Maintaining connectivity anywhere

Your first line of communication is a cell phone. At the time of this writing, maintaining a minimal level of service for a TracFone costs about $21 every 90 days – in other words, about $7/month. There may be even cheaper options if you shop around. Even if you can’t afford service, you should get a cheap phone with no service and keep it charged. The cellular networks are required to allow emergency calls even when you don’t have a service plan. This can save your life.

Internet service

The next issue is how to connect to the Internet. If you can afford $50 to $100 a month and don’t have a high demand for data, you can opt for a smartphone with a data plan. If you have a computer needing Internet access, do some research to ensure that you will be able to “tether” the computer and make use of the cell phone’s data plan.

Cellular data plans usually range from less than 2 GB to about 30 GB per month. Web pages are averaging more than 2 MB these days (which is absurd!), so you can expect a 2 GB plan to cover about 30-35 web pages per day. A 30 GB plan, in comparison, will let you watch several hours of video per month without exceeding the quota. These are just ballpark numbers and will depend very much on your actual usage patterns.

Finding free access

There are also some sources of free Internet access. If you’re just a casual Internet user, it may be sufficient to rely on these services whenever the opportunity arises.

Many libraries offer free wireless access. Coffee shops, restaurants, and hotels these days typically only provide wireless Internet to paying customers. Sometimes you will find places where this is not the case. Keep a logbook of the best places you come across.

Please do not take advantage of homes with unsecured wireless networks. You don’t know whether their service has caps and quotas or not, so your use may cost someone money that they can’t afford. If possible, be a good citizen and find a way to warn the person that they have opened themselves up to trouble if someone were to use their network for illegal activity (which, sadly, is almost guaranteed to happen eventually).

Preserving data

Storing a computer in a vehicle puts it at greater risk of being lost or stolen than keeping it in a house. If you value your data, you will need some kind of backup plan. This is actually a good idea even if you never live on the road.

Make use of “cloud” services such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and DropBox. With some planning, you can store quite a lot of data for free, and then you don’t have to worry as much about your devices crashing or disappearing. A laptop is much easier to replace than your half-finished novel or your most sentimental pictures.