How to run your business from a beach in the Caribbean

Employment & Skills | How To

By Mike Ianiri, Equinox

Everyone has days when they imagine packing up and moving to a beautiful location where they can live, work and play. Perhaps your dream is working from a beach – the kind with sunshine and palm trees. Not Torquay or Bognor (despite their palm trees) but somewhere further afield and more relaxed.  What is holding you back? Not the technology.  This can now help you achieve the dream. Whether you are thinking of a permanent move or going for a few weeks a year let’s look at what you need to set up and take with you.

Get the Right Hardware

Working in a beautiful place, you don’t want to be hauling a heavy laptop around. That points you at something like the Microsoft Surface Pro or Apple Macbook Air. Just avoid getting saltwater into them! For a more sturdy device, look at the Dell Rugged Extreme range, but check your credit card balance before hitting purchase.  They’re not cheap!

You’ll need something that is reliable, that can be repaired in the country you’re staying in, can cope with the sort of work you are doing and the software you’ll need to run. Remote working is likely to mean you’ll be accessing the Cloud extensively, and you may also have several programs running at the same time – so choosing something with a decent amount of RAM is important. Also, if you think you’re likely to have to work offline a lot, then a good-sized hard drive, or one that connects to an extra external hard drive is important.

With a plug socket unlikely to be handy, you’ll need a powerbank. Here’re a few options. To help you choose the right one, consider:

  • How many devices do you want to be able to charge? Charging your phone once or twice will be possible from most powerbanks, but if you want to keep your laptop charged too, you’ll need a larger capacity device.
  • What devices are you charging? Powerbanks come with a variety of outlet sockets, but they’re not all the same.
  • How much can you carry? Some high capacity powerbanks weigh 1kg or more.
  • Are you flying? Many airlines ban the really high capacity powerbanks, so err on the side of caution if you are a frequent flyer.

Manage Security

Working in remote locations, particularly if it is only for a short period of time, can increase security concerns. Devices being stolen can mean a major data security nightmare. Data breaches on devices that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for EU citizens need to be reported to the information Commissioners Office (ICO) within 72 hours. You’ll also need to tell the people affected!

Far better to secure your devices and be able to remotely wipe them, if necessary. Talk to your IT Manager or IT support company about Mobile Device Management (MDM), biometrics or two-factor authentication (2FA) before you go.

Connecting to the internet

Assuming your business is based in the UK, in your “beach office” you’ll need to internet connectivity. If your accommodation is on the edge of the beach and the WiFi reaches across the sand, then great. If not, you’ll need a 4G connection and be able to tether via your phone.

If you are sold on the beach being in the Caribbean, you’ll have to be prepared to work with fairly slow speeds. The Bahamas appears to have the fastest broadband speeds in the area, at about 9.95Mbps. If you’re happy with the Florida coastline, you can get much faster speeds, at 46.6Mbps. If you want to use 4G, here’s where you can choose your preferred beach.

If you are travelling for a short period, check the price of buying data locally. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy your data in the UK and sometimes it’s cheaper locally.  If your mobile contract comes with plenty of data, check the roaming policies. Outside the EU, most UK operators charge £5 per day to use your contract data.  That may be enough.

Don’t forget you will be backing up your data online, as well as accessing your apps and email. Ensure you take that into consideration when looking at how much data you need.

A further security warning here. If the data on your laptop needs to be secured, be very careful about using local WiFi. It is a common practice for hackers to spoof WiFi connections in order to get access to your data.

Set Up for Calls

Depending on where most of your clients, staff etc. are, you need to think carefully about how you set up your phones. Your mobile is certainly not your best option, even if it is one of the easiest devices to take to the beach. If you decide on the Bahamas because of the broadband speeds, mobile calls back to the UK could cost over £2 a minute.

A VoIP-based solution with a softphone on your laptop and/or your smartphone handset may be the best solution. SIP trunk connections to other countries where you do a lot of business will mean you’re only ever making local calls, rather than calling at international rates. You can even keep a UK landline number – so clients never need to know you’re on the beach rather than at your UK desk. Just remember to check the daily weather forecast back home so you know what to say when someone says, ‘dreadful weather we’re having here – what’s it like in your neck of the woods?’

Tools for productivity

Remote working is nothing new and there are plenty of ways to communicate with a geographically diverse team. The range of tools to help you continues to grow.

Instant messaging tools, such as Slack, Hipchat or Google’s Hangout Chat are all free, or have free versions.  Slack is probably the one you’ve heard of and probably used at some point.

Video-conferencing could be an alternative to using a phone, but the quality of your internet connection may determine whether this is something you use all the time, or just occasionally. Skype is probably the biggest name in this market, but there are plenty of others, such as Google’s Hangout and Zoom.

Project management is a key requirement for remote teams. Thankfully there are a range of different tools available to you. Basecamp is one to consider if your projects aren’t particularly complex. Or look at Trello that also allows you to manage a number of different projects using a ‘boards’ system.  If you need something that combines chat, meetings, collaborative working, file sharing and project management in one place, something like Microsoft Teams is worth considering.

Trust is essential

Should this point be the first one in this article or the last? It’s last here because it should be a given.  If you’re going to run your business from a beach, you need to be able to trust your team back in the office, wherever that may be.  If you don’t, you’ll be spending a lot less time at the beach than you want to.

It won’t matter how good your telecoms or your productivity apps are, if your team aren’t working with you, you cannot work anywhere that isn’t where they are. Most of the apps listed above will track when, and sometimes where, entries are made, so you can see if your team are working. Some will also show when people are logged in or online – just in case you want/need to keep an eye on people.

Are you feeling tempted to make the move?  If so it’s good to know that the technology to you help you work from anywhere is constantly being enhanced. If, having done your research, you decide moving can work for you and your business, get the right tech, have a great time and send us a postcard.

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