Maybe you're scheduling a business trip, or perhaps you're planning to squeeze in a few hours of work before bed. Either way, you'll need your important documents and files with you in order to stay productive after you leave the office. But how do you access the files you need when they're stored on your office PC?
There are plenty of ways to ensure that your documents remain accessible from anywhere, but not every answer is right for every situation. Whether you're downloading your data remotely, or packing up your hardware to take it with you, there are pros and cons to each solution. Read on for four ways to take your business files with you, wherever you're going.
1. Take your workstation with you
The most obvious answer is to pack up your work computer and take it with you. This simple solution has plenty of upsides. It requires no initial setup or file-syncing schemes; just turn on your computer and get to work. And because you work on it every day, your office PC is already configured for maximum productivity. This is a solution that requires no tinkering and no compromises, but unless you work on a thin, light laptop, it might not be feasible; a bulky laptop may be too large or heavy for frequent commutes. And if you work on a desktop PC, this solution is almost out of the question.
Pros: No setup required, and no need to make compromises in your workflow. Packing up your work laptop means you can get right to work when you reach your destination.
Cons: Your work PC may be too big for travel, and lugging your workstation home every night is a chore.
2. Store your files in the cloud
Cloud-storage platforms such as Dropbox and iCloud let you sync your files to the Web so they're accessible from anywhere — at least as long as you have a working Internet connection. Setting up a cloud-storage system is usually as easy as designating a folder on your hard drive to act as a shared folder. All files inside that folder will be uploaded to a Web server, and can be accessed from any Internet-connected device. Better yet, any changes or edits will be synchronized across all your computers and mobile devices. That eliminates the need to juggle multiple versions of a document that you're working on. It also means you'll never have to worry about forgetting a file on your work PC. It's a simple, lightweight and dependable file-storage solution.
Pros: Set it up and never worry again. Your files and edits will be automatically synced across all your devices, and can be accessed from anywhere.
Cons: Files are only accessible when you have a working Internet connection. Files accidentally saved outside of the designated folder will not be synced. And business users who work with sensitive, private client information may not want to upload that data to the cloud.
3. Sync your files to an external hard drive
When your files are stored on an external hard drive, it's easy to take them with you when you leave the office. External hard drives are small, light and much easier to pack into your bag than an entire PC. They're affordable, too; you can buy a high-quality 1TB hard drive for less than $100. It's a good idea to store your files locally on your work PC and use your external hard drive as a backup platform; spinning hard disks can fail at any time. Simple desktop utilities, such as Microsoft's SyncToy, let you easily synchronize files between your external hard drive and desktop hard drive with just a few clicks.
Pros: Tote your files anywhere in a small, light package. Syncing your data is easy with the right software. Files are stored locally to eliminate privacy concerns, and using an external hard drive to store files doubles as a backup solution.
Cons: If you're editing files on the go, file versions can get mixed up. And external hard drives — like all spinning hard disks — sometimes fail.
4. Use remote desktop software
Why take your work PC with you when you can access your work desktop remotely? A remote desktop app works like a direct portal back to your workstation, allowing you to virtually access your entire PC desktop, including your applications and files. Setting up a remote desktop requires a bit of legwork, but it's worth it. With the right software, you can view and interact with your work desktop as if it were right in front of you. And once your remote desktop is set up, you can do more than access your documents; you can also access the desktop programs you use every day at work, even from a smartphone or tablet. Remote desktop solutions are available for almost any Web-connected Windows PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet.
Pros: Work just as you would at the office. Remote desktop clients also allow you to access private data without uploading it to a cloud server, ensuring it stays private.
Cons: Initial setup can be complicated. And in order to access your work desktop remotely, your office PC must remain running at all times.