your data should you misplace or lose the deck-of-cards-sized drive. Also keep in mind, particularly if you’re a staffer, you may need to clear a portable storage plan with your boss, IT and possibly even HR.
5) Buddy can you spare a laptop?
If you can’t take it with you, there are a few ways you’ll still be able to get your work done on the road and live ‘la vida laptop’:
- The first option, and likely the best for corporate travelers with offices in multiple cities, would be to borrow one from the local office in your destination city and return it before heading home.
- Another option would be to rent a single laptop through the hotel concierge or your local AV vendor, who may give you a better deal, particularly if you’re already contracted with them for other equipment and services.
- Need laptops or iPads for the entire team? Then another option would be to arrange a weekly (or longer) rental from a company like MeetingsTomorrow.com, who’ll ship the laptops your team needs to just about any U.S. location, for next day delivery.
- If the team needs laptops for an overseas event, you may wish to add that to the list of line items for your destination management team to procure.
- At the moment, it’s still OK to ship your laptops ahead, but if that’s your plan, you’ll need to ship ‘em inside specially-designed, heavy-duty hard cases to protect them from damage while in transit.
6) Back to the future—with a keyboard?
If you’ve got a cell phone, then congrats, you’ve already got half of what you need to improvise your own pint-sized laptop. What’s the other half? A full-sized (or close to it) fold-up keyboard. If you plan to do a lot of typing while flying, then you might shop around for a keyboard with both wired and wireless connection options for your phone as Bluetooth policies vary from one carrier to the next.
7) Put your hotel to work.
One last thought: before you leave town, talk to the concierge to get an accurate description of your hotel’s on-site business center facilities. If they’re not up to par, the concierge will be more likely to give it to you straight, let you know what your options are and help you find a local business services facility to best meet your tech needs.
In the end, one wonders, if it comes to pass, would a laptop ban be so terrible? It’s hard to say for sure, but doubtless, a ban would create a mountain of technological and logistical headaches for planners and business travelers everywhere. On the other hand, having woken up countless times in hotel rooms with my MacBook, iPhone and iPad in bed with me, sometimes I think the alternative might not be so bad after all!