Imagine yourself getting ready for a day in your small business. You wake up early, eager to start the day. You exercise for 30 minutes and feel amazingly energized. You are ready for anything. You kiss your spouse, tell you children bye, and head to the office.
You have the most amazing ideas on the drive. Product concepts, new sources of revenue, a cure for the common cold (well, maybe not that amazing…) all pop in your head with ease. You carry your laptop into the office, sit down at your desk, ready to make history. You press the power button and………… nothing.
You spend the next hour trying to revive your poor laptop. How could your computer do this to you? After all the amazing idea on the ride to work, how could this happen to you? The ideas are fading. You scramble to write down as much as possible before getting too frustrated about your computer. Sure, there are other computers that you can use but all your information is on that dead laptop; passwords, documents, work files. Not gone, but locked away. You can hear the poor bytes just screaming to be let out. What can you do?
Anyone that uses a computer for work runs the risk of losing data or productive time due to hardware problems. Computer hard drives can crash, fans can die, and operating systems can go a little wacky, all for no obvious reason and often at the worst possible time. You can backup your data but even if you remember that, all you have is backed up files, not a workable computer. What can you do?
Portable apps to the rescue
USB drives have come a long way. One of the first one I purchased was a 512Mb ( 0.5Gb). The more commons sizes now are 8Gb and higher. They are faster, smaller, and more reliable than ever before. They are so fast that you can run programs directly off the USB drive. These programs are called portable apps. There are a variety of portable apps that are free and easy to use. Here are the ones I personally use (for a more comprehensive list, check out PortableApps.com):
- Chrome Portable – general browsing (used the most)
- Firefox Portable – Not used as much since moving to Chrome
- Filezilla Portable – FTP program for accessing my websites when needed
- LibreOffice Portable – office software used to create and view documents
- Gimp Portable – image editor
- Audacity Portable – audio editing and recording software used to record the audio for my video series, Can You Etch It
These programs turn your USB drive in to an office in your pocket and any computer you use into a productive machine. For example, let’s say most of what you need access to is web-based in the form of a blog. With the portable version of Chrome, you now have a browser you are familiar with.
But what good is a browser without your bookmarks? Xmarks is a plugin for your browser and free service that backs up and synchronizes your bookmarks on their servers. You can have your bookmarks at your fingertips, even after your main computer dies. As long as you have the Xmarks plugin enabled, you can have the same bookmarks on multiple computers, updated constantly. I highly recommend it.
What about web development? Last year, I decided to learn PHP and MySQL. To test out the pages, you have to view them through a browser on a web server. If you are just learning, the result is a lot of extra time transferring the data up to the server. To remedy that, I installed a web server on my USB drive. The particular one I used was XAMPP. It is easy to install, easy to use, and works great. If you want to learn web development, you can use XAMPP to get more done in the same time.
Portable apps can be a productivity-saver on those days when your regular computer decides not cooperate. You can have your browser and bookmarks, FTP program and sites, and audio recording software as well as a number of other great programs at your fingertips, no matter what computer you use.
With all these options, how will you setup your portable office?
(photo by: David Castillo Dominici)