By Patricia Hume, Chief Operations Officer, iPass

With small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) growing both at home and internationally you are probably finding that your workforce is increasingly spending time on the road, which means that ensuring they can always stay connected is vital. Regardless of where they are — or are travelling to — you need to ensure they can continue to do their jobs, but you’ll need to plan ahead to avoid massive data roaming bills or conversely, lost productivity. Recent findings from Rethink Technology Research have shown that business travellers are wasting £855 million on connectivity annually, so there’s a lot of money that can be saved.

The cellular conundrum

Allowing your employees to use their cellular data plan is an option, but as the average use of data by a business traveller is close to 1GB per day the costs can quickly spiral out of control especially if travelling abroad — flicking that roaming switch in the other direction can have serious consequences. Even using a pre-paid data bundle won’t bring this costs down much. Worryingly you won’t necessarily have an overview of the costs the business is incurring, as they are hidden in expenses claims rather than your IT budget.

Free Wi-Fi doesn’t always equal cost savings

An alternative connectivity option is free Wi-Fi. While travelling, employees can find a local coffee shop between meetings, sit down with a latte and go through their e-mails or catch-up with a colleague on Skype. This might look like the ideal solution, but unfortunately these kinds of connections frequently leave a lot to be desired. For starters, connection speeds are typically slow and are usually overused leading to dropped connections.

Video conferencing is a distant dream and even a quick Skype call back to the office can cause real headaches. Employee productivity also suffers; by the time they have managed to find a free Wi-Fi hotspot and logged in (often involving a lengthy registration process) it may be time for the next meeting, so they’ve only completed a fraction of the work they would have wanted. If you have several employees making a few trips each, this can quickly mount up into a considerable loss.Additionally, the unsecured nature of free Wi-Fi can also throw up its own problems as it leaves employees connected devices vulnerable to having data stolen from them, or indeed provides an access point for a more malicious attack on your business network.

Premium doesn’t necessarily mean easier access

Given that free Wi-Fi simply isn’t fit for purpose for travelling employees, you might think that having them pay for premium hotspots on an ad-hoc basis is the way forward. To a certain extent this is true, they are generally more secure and provide higher-quality connections allowing them to get on with their jobs. The problem is that it isn’t necessarily a cost effective solution as costs can mount up quickly when buying premium Wi-Fi from a number of different providers during every trip.

Global network with a single login

A subscription based Wi-Fi service, offering access to millions of hotspots globally, can represent a far better solution to your employees, as well as helping you to avoid nasty surprises when it comes to reviewing budgets. Also, by having a single unified login your employees needn’t worry about keeping track of a myriad of passwords and login details.

Being connected on the road is an absolute necessity if you want to ensure productivity for your workforce. However, this doesn’t mean allowing them to have ‘carte blanche’ to run up costs. A global Wi-Fi subscription service can mitigate the cost issue whilst providing high-speed internet access, keeping your business connected regardless of where it takes you and your employees.