Accelerator: Tools of the trade - Stay in touch

One of the boons of recent years has been the ease with which you can stay connected and productive, wherever you are. Big corporates and high-tech specialists were first to benefit from mobile e-mail, intranets and so forth, but now small entrepreneurial businesses can reap the rewards of work-anywhere technology too. Here's a round-up of the latest aids to mobile working...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

NOKIA N95 - £30+ (on contract) £600 (SIM-free)

www.nokia.co.uk

Undisputed gadget of the hour, the N95 is a triumph of convergent technology that is single-handedly propelling Nokia back towards its rightful place as the coolest phone brand on the planet. It may lack a Qwerty keyboard but full HSDPA web and e-mail access, Bluetooth, VoIP, MP3 player, 5 megapixel camera, SD card slot, movie playback and satnav more than make up. Yes, even satnav - so you'll never have an excuse for being late for a meeting again. Beware, though, that full navigation functionality means a £5-a-month licence, and it's not as good as dedicated devices. It'll get you back to your hotel in a strange town, though, or locate the nearest train station. You can even use the N95 to text and make phone calls, although that would display a singular lack of imagination. It is sometimes hard for the person at the other end to hear what you are saying, too. The screen could be higher res and the double-slider design feels a bit wobbly, but even Apple's hotly awaited i-Phone will have a job stealing the N95's crown.

AQUAPAC PHONE/PDA BAG - £19

www.aquapac.net

Summer is here and you deserve a holiday. But, of course, true entrepreneurs never stop working, even when they get away from it all. This simple but invaluable little phone bag lets you keep taking customer calls wherever you are - on the beach, on the piste, even underwater - without worrying about damaging your equipment. It's fully waterproof and immersible, so you just seal your mobile inside, hang it round your neck and off you go. The high-tech plastic compound keeps moisture at bay while letting you hear - and talk - through the bag. You can use the keypad and touchscreen, too. Neat. Aquapacs come in various shapes and sizes for phones, PDAs, GPS's and all manner of portable electronic gear.

SEAGATE FREEAGENT GO 160Gb - c£90

www.seagate.com

This new external hard drive from Seagate is a cut above the average. For starters, it looks pretty sleek in its 'cappuccino and glowing amber' colour scheme, and it's small and sturdy enough to carry about in a jacket pocket. It's also USB-powered, so there's no clunky adapter and cord to slow you down. Of course, it does data back-up, so if you drop your laptop in the bath, all is not lost, as you copied all your vital stuff onto the Freeagent - didn't you? But its real talents go deeper. Clever software means you can take a copy of your desktop, contacts book, browser favourites and so forth with you wherever you go, turning any PC or laptop into a home-from-home simply by plugging this in and synchronising with it. You can set it up to encrypt sensitive files and save them to the Freeagent, rather than locally on whatever computer you are using at the time. Handy if you habitually use several different machines.

T-MOBILE WEB'N'WALK MODEM - £25 (+£25 monthly charge)

www.t-mobile.co.uk

This modest device may not be much to look at, but despite its unassuming presence, the Web'n'Walk modem is a real boon to the value-for-money-minded mobile entrepreneur. Simply attach to a USB port on your laptop and voila - instant high-speed internet access, wherever you are. Thanks to a pukka HSDPA connection, download speeds of up to 1.8Mbps are to be had: more than enough muscle for e-mail and internet use, if not serious file-shifting work. As the saying goes, other mobile 3G connection devices are available - notably the wireless 3G data cards popularised by Vodafone and Orange. But not only is the Web'n'Walk a good deal cheaper than a card, it's also plug-and-play, which means no pesky driver software needs to be installed before you can get going. As it doesn't need a card slot, it's Mac-compatible, to boot. The cheapest, easiest way to get 3G (technically, 3.5G) on a laptop.

BT OFFICE ANYWHERE SERVICE - £39.50-£75.50

www.btbroadbandoffice.com

BT Office Anywhere is a small business package whose raison d'etre is to roll up the charges for all your key communications needs into one easy payment. Having one device controlling all mobile communications, covered by one contract, makes for straightforward admin, lower overheads and less aggro. No more wrestling with the confusopoly of mobile and landline, domestic and international call rates. In theory anyway. The dedicated handset allows real-time access to e-mail, internet, calendar, contacts and documents (including Word, Powerpoint, pdfs and Excel) while on the move, using preloaded Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office software. It comes with a range of BT offers, including unlimited calls to UK landlines, unlimited hour-long VoIP calls, and cost-capped international calls. With a variety of tariff packages catering to the 'lite', 'professional', or 'unlimited' user and with optional minute bundles, the monthly cost can readily be adapted to your needs. As long as you already have a BT Business phone line, Office Anywhere offers a simple and effective option to take your business mobile.

SONY VAIO TZ SERIES - From £1,749

www.sony.co.uk

At a featherweight 1.19kg, the TZ Series is Sony's latest, sveltest Vaio and about as small and light as a laptop computer with a full-size keyboard gets. The 11.1in X-black LED screen may be modest in size but it's pin-sharp and has excellent colour accuracy. The case is made from carbon fibre for strength, it comes pre-loaded with the latest Windows Vista Business operating system, and it has the full complement of wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity. Like all Vaios, it looks the part and is beautifully made, too. A generous 100Gb hard drive is available and, although it's barely more than 2cm thick when closed, Sony has squeezed a DVD writer into the package. A built-in fingerprint reader bypasses the need for a password: just swipe your digit over the pad instead. The days when Sony Vaio's were the only ultraportables worth considering may be over, but this is still a strong contender. For a take-everywhere laptop that's fun to use and built to last, you could do worse, despite the hefty price tag.

TOMTOM ONE SATNAV - £280

www.tomtom.com

These days, no self-respecting road-warrior gets behind the wheel without a trusty satnav atop the dashboard. And who can blame them? Trying to map-read, sandwich in hand, while simultaneously rehearsing your elevator pitch and maintaining a 90mph average through the M4 corridor was always a recipe for executive stress. Let the TomTomOne take the navigational strain, however, and you're free to think positive thoughts without the worry of missing that crucial junction. It's the pick of the bunch - quick to set up, simple to use and reasonably priced. The new XL version has a larger screen too. Geeks might want to look at the pricier Go910 (£500), which has international mapping and more functions, but for getting from A to B in Blighty the One is hard to beat - even if you don't hang your jacket in the back window.

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