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8/18/2006
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Empty-Handed: Could Business Travelers Hit The Road Without Their Trusty Laptops?

Increased airport security is pushing some IT managers to rethink whether road warriors really need to have laptops in tow. And if it saves money and airport hassles, these plans could go into effect sooner than later.

The recent tightening of airport security regulations in the wake of a foiled terrorist plot last week, has spurred some IT managers and analysts to start planning ahead for worst-case scenarios. If greater restrictions on carry-on luggage are a harbinger of security hassles to come, what policies and plans should they have in place to diminish the disruption?

And for some of those IT shops, all of this planning for easier business travel, ease of use and greater equipment and data security has given rise to an "aha" kind of moment: There may be real advantages to implementing these alternatives right now. So why not go ahead and change our thinking and the way we do business on the road right now?

For one thing, while the technology needed to get around the banned laptop issue may mostly exist today, the business culture will need to catch up. If CIOs think they're going to easily pry laptops, the biggest weapon in a business traveler's arsenal, out of users' hands without one hell of a fight, they may be in for a bit of a surprise. We're a culture known for being on the move and constantly in touch. We're a nation of laptop fanatics, plugged into email, enterprise applications, instant messaging and spreadsheets, whether we're in the home office, a caf in San Diego or a hotel room in downtown Newark. We're working night and day no matter where we are. And we're highly attached to the machines that let us do it.

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Dan Robison, a senior vice president with GreatLand LLC, based in Orlando, Fla., says if his boss told him to leave his laptop home he'd think the man had simply gone crazy. Robison, who's traveled to Australia, Thailand and Germany this summer, says he made a few business trips without his laptop just as an experiment. He wanted to see if he could survive without it. He did, but barely.

He says he has a smart phone tricked out with Internet access, a small keyboard and Microsoft Office software. But try working on a spreadsheet with a screen that small, he says. He ended up wasting his time on the flight, unable to get any real work done. And then to add insult to injury, he found himself holed up in the hotel's business center instead of comfortably in his room with his feet up getting his work done.

"If you tell me I'm on a business trip for a week and I can't have my laptop, then that's a waste of a week," says Robison.


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Robert Jenkens, a vice president with NCB Development Corp., a non-profit organization that works with low-income communities, says it wouldn't just waste his work time. It would start to cut into what's supposed to be his personal time.

"It would be devastating for me not to have a laptop because it would mean that all those 15- and 20-minutes, and two-hour periods you could work when you're traveling would disappear," says Jenkens. "It would reduce my efficiency. I work probably 60 hours a week anyway, and I'd have to come home on the weekends and work another eight to 16 hours to make up for the time I couldn't work on the road.''

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