Active Voice: Tech Talk #1

This article was originally published in Active Voice, the magazine of the Editors' Association of Canada.

This is the first in a series of articles on technology as it relates to editing.

Whether you work in-house or freelance, chances are you'll eventually be called upon to work while on vacation or otherwise travelling. Fortunately, editing is the sort of work that can be done remotely with relative ease.

Connectivity

In North America, you can often rely on free WiFi at airports or hotels, but this is not always the case. In Europe, for example, there are laws restricting (in some cases banning entirely) open WiFi.

If you anticipate connectivity issues, you should look at investing in a USB mobile broadband adapter or hotspot. This is a USB device that connects to cell phone networks. It requires a data plan but will give you reliable coverage anywhere your cell phone works. All three major Canadian mobile providers sell devices (though you can buy them elsewhere) and associated data plans.

Another option in a pinch is to tether your cell phone to your laptop, allowing it to use the phone's cell connection. Call your cell provider for details and pricing. Not all plans include tethering, and a dedicated data stick may be cheaper or faster.

Connection Security

Regardless of how you connect (but especially when on strange WiFi networks), it's vital that you protect yourself from prying eyes. Even if you're connecting to websites securely (HTTPS), the owners of the hotspot could still see your traffic. What you need is a virtual private network, or VPN. This is a service you purchase through which you shuttle all your internet traffic. Your traffic gets encrypted on your device before it's ever sent over the network, so malicious network providers see nothing.

To be clear, the VPN provider is now in a position to snoop. But this is a business relationship that's within your control. You can shop around and research to find a provider you can trust. And you only need to pay for the time you're away from your office. (There's something to be said for using a VPN everywhere, but that's a different discussion.)

File Management

Finally, there's the issue of accessing your work documents outside of your office environment.

The simplest way is via a remote desktop app of some kind. These let you connect from your laptop directly to your home computer and either work as if you were at that machine or at least give you access to your files. The problem, of course, is that if you can connect, so can anyone else. Whatever the software you use, be sure to follow all security best practices it suggests.

A more secure alternative is to use some sort of cloud storage to backup your working documents (like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive). These are generally accessible from anywhere (though countries like China may block whole services). And while such services have a broader attack surface than your personal computer, they have much more expertise in security than we do. Make sure that your cloud provider offers two-factor authentication (and that you enable it!), and don't forget that you can encrypt your data (there are a number of free tools to do this) before uploading to the cloud if you're really worried.

Reasonable minds disagree about the sufficiency of cloud services under Canadian privacy laws. You should seek legal advice if you are concerned. And here are a couple of articles that may interest you:

Finally, you can carry your files on some sort of removable media (portable hard drive or thumb drive). I feel this is safer than storing the files directly on the laptop, which is the most likely target for thieves. But you must be extra vigilant. Keep your portable drive in a separate location from the laptop itself, and you absolutely must encrypt your files so they are not exposed if you lose the drive.

Profile Photo Aaron Dalton aaron@daltons.ca Aaron Dalton Perlkönig Perlkonig Canada Alberta --05-09 Gamer, programmer, editor, baker