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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.
Sucking It Up

"You don't make any money if you dont get on that plane," he says. "There would be a lot of chest pounding, but in the end, you'd have to find a way to just get on the plane."

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with Sophos, an anti-virus company with headquarters in Lynnfield, Mass., and Oxford, England, says he'll be one of the people who's OK with traveling without a laptop. He says we've all simply fallen into step with the mentality that we don't go anywhere without our computers. And that's just not necessary.

"Do you really always need a laptop?" asks Cluley, who travels 12 to 20 times a year. "A lot of people are hermetically attached to their laptops almost like someone has sewn an extra limb to their bodies. I can easily pick up another laptop at the other office when I arrive. It doesn't need to be my laptop, as long as it's inside the company and has the applications I need."

And it's a good thing Cluley feels that way.

Charles Southey, the vice president of IT at Sophos, says he's been doing some thinking about having to adjust employees travel policies at some point, and he'd consider not letting business travelers take their laptops with them at all.

While Southey says he hasn't given much thought to employees using thumb drives, he will push them to use guest computers set up at the company's other offices instead. To keep employees' work confidential, he would install SSL (secure sockets layer) VPNs, which can be used with a standard Web browser. It provides a secure connection, and then does a disconnection cleanup so the next person using the computer can't see what the last person was working on.

LeVine says SSL VPNs would be a good idea for computers rented at a kiosk, used at a corporate site or used in a hotel room. And that would relieve some security concerns for people who might think using a computer in a hotel room would be like using the same toothbrush the hotel provides for everyone who stays there.

And to enable workers to be even fairly productive on a hotel or kiosk computer, they'd need access to Web-based applications, according to Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at Gartner, Inc., an industry analyst group. If enterprise applications were securely available online, then workers, using a safeguarded SSL VNP connection, could access what they needed from any computer with Internet access. That would broaden the scope of machines they could use to get serious work done.

"Hotels don't offer much of this service now, but if there's demand they would," said Dulaney, while waiting for a delayed flight at JFK airport in New York. "The approach would be thin clientsIf we can't carry our devices with us, we'll focus on people mobility. There will be PCs all over the place, and people will travel to the computers rather than people traveling with them.

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