What’s the Weakest Link in YOUR Portable Career?

Claro stickThe internet makes portable careers possible. Whether your portable career involves writing, building websites, photography or something else, you rely on the internet to keep you connected to clients, coworkers and bosses. You also need the internet to update your website or blog, offer items for sale, and myriad other tasks.

So what happens when your internet lets you down?

If you don’t plan for it, you could find yourself unplugged and unemployed.

I was reminded of this vividly just today.

As I sat at the computer jotting down notes for the article I planned to write, the power in our house went off. When the power goes off, even for a split second, the internet goes down. Unfortunately it takes a long time to come back.

So I did what I always do when that happens. Muttering a few colorful phrases, I got up and went into the other room for my trusty internet backup device.

In addition to our cable internet (provided by Cableonda in our corner of Panama), I also have a wireless internet device that plugs into the USB port on my computer. This particular one comes from Claro.

At 3G speeds it’s a bit slower than regular internet. Since it’s a USB device it works with computers but not smart phones or tablets, and of course it can only provide internet to one computer at a time. It’s not the best solution for everyone — if you’re looking for something to provide internet to your iPad, for example, it’s not what you need.

Back to the story. . .

I reached for the Claro stick where I usually keep it, and it wasn’t there. So I widened my search. . . and widened my search. Still no sign of it.

I dumped out the contents of my laundry hamper and went through all the pockets. No device. I looked through a small tote bag that I sometimes carry odds and ends in. No device.

My husband went out to the car to see if it might have fallen out of purse or pocket there. No luck.

Before you could say “missing device” we were tearing the house apart, crawling around frantically looking under furniture and all sorts of unlikely places.

In the back of my mind the whole time was the uncomfortable thought, maybe the repairman who was at the house a few days ago had seen it and slipped it into his pocket.

At the front of my mind was a panicky, “OMG, I can’t work without internet. I’m dead.”

After checking under the couch, I began ripping off the couch cushions like a mad woman. There, nestled coyly underneath one of them, sat my Claro stick.

Hooray, I’m back in business!!

Why don’t I just use the Claro stick all the time, you may be wondering.

As previously mentioned, it’s slower than the cable internet usually is. We also need cable to power our Vonage phone service, and since my husband likes to noodle around on Facebook and news sites on his laptop while I’m working, we really need wireless in the house.

I like to think we’re like NASA, with backups and fail safes in place for the most mission-critical parts of our technology.

But of course, our success depends on some simple, silly little things like not losing the darn device.

I had thought that our intermittent power and internet problems were the weakest link in my portable career. Today I learned the humbling lesson that I am the weakest link. No matter how well I plan and create backup systems, success depends on dumb things like not losing the device.

What’s your weakest link? You can leave a comment below.


  1. Doug Solomon says:

    If you have a wireless router, fed from your cable internet modem: check the back of it. You MAY have a USB port there (usually said to be used for network storage, or a printer). Plug your Claro thumb drive into that, and your internet experience, wired and wireless, should resume.

    • FutureExpat says:

      Doug, that’s a great suggestion. Unfortunately our router doesn’t have a USB port, but when we replace I’ll look for a model that does!

  2. Doug Solomon says:

    Also, a battery back up uninterruptable power supply should work to buffer your cable modem, router, and computer, against power blinks. I find it priceless in my convenience, and I’m in Florida! [FPL land] 🙂

    • FutureExpat says:

      Doug, a UPS won’t stop the internet from going down as the real problem isn’t with our modem but with the provider. Now if THEY would protect THEIR power supplies it would be a different story! 🙂 We will probably get one anyway. They’re expensive here, and completely impractical to bring in from the US because of their weight (unless you’re shipping in a container).

  3. Michael says:

    Another great post! Funny and informative…I’m taking notes and will benefit greatly from the expat pioneers who proceed me.
    On the tech preparedness front, I’m curious if you also find surge protectors a critical component of your set up. I continue to use them here in the states, although I rarely hear talk about them as a necessity any longer.

    • FutureExpat says:

      Michael, we used to use UPS back in Florida — a necessity there because the power into our house was “dirty” – i.e., erratic voltage and because of the lightning storms. We didn’t try to bring it with us to Panama (those things way a ton!). They are very expensive here, but we’re probably going to bite the bullet and get one anyway.

  4. Another option we found out about is a wireless modem/router that Claro also offers. It allows you to connect up to 4 devices at the same time and can be used with tablets and phones since it is wireless. It costs more than the stick (about 120 last time I checked) but you can charge it and take it with you anywhere you go. We have CableOnda here in Guarare also, but our friends have the Claro modem/router and I would like to get one to take on trips to different parts of the country! Great post! My weakest link is coming up with a good idea for an online biz. But I have a couple things I’m checking into! For now teaching English online pays the bills. I dont really love it but at least it is portable so I’m grateful for that!

    • FutureExpat says:

      Justin, I tried to get the Claro WiFi – they seem to have discontinued it. At least that’s what they told me last week in Las Tablas.

      • Yes I have heard that they may be discontinued also but my friend said he had asked in the store in Chitre last week and they said they do have them in stock there. So you may want to give them a call if you are still interested.

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