By Tommi Uhari, CEO, Goodspeed

No matter the size of your company, international business is not easy. There are many barriers to successful practice: language, culture and laws need to be researched and navigated for smooth business negotiation. Face to face meetings are essential to overcome these obstacles; to secure long term business relationships and close deals and this inevitably involves vast amounts of international travel.

Outside of mastering international business etiquette, staying connected while travelling abroad also remains a major concern for organisations. Essential for businesses to maintain productivity and open lines of communications to make key business decisions when abroad, staying connected is no longer seen as a luxury but a necessity. Factor in the emergence of cloud services and the need to access work data and a reliable connection is crucial.

Confusion surround data roaming is still a big problem for businesses. The EU recently introduced price caps – the maximum a network can charge is 17p per MB – but this rule doesn’t apply outside of the EU where the prices can be as much as £8 per MB. Despite the EU initiative, the price of data roaming is still high because of the increased amount of data now required to access cloud services, apps and other communication services like Skype.

To carry out a productive day, a business person consumes, on average, around 300MB of data a day. This is roughly equivalent to 100 emails, 2 hours of web browsing, 20 minutes of video streaming and 30 minutes of Skype calls. When you tally this daily amount to some of the UK network data roaming charges a three day trip to America can cost upwards of £1500. Even within the EU, when you’re working with these amounts of data, the daily usage will still result in a large bill.

An alternative is to access public and hotel Wi-Fi but this brings its own set of problems. Using Wi-Fi is great for short bursts of productivity but is hardly conducive to prolonged working sessions. It also limits you to a fixed location and doesn’t allow for freedom of movement. For business people using public hotspots, the issue of data security also comes into focus. How reliable and secure is the Wi-Fi you’re using? When you’re accessing sensitive data and material a secure network, not prone to cybercrime, is a priority.

Hotel Wi-Fi made the news recently when Marriott International was fined $600,000 for blocking use of guest’s own Wi-Fi network devices during a conference using wireless signal jammers. While this behaviour isn’t pandemic, some high profile hotels still charge for using Wi-Fi - it can cost upwards of £8.50 per hour or £20 per day in the U.S. for example.

The fear of receiving a large bill has caused some businesses to even switch off their data roaming functionality altogether but it doesn’t have to be like that. Careful planning and management of costs can keep bill shock at bay.

Depending on your level of activity there are services that deliver generous amount of data that won’t make staying connected prohibitive and won’t negatively affect productivity on a business trip. It means doing some research and perhaps talking to your network for advice but secure, low-cost, high speed data roaming is still attainable.