digital nomadTravelers earning a living on the road need to equip themselves with a number of essential software tools. Moving out from behind the desk in a cubicle to consulting from a beach in Indonesia requires you to handle more network and administrative tasks that a manager or IT department would normally take care of.

Here are my recommended (and all free) essential software tools to get you connected, backed up, and leaving software licenses a distant memory.

Getting Online

Finding a stable and free Internet connection is paramount to getting remote work done.

  • NetStumbler – When you don’t have access to an open wireless connection Netstumbler can help you detect hidden SSIDs  which may not be encrypted. (Many can usually be found at bus stations and airports.)
  • Wireshark – This network analyzer can not only detect wireless networks around you, but also (with some configuration) help you crack WEP and WPA encryption passwords.

If there are no connections available near you, try bumming a Wi-Fi signal on the road by checking for known open access points with WiFinder or WeFi before you lose a reliable connection.

Keeping In Touch

Set up your virtual office like you never left.

  • SkypeAllows you to call other Skype users, with video as well as send chats for free. For low rates you can also call landlines or cell phones across the world. SkypeIn is a pay service (about $18 for 3 months) you can use to set up a telephone number that’s forwarded to your Skype account so your clients can get in touch with you without paying long distance fees.
  • Meebo – Combine all of your instant messaging accounts like MSN and AOL with the online service Meebo. Similar to Meebo, but downloaded and run from your desktop is Trillian. Both encrypt your messages which can protect you from legal consequences, depending on the local laws.
  • LogMeInSecurely connect remotely to your computer ‘at home’ or the traditional office (up to 5 machines total) to run the applications, like Photoshop, that your older laptop might not be able to handle. LogMeIn also offers its upgraded service for free for 30 days to all members which allows you to drag and drop between the remote computers and listen to sound. (Great for getting around Netflix’s restrictions on viewing videos online from outside of the US. Hotspot Shield is another way to get access to US-only websites.)
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Stay Secure

cattopProtect your assets. A mobile ‘desktop’ means that you’ll be responsible for your valuable equipment that isn’t protect by office doors and walls.

  • TrueCrypt – Encrypt your entire laptop (or desktop) hard drive to protect your proprietary or sensitive work in case you machine is stolen. TrueCrypt can also help protect your data if you machine is confiscated by the TSA upon entering the United States.
  • Avast! anti-virus and SuperAntiSpyware, or buy a Mac.

Backup Your Data!

  • Mozy – A personal favorite of mine, Mozy is an online backup service that gives you 2GB of free storage. You specify the folders and files you want backed up which are transmitted to Mozy in real-time (over an encrypted connection and stored encrypted by Mozy). For $4.95 per month you get unlimited storage.
    • I strongly urge you to select an online backup service, saving your data to the same machine or USB drive won’t do you any good if either one breaks or gets lost.

Becoming A Digital Nomad

I always travel with my laptop and a USB stick with these 12 applications I recommend for all travelers needing a laptop or wanting to stay safe at Internet cafes. As Christine of Almost Fearless notes, becoming a digital nomad will get easier as economies slow down across the globe. With a few handy software tools, even though you’re traveling, it’ll be like you never left.

[photo by: Franz Patzig, Daveblog]