Saturday, August 28, 2021

Internet for Digital Nomads

So you want to see the world and work while doing it? If the work you do depends on the internet there is no better time than the current times and it may get better but you need to make some considerations.

When you are traveling on a van, camper or backpacking internationally, you can't count on good WiFi availability or cell coverage so you need to plan according to your needs. Hopefully this miniguide will help you.

What kind of internet access do you need?
Before you do anything else, you need to assess your usage requirements. You need to consider volume, bandwidth, latency and availability requirements

Volume: The amount of data you use every month for work and personal tasks. It is usually measured in GB.

Bandwidth: the minimum data transfer rate you need to do the job you do. It is usually measured in Mbps.

Latency: round trip time of data packages. This is, the time between your computer sending the data package, getting to the remote location and receiving a confirmation signal. It is measured in milliseconds.

Availability: How much do you depend on a reliable connection.

With those definitions out of the way, here is how to assess your usage:

If you currently work from home you can look at the stats in your home router or your home provider website. Analyze if there are "optional usage loads" such as streaming which you can defer.

Asses your bandwith needs: Are you regularly in vidéoconférences or do you need to transfer large chunks of data at a time requiring fast speed? For that check at the applications requirements. They will usually say "at least xxx Mbps". E.g. zoom requirements

Do the research for your most critical applications. And add up things you need to do concurrently. e.g. if you use app A which needs 1 Mbps and app B which needs 2 Mbps, then you need at least 3 Mbps.

Consider the most critical applications to decide the minimum. Latency requirements are usually listed as part of the application requirements. Consult the vendor information.
Do you work with remote databases? High latency will suck regardless of the bandwidth 
For gaming you may be OK with 30 ms. Less than that it may be painful when you die before you see your opponent :)

But for Voice over IP 150 ms should be good. And for email, web, social media or srreaming it doesn't really matter.

Can you work disconnected for a while and then connect as required or do you need constant access to the internet?

Putting it all together
Now that you know your requirements you can start figuring out what kind of access you need. Here is the list of options from more expensive to cheapest:

Super high availability and low volume regardless of any other consideration (location, speed, latency): You will need a satellite connection. It will allow you to send and receive email, send text and other low usage activities regardless of where you are in the world.

High bandwith + high volume + low latency + high availability or even just consistent low latency: Forget about depending on the celular network, hotspots or public Wifi. Plan your route based on co-working spaces availability.

High bandwith + High volume + high availability: get an unlimited, non throttled data plan and plan your route based on your network coverage map. Get a cellphone booster such as weboost.

High volume + high availability: Get an unlimited mobile plan even if it is throttled. You can leverage public or campgrown hotspots as needed. Get a good wifi extender.such as wifi camp pro 2.

High volume: you can leverage public or campground hot spots as needed.

Low everything: (e.g. using the web, reading emails, text messaging apps, social media) then just your current data plan plus leveraging public and campground hotspots as needed.

With that information you may also want to adapt your usage to conditions.

In our case, we need to find good co-working spaces during some period of the month but can live with good cell coverage and public and campground hotspots otherwise.  Moving some intensive database processes to the server side will also reduce the number of days requiring co-working spaces.

Good luck in your travels and see you around!

No comments: