2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Cautionary tales about data roaming for leisure travellers

Travelers who are planning to take their smartphones, tablets or laptops on holiday overseas over the festive season and haven’t factored in the cost of data roaming could find their trip turning out to be a lot more expensive than they expected.

People still tend to think they talk a lot on the phone when they actually communicate mostly by email, instant messaging, SMS and Skype. In reality data accounts for 80% of the cost of roaming. A WhatsApp message only uses one kilobit of data, but the mobile operators charge in chunks of 25 kilobits, so it actually costs about R3.20c per message. So sending SMSs from abroad is cheaper, at an average of R2.75 per message.

Working in kilobits is confusing, because users are used to thinking in terms of megabytes, so it helps to know that one megabyte is equivalent to 1000 kilobits. A Skype voice call takes up about one megabyte of data per minute, and a Skype video session takes up to three megabytes per minute.

Other data hungry activities include the updating of applications, operating system and device software. Some application updates happen automatically in the background when they are open and need to be turned off properly to stop this happening.

It’s important to exit applications and not just quit them. Skype can consume 500 megabytes of data when it is just checking which of a user’s contacts are online. Large attachments can also chew up data while downloading without the recipient being aware of it. If the kids are coming along on holiday, there’s also the risk of them downloading videos to Mom’s or Dad’s iPad or spending hours on Facebook with their friends.

roaming costs vary from country to country and from one operator to another. So before going overseas travelers would be wise to check roaming rates for the places they are planning to visit. This includes reading the fine print for hidden costs.

Another tip is to download a data usage app before leaving and download city guides that can be viewed offline. It’s great to keep downloading Google Maps to find directions and to share the holiday with friends on Facebook, but each web page downloaded and updated takes up one megabyte or more of data.

Statistics show that 68% of travelers switch off their mobile devices or leave them at home rather than worry about huge roaming bills. But this is increasingly inconvenient in a world that revolves around anytime, anywhere connectivity.

So it’s worth looking at the new services that are becoming available that allow users to roam across multiple mobile networks and multiple countries inexpensively at a known cost, for example execMobile’s PocketWiFi. Limits on data usage can be set per device for the duration of a trip and live feeds can be sent to users with details of their data usage, depending on the service selected.

using Wi-Fi hotspots is tempting, but has downsides like the fact that it is easy for hackers to steal information from a mobile device if the network is not secure, and quality, availability and cost is often questionable. For example, it could turn out that the Wi-Fi is only on offer in the public areas of a hotel and not in the rooms or that only the first 30 minutes or so of usage is free.

Another option is to buy local SIMs for each country, but each SIM takes two to 24 hours for the network to activate, and the setting up process can be complex, especially when the instructions are in a foreign language.

Survey highlights the perils of hotel Wi-Fi for travellers.

With the explosion of tablets and smartphones, hotel Wi-Fi is seen by many business travellers as an important must-have. However, the latest iPass survey paints a bleak picture around the effectiveness and safety of hotel Wi-Fi offerings.

The explosion in tablets and smartphones has made connectivity even more important for business travellers, but the increase in devices has also placed additional strain on hotel Wi-Fi networks.

The survey had 1400 respondents, aged between 22-54 with 81 percent of respondents reporting having a bad experience with hotel Wi-Fi in the past year, while 82 percent stated that they found free hotel Wi-Fi services to be limited, slow, and unreliable.

While 73 percent highlighted the need for connectivity saying Wi-Fi was important, they also stated they were distrustful of public Wi-Fi, whether free or paid, and raised concerns about the security on hotel Wi-Fi networks.

Furthermore, 69 percent of mobile workers stated they were nervous to place payment information into a hotel Wi-Fi paywall on their browser.

And yet while mobile works are more apprehensive about using public Wi-Fi, the need for connectivity is going up with even employees who are on holiday saying they are logging in to their companies’ networks more often. 

Around one in five employees still login in when they are on vacation and 37 percent of them login between two and five times a day, up from 29 percent last year. Those who log in five or more times a day grew from six percent a year ago to 13 percent this year. 

In fact mobile works went as far as to say that reliable Wi-Fi was a basic need, on par with food, water, and shelter; and they’ll base decisions on where to spend money on a hotel’s ability to meet those needs. Wi-Fi is so important to travellers when staying in a hotel that they rated it the second most important factor—after a comfortable bed.

Mobile workers therefore need to look at an international data solution that will lower the cost of international data, while at the same time enabling mobile works to use a pocket Wi-Fi solution that gives them the freedom to work from wherever they are and effective security to protect them while the work.