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You’re in Zurich, and you’ve promised your Houston client a draft of the proposed contract by the end of the day. Where do you start? To put it mildly, foreign travel can pose unique challenges for the road warrior. Different electrical outlets, strange phone connections, confusing keyboards, cell phones with different standards, all combined with a good dose of jet lag, can make things very interesting. Understanding the technology that’s available, coupled with a bit of planning before you leave the office, will make it much easier. Here’s some tips that will help. TELEPHONES Telephones are a key piece to the puzzle. Carrying a cell phone keeps it simple, but be sure you know how to use land lines as well. Dialing internationally, especially back to the United States, is relatively uncomplicated. To dial internationally, you simply add a country code to the telephone number you’re dialing. Among the available sites with this kind of information is AT&T, which has a good resource for country codes, as well as many other issues related to international calls, at www.travel.att.com/traveler. The biggest advantage of cell phones is that others can reach you when the need arises. The problem, however, is that most of the cell phones we use in the states won’t work in other countries. The most common standard for cell phones in other countries is GSM, although that standard currently operates on three different bandwidths, with a fourth that is starting to emerge. If you travel overseas frequently, it may be worth purchasing a cell phone that works in other countries. Be sure to get at least a tri-band GSM phone to ensure adequate coverage. The new quad-band phones will provide even more service. If you want to check whether you’ll have cell coverage where you’re headed, visit www.gsmworld.com, which offers detailed information on the GSM services available in 184 countries. Another option is to rent a cell phone that will work where you’re going. A number of vendors offer this service over the Internet, and service is often available at major hotels. A couple of places to start are www.planetfone.com and www.rentcell.com. But be sure to shop around; pricing options and costs can vary widely. E-MAIL ACCESS There are a number of ways to stay on top of your e-mail when you’re out of the country. The most convenient answer may be the new phones on the market that meld a cell phone together with the ability to retrieve and send e-mails. For example, Nokia’s Model 9210 phone and Handspring’s Treo 270 both offer a color screen, a keyboard and e-mail capabilities. Research in Motion (RIM), of Waterloo, Ontario, also has introduced a GSM BlackBerry/phone combination. The current model uses an earpiece for the phone function, but the next model will be configured more like a traditional cell phone. Keep in mind that the size of the screens on these devices can make it frustrating to view attachments. MODEM SAFETY If you have your laptop computer with you on your trip, another way to get your e-mail is to use your modem to access your firm’s network. However, this approach raises two issues: electricity and phone connections. (A third issue, security, should already have been addressed by IT professionals back at your firm). To ensure that you’re bringing the right electrical outlet adaptors with you on your trip, check out the country-by-country guide at www.magellans.com. Even though the power cord for your laptop probably has a voltage converter (be sure to check), you’ll still want the surge protection benefits that many standalone power converters offer. In many countries, the phone line to plug into your modem is the same as you have at home. However, you’ll still want to check the line, since some systems can do significant damage. Devices to test the compatibility of phone lines, as well as adaptors if the plugs aren’t the same as in the U.S., are also available at www.magellans.com. Adaptors of all sorts can be found, as well, at www.port.com and www.laptoptravel.com. You’ll also need Internet access to get your e-mails, unless your firm offers the ability to dial directly into its network. A number of the larger ISPs in the United States — AT&T, Sprint and AOL, for example — provide international local access numbers. The iPass network ( www.ipass.com) provides 11,000 access numbers around the world. Other providers, such as Eunet, offer regional access numbers. And more and more large hotel chains, including Ritz-Carlton and Inter-Continental, are offering high-speed Internet access in guest rooms. CYBERCAF�S Another handy way to access e-mails from other countries is to log on at a local cybercaf�. There are a number of Web sites, such as www.cybercaptive.com, that will help you locate nearby cybercafes in cities around the world. If you’re like me, and aren’t comfortable typing in passwords for your firm’s network on strange computers, you should set up a separate e-mail account with a provider — hotmail.com and yahoo.com are a couple of examples — that allows you to send and receive e-mails without having to access your firms system. PLANNING AND FLEXIBILITY Staying in the loop while you’re overseas can — and probably will — seriously try your patience. Give yourself plenty of time; the frustrations and difficulties you’ll encounter are exacerbated when you’re on a short deadline. It would also be hard to overstate the value of planning ahead. With the depth of resources available on the Internet, there’s really no excuse for being unprepared. Incidentally, if you do find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the right equipment, luggage stores, especially the ones in airports and train stations, are often the most reliable source of adaptors and converters that you might need. And finally, bring along a fair degree of flexibility with you on your trip. Have a Plan B in mind for those times when Plan A doesn’t work. And there will be plenty of times when Plan A doesn’t work. Todd Miller is the technology partner at Denver’s Holland & Hart. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.hollandhart.com.

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