Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working remotely. Very remotely from the UK and France, as part of what has now become an annual “workcation.” A workcation is where you combine your work travel with your vacation, and avoid the other “cation” which I refer to as the “altercation.” That “cation” can occur when you don’t do either your work or take a deserved vacation and someone else lets you know how unhappy they are with you. And, with each year, the lessons learned from prior trips are valuable as they pave the way for a better “next” experience overall with much less stress, and higher levels of engagement near and far.
Working as much as nine hours apart may be a challenge to some, but staying in touch no longer is, nor is the cost of doing business remotely as much an issue as it used to be. As a matter of fact, working remotely is so CFO-friendly these days, that the cost of a telephone call or use of a conferencing service is the same as being at home. So, with those types of incentives, why stay home, especially in the era of a cheaper dollar when compared to the British Pound and the Euro, and when there are so many reduced prices on hotels and airfare available now?
But what’s made my life easier are the many services available today that are based on VoIP, SIP, and WebRTC. For many years Skype was the best route to go to keep in touch, without incurring massive International calling costs, but today, we have so many more choices, that staying connected is about as easy as hailing an Uber.
Between voice and text messaging, the savings can easily cover a few great meals, some shopping or even an upgrade on your flight. We’ve all heard of expensive roaming bills, but these days, with T-Mobile offering free roaming and Verizon selling daily packages that are dramatically lower than in the past, the cost of staying connected is peanuts or less. Another trick that takes all the costs of roaming away is to have an unlocked mobile phone or tablet and buy a local SIM card that ‘s pay as you go. For under $20.00 you’ll be connected for up to a month, have a local number and fast localized data connections. Of course, if you do that, you’re best to use a Google Voice number back home for SMS and then receive your texts and voicemails there. That way, you’re super connected.
Let’s take a look at the best, and easiest mobile apps to stay connected with using Wi-Fi or 3G/4G/LTE.
Facebook Messenger works on mobile devices and within the browser. Calls are free, and you can text message before calling to see if someone’s free. It’s highly personal and easy. Plus it sounds and looks great too with the addition of video.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook now, but the team at Whatsapp keep improving the experience. With WhatsApp, you can share videos, photos, make calls, send text messages but most of all call.
Viber very much a clone in many ways to WhatsApp, Viber was one of the first to offer encryption of their calls and messaging traffic, something WhatsApp and Messenger have both added. Viber has one additional feature, ViberOut that makes for inexpensive calls over Wi-Fi and a mobile data connection so you can call regular phone numbers.
Apple’s iMessage/FaceTime is native to anyone using an iPhone, iPad and Mac these days. Messaging is free, and FaceTime is so simple to use that anyone with an iTunes account can be found. The call quality, especially for video over mobile networks is awesome, even at lower bandwidths.
Hangouts from Google is the least used except by Android die-hards. It’s not the easiest to use, but it does tie in nicely with SMS on Android devices, has the luxury of using your Google and Android contacts, as well as those on iPhones, and is cross platform.
Sure there are others, like Wire, QQChat and more, but when you look at the level of users who already have access to the five above, the rest are more niche for those in the USA.
These are some easy ways anyone can stay connected. Up next will be how to make your business connected internationally while you’re mobile…...watch for that next week.