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Home Office on Wheels 

Technology that enables us to work while Full-Timing

 

March 4, 2005 (Updated, November 2006, June 2007, May 2009, January 2012)

 

Lots of people ask us about the systems and tools we use that enable us to work on the road while fulltiming.  As I update this article in Jan 2012 I'm amazed how much has changed in the 7+ years that we've been traveling. 

 

If you just want information about the various technologies, click on the links below (or on the left sidebar).  For more of my ramblings about the evolution of our system continue reading below...

 
Satellite Internet Aircards and Amps/Antennas Wi-Fi and Boosters Routers - Connection Sharing

 

As you may know, I'm a recruiter.  I'm the guy who calls you up and asks if you're really happy there in Dullsville working for HoHum Inc., and wouldn't you like to move to New Town and take an interesting position with Bright Future LLC (any resemblance to actual companies is purely coincidental).  I've recruited for most everything over the years, but lately I focus on healthcare and therapy professions.  In 2006 I closed my independent small business and joined my current company as an employee.  

 

To do my job I only need a couple of basic tools; internet access and a telephone.  If I can get online and talk to people I can make a living.  If I can't get online and can't talk... well you get the point.  So to make fulltiming a possibility I need reliable internet access and telephone connection.

 

We have redundant internet access capability, 4 ways to get online.  If that seems like overkill go back and read the last paragraph above once again. :-)  Our primary way of accessing the internet has been changing almost on a yearly basis.  We started out in 2004 with one of the old original aircards, upgraded to an automated satellite system, and since have added two different modern aircards and a wi-fi amplifier.  In 2009 we stopped using the satellite system and now we have 4G aircards from Sprint and Verizon, tethering capability on both our Droid phones, and a wi-fi amplifier system for hotspots.  Just one of these may be adequate for you.  Read on, and I'll tell you about all our systems and also talk about the pro's and con's of each.

 

Datastorm by Motosat - Satellite Internet Service

In the fall of 2004 when we started fulltiming I was using an old-technology Verizon aircard (which was the best available at the time) and achieved about 2x dialup speeds when you could find a signal.  Chris was assisting me in the business doing internet research.  We were constantly frustrated by the slow connection speed, and Chris threatened to quit if I didn't do something to improve it.  At the time, the only realistic option for nation wide high speed internet was satellite internet.  It was (and still is) quite expensive, but to save the business, and our marital bliss, I bit the bullet and spent the $5k.  Read more about satellite internet...

 

Air Cards Amps and Antennas

 

For two years the Datastorm was our primary system, and our backup was a Verizon Sierra 555 air card.  That aircard was only about 2x dialup speed, and it cost $80/mo.  In December 2006 we upgraded to a Sprint Merlin S720 Rev A EVDO Aircard and a Linksys mobile wireless router.  With this combination we could both use the Sprint card at the same time, and it became our primary internet access system.  In many service areas this card was very fast.  We saw downloads in the 1.5Mbps range and uploads up to 600kbps. 

 

Why an air card when we have the datastorm? 

  1. Our jobs were the initial reason.  We connect to a secure database (https) 8 hours a day.  Performance on this site is poor with the DataStorm.  The reason is, there's a delay in satellite internet of 600ms to 1 second for each communication between your computer and the web server you're accessing. This is known as "latency" and is caused by the distance the signal has to travel to and from the satellite.  This isn't a big deal for most people, you won't even notice it when browsing the web, but the problem is compounded because secure sites aren't cached and accelerated by ISP's.  So, for each "click" we make in the database, and each exchange of information, we experience the satellite delay.  The air card eliminates this because latency is usually well under 200ms

  2. Another reason for the air card is flexibility.  We can use it outside of the RV and carry it with us for use in one of the laptops.

  3. When traveling vs. staying in a single location it's much quicker to get online with the aircard.
  4. Speed is usually higher on the EVDO card than on the Datastorm now that EVDO RevA is widespread.

  5. There's no daily download limit with the aircard (although there is a monthly limit which I've only reached once).  The Datastorm has a daily download limitation.

  6. The air card can be used in-motion.  One of us can be online while the other is driving

Even with all these aircard advantages the Datastorm was still an important backup for us because it covers the whole nation (in fact, most of North America) and as widespread as EVDO coverage is there are still gaping holes in coverage hundreds of miles wide.  Something to consider if you're planning to rely on an aircard alone. 

Read more about Aircards...   

 

 

Wi-Fi

When we first started traveling wi-fi coverage in RV parks was almost non-existent, usually expensive, and seldom reliable.  That's changed over the years, and more RV parks now provide high speed wireless internet service, some at no charge.  When available, good wi-fi is much faster than any of our other services, so we try to take advantage of it every chance we can.  Read more about Wi-Fi...

 

Routers - connection sharing

 

If two of you want to be online at the same time a router comes in handy.  You can use a wireless router to create a "Personal Wi-Fi Hotspot" in and around your RV, and share your internet connection whether it's from an aircard, satellite, or other wi-fi system.

 

Below is a photo of me hard-at-work (really!)  Read more about routers and connection sharing...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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