Q: Our CPA firm audits businesses in many rural areas that don’t have access to the high-speed Internet needed by our audit staff to use our cloud solutions, perform research, enter timesheet data and communicate with the home office. Is there a reasonable solution for establishing temporary high-speed Internet access in these rural areas?
A: A growing number of rural locations lacking high-speed Internet access now offer faster 4G cellphone service. Following are three approaches to creating a 4G personal mobile hotspot with download speeds starting at 12 megabits per second—20% faster than typical commercial broadband high-speed Internet:
1. Smartphone method. Many 4G cellphones have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities that enable them to serve as a personal mobile hotspot, allowing up to five simultaneous users to connect through the phone to the Internet. Examples of phones that provide this capability include the LG Thrill, HTC Inspire, Samsung Infuse and BlackBerry Torch, which are available through AT&T; Verizon smartphones running Android 2.2 or later; and others. A drawback to this method is that using the smartphone as a wireless hotspot runs the battery down quickly; therefore, the smartphone needs to remain plugged into an electrical outlet, but still, with heavy use, battery life can be problematic.
2. MiFi device method. As an alternative to using your smartphone to create a personal mobile hotspot, Novatel Wireless manufactures a MiFi device (offered by Verizon and other cellular service providers), that uses 4G (or 3G if 4G is not available) technology to create a personal wireless hotspot for up to five computers. Verizon’s MiFi device is priced starting at $29, and requires a two-year data plan contract starting at $30 per month. (Keep reading to learn how to achieve the same result without incurring the monthly costs.)
3. MiFi device and smartphone method. Perhaps the best alternative may be to use a MiFi device connected to your 4G cellphone. This approach uses your cellphone’s data plan to create a 4G personal wireless hotspot that is accessible by up to five computers or devices, thereby avoiding monthly MiFi data plan charges. Further, using the powered MiFi device significantly reduces the drainage of the cellphone’s battery. Similar devices that can be used in combination with cellphones are also available from D-Link, Sierra Wireless and others.
Once you establish a personal mobile hotspot as described in the three solutions above, it works just like any other Wi-Fi hotspot—simply connect your computer or device to start browsing the Web.
Note: The two solutions involving cellphones may result in increased data usage, which may require you to upgrade to a more expensive cellphone data plan.
Caution: Because personal wireless hotspots connect directly to the Internet, corporate firewalls are bypassed; therefore, any website filtering or virus-checking procedures performed by your firewalls are circumvented.
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