Tech Tips: Traveling With Mobile Devices

Duke provides checklists and resources for globetrotting faculty and staff

Richard Bartlett, left, and Krishna Udayakumar, right, visited Child & Family Wellness clinics in rural Rwanda in April as part of their work with a new non-profit hosted at Duke, the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery.
Richard Bartlett, left, and Krishna Udayakumar, right, visited Child & Family Wellness clinics in rural Rwanda in April as part of their work with a new non-profit hosted at Duke, the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery.

Whether in India, Singapore, Latin America or Rwanda, Krishna Udayakumar understands the challenge of staying connected while traveling around the world.

"I travel fairly extensively, and I rely on my BlackBerry and laptop," said Udayakumar, head of global innovation for Duke Medicine. "The most common challenge is lack of connectivity, either due to location or incompatibility with available networks. I've also had my laptop and BlackBerry stop working or break during international travel, which can be a big headache for the rest of the trip."

At any given time, about 400 Duke faculty, staff and students are traveling around the world, often with smartphones and tablets, said Christy Michels, senior manager of global administrative policies. And while mobile devices can help faculty and staff stay productive, staying connected while traveling internationally can still be complicated and costly.

That's why Michels and her colleagues in Duke's Office of Global Strategy and Programs have developed resources, including an IT checklist, to help Duke's global travelers.

Here are some tips for traveling internationally with a mobile device.

Contact your wireless provider several weeks before you travel

"The biggest thing people forget is that they should tell their wireless provider they're going abroad," Michels said. "If you have a Duke device, and you're going to China, for example, contact your unit's wireless account manager to discuss and activate the most cost-effective plan to fit your needs." For non-Duke devices, users can contact their cellular provider directly.

Familiarize yourself with international roaming and data charges

"My biggest tip is to make sure that you have Skype installed on your laptop," said Richard Bartlett, a frequent global traveler who has worked with Udayakumar as associate director of the
 International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery. "Bills can get heavy on international roaming, but with the advent of Wi-Fi around the world, it's possible to call anywhere for virtually nothing over Skype. I've saved a huge amount of money this way.

Another cost-saving suggestion: "Turn off the cellular data on your iPhone if you don't want to pay for international data plans," Udayakumar said. "Many apps update automatically in the background, which can use a lot of data."

Comply with all export controls

Travelers should review export control guidelines to make sure all information and software on their devices can be safely and legally transported to another country, Michels said. "Understand that if a border official tells you to turn on your machine, you must comply with any requests," she said.

Set a strong password or passcode, and ensure all operating system and anti-virus software is up-to-date

Duke's IT Security Office offers guidelines for mobile device security that can help those who travel globally or in the U.S. Consider setting your device to time out when idle. Apply all software patches and updates from Android, Apple and BlackBerry. Consider using Duke's virtual private network (VPN), which allows for a secure connection into Duke's private network over the public network. Travelers who need to access Duke email or other resources from abroad should download and test the VPN client before they leave the U.S. Instructions for download and use are available online.

Most important, seek IT support

Make sure you have contact information for your local IT support professional and the OIT Service Desk before you leave. Remember to set up your challenge-response verification by visiting OIT's account self-service tool, which allows users to verify their identity over the phone with the Service Desk.