Editor's pick: Originally published June 3.
Business travelers who want steady, secure WiFi connections while they are attending conferences or staying at hotels should utilize a mobile hotspot.
As more employees and even consumers are connected around the clock to their laptops and smartphones, the WiFi connections at conferences and hotels are often clogged, as the existing bandwidth is maxed out. Many employees are faced with either being denied access or a very slow connection, making the process to connect to email or a company's network cumbersome.
Depending on the number of people attending a conference, the WiFi signals can "collide with each other and essentially make it so no one can use WiFi even if it is from your mobile hotspot," said Janice Ting, a product marketing manager at Netgear, a San Jose, Calif.-based networking products manufacturer.
Advantages of Mobile Hotspots
Another option is to purchase a portable, independent device that will allow individuals to connect to multiple devices and to a secure network where hackers are less prone to attack, said Murshed Choudhury, a lead technician at the Microsoft flagship store in New York.
"They are designed to have a more solid signal and antenna to provide stronger bandwidth," he said. "You can buy a mobile hotspot from any mobile provider."
A portable mobile hotspot device can be a good alternative, because once you connect to it, all of your devices will remain connected and you can avoid logging in again during the conference.
"A mobile hotspot is also ideal because of the powerful battery," she said. "I can keep working on the Internet and save the battery life of my phone for more phone calls and texts."
Mobile hotspots offer more protection from cyber criminals, because they are owned by the user and are password protected unlike public WiFi which easily be hacked, allowing attackers to infect your device with malware, spy on you and steal your sensitive data. One drawback is that tethering only allows you to connect to one device and since the antenna is smaller, the Internet connection is likely to be slower.
Utilizing a cell phone provider's network is a much safer option for business travelers since the mobile phone is authenticated to their network, said Oscar Marquez, chief technology officer at iSheriff, a Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of enterprise cloud security solutions.
"With your cell provider, less can happen than if you choose to use an open Wi-Fi where you can be spoofed and have all your data stolen in real time," he said. "I was recently at a United Airlines lounge, and I could see a ghost WiFi network under the same name as the lounge. Unassuming users would simply pick the trusted name brand, thinking that it was fine without knowing they were being spoofed."