Executive Travel

Position: Vice president of marketing, FileNet Corp., Costa Mesa

U.S. businesses maintain 28 million electronic mailboxes, and the number is growing. So are sales of portable computers, which are becoming standard luggage for many business travelers.

But outside the United States, just how easy is it to plug into your electronic world?

Phone wiring and dial tones differ from hotel to hotel and country to country. Hooking up to a hotel room phone line for modem transmission can be extremely frustrating. If you plan ahead, you can get yourself “wired” easily. If you don’t, you may be up the proverbial creek.

Depending on where you’re headed, you may need more than a standard connector. And direct dialing isn’t always possible, so you may have to do a little juggling after the local operator puts you through. Here are some other things to consider.


* Data jack. Many modern business hotels offer a data jack, normally included as part of the telephone. Here in the States, we have standard modular (RJ-11) jacks, so you can simply unplug the phone and plug in your modem. But modular jacks differ from country to country, so you may need an adapter.

* Adapter. Whether you’re faced with a data jack or a phone jack, you’ll probably need an adapter if you’re in a foreign country. They’re easily ordered from firms such as TeleAdapt.

* Extension cord. There’s a very good chance that the jack will be located behind the bed somewhere, which means you’ll be sending e-mail on your hands and knees if you lack extra cord.

* Filter. Phone lines in many European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, have pulse signals that are used to monitor phone usage and calculate the charges. Filters are available to eliminate these pulses, which disrupt modem signals.


* Clips and couplers. If you’re stuck in a hotel room with nothing more than a phone wire that disappears into a hole in the wall, you’ve got a couple of options. If you don’t mind a little hard-wiring, you can travel with alligator clips and other tools to literally cut into the line. Or you can simply buy an acoustic coupler. It’s a tried-and-true solution, but a heavy one. It eliminates any concerns about phone wiring because you simply connect it to the telephone handset. But it will add about 12 oz. or more to your luggage.

Portable computing may not be for everyone (yet), but the benefits of being able to access the information you need no matter where you are can be well worth the effort. I send and receive e-mail, connect to my company on Lotus Notes, access CompuServe and fax letters using a Dell notebook computer with a fax and modem. I even print in my hotel room, using a little two-pound Citizen notebook printer for letters and overhead transparencies. Total weight: about 10 pounds. Not much for what amounts to a mobile office.