Even in these dark economic times, the small business is going through a marvelous revolution: It is moving to the Web. By now you really should be doing at least some of your word processing, collaboration or fiscal modeling on the Internet using tools from Google (STOCK QUOTE:GOOG) Apps, smaller players such as Salesforce.com (STOCK QUOTE CRM) or start-ups like Zoho. Yes, great new tools abound, but with all this hip Webbiness comes a new challenge: staying connected to the Web as you travel.
All major cell operators with legitimate fast data networks -- AT&T (STOCK QUOTE: T), Verizon (STOCK QUOTE: VZ) and Sprint Nextel (STOCK QUOTE:S) -- are pushing data products aimed at the traveling small-business humanoid. These operations offer an ever-expanding line of broadband access devices that either use built-in receivers or plug-in outboard expansion devices to harness their new, fast 3G networks to offer Web access on the go.
Sprint recently rolled out a new Compass 577 USB modem, which the company bills as the smallest wireless connectivity device in the nation. It's cute and reasonably priced at $50 with a plan. But beware: Although Sprint offers an excellent all-you-can-eat voice-and-data plan for its smart phones and other integrated devices at $99, the data plan required for the modem is limited to 5GB a month for a not-so-cheap $60 a month.Verizon also offers many devices. I like the USB727 modem priced at $30, supported by a $60/5GB plan. A 50MB package runs $40.
But probably the biggest wireless data mojo right now is held by AT&T. The company has reinvented itself as the wireless data carrier to beat with its exclusive deal with Apple's