Functionality for an Intercontinental Office

Working remotely is do-able from anywhere in the world, with some planning and patience. After a few trips of trying to tech internationally, I’ve learned a few things. All of them the hard way. Specifically, these tips are helpful for people who might work all-digital in their daily routine, and are going to a place where the tech (read: internets) are not the most reliable.


Think about access to CD/DVD media. I thought I was being reeeal clever by bringing a scanner* to pull completed forms into an electronic format, then I realized I needed the driver. What would have been 5 minutes with a disk drive took an entire afternoon of slow web navigating and even slower driver downloading. Because the Macbook Pro makers figured disks were antiquated.

To their credit, this is the first time I’ve missed the functionality and i’ve had this computer for a while.

Also consider a flash drive for moving files between devices. Not AirDrop, not cloud sharing, a flash drive. Make it FAT32 or ExFAT formatted before you put anything on it, so it can work on Mac or PC computers. But be very, very selective about what computer(s) you use it with.

*Speaking of scanners, there’s lots of robust apps that can help with traveling light. I use Tiny Scan and have heard great things about Genius Scan too. you might want to consider whether you have the internet access you need to get the document from your phone to your computer or wherever it needs to be, otherwise apps can be pretty magical solutions.


Not all cloud services work the same… get to know them.

Some will let you sync things up as the internet is available, others require you to more proactively push updates at a time when the connectivity is there, and time out if it isn’t.

Some that seem to have kept it together for me:
  • Evernote,
  • Dropbox
  • Box w/ Sync

Anticipate annoying ‘Backup’ versions of your files saved to your desktop (and other places you might not think to look). They clutter up your computer but at least the newest version is saved somewhere.

Some services that have been not so swell:
     – Outlook sometimes, if attachments are included and the Send times out
     – Box without Box Sync (download, drag & drop functionality)

but, at least you usually get notifications when your things don’t sync.

Remember the limitations of streaming.

  • Download books, podcasts, etc so you can open them later.
    • Even updates to operating systems, iBooks, etc can be too larger
      • OverDrive offers free access to digital library content, but you should download your media just before you leave. 
      • This can get tricky when the item you want has a waiting list: sign up for a bunch in advance and/or just download something that’s immediately available the night before your trip.
  • Consider 2-factor authentication
    • If you get codes sent to you via SMS or phone call to access an account, turn it off or find an alternative.



    Lots of typical US carriers’ international plans are only affordable on an in-case-I-need-antivenom basis.

    You might want an unlocked phone, which you can load with a new SIM card (many are country or region-specific) plus airtime. I found an unlocked Droid for $60 the night before my departure (thanks to Target’s oppressive 4th of July hours, sorry retail kids).

    Work at Ohio State? Don’t let your Lync expectations get too high.

    Remember: If you’re lucky enough to have decent internet service, iMessages and FaceTime will work! With some patience.



    Here’s one of those things that seems obvious until you go paperless for a couple of years. Print your documents. All of them. Multiple copies of them. Put them in a folder where they won’t get wrinkled up (I know, I know).



    We miss out on some protections from the viruses and trojans and bugs and worms etc when we aren’t in the U.S. Things just get weird when you’re in a low-income country.

    • Make sure all of your anti-malware programs are up to date.
    • Be super thoughtful about what external hard drives you plug in, and what computers you plug your own storage drive into.
    • Beware of internet cafes and sketchy wifi networks.

    Since a lot of this stuff is common sense and best tech practices, I bet we’re all most of the way there anyway right? Right. What lessons have you learned the hard way, or tricks to getting stuff done while traveling internationally? Add a comment for inclusion.

2 thoughts on “Functionality for an Intercontinental Office

  1. I will also recommend Genius Scan app since you mentioned scanner. It is an amazing app that lets you scan documents by just taking a photo. I use it even at the most high tech environments. Super convenient and user-friendly. Works great w phones and tablets.

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