Prepping your computer and electronics emergency bag

This is that time of year again, when the storms can interrupt electricity for hours or days on end. And, you should be ready if part of your life and work depends on electricity-eating electronics. So, to keep working and in touch, you need to consider computers, tablets, smartphones and regular cell phones, how to power them and how to get on the Internet, keeping them dry and not freezing.

Power is the first thing you need. If you have a desktop computer and your power is out, about the only way to feed it is with a generator. Those UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) are too costly for much more than an hour or so of battery life. However, laptops and tablets are where you can keep powered using small generators and power inverters powered from your car lighter or power socket (assuming gas in your car). Actually, tablets are probably even easier to recharge, you just need access to any power source that you can plug into with a USB cable. My favorite is a bicycle hub power supply that feeds a USB outlet in your handlebar end. And, there are solar and crank chargers. This means any device that uses USB for recharging can now be kept powered. For laptops, you might consider getting and keeping charged a second battery.

Internet is next, you can capture it at public Wi-Fi places, assuming you can get to them and they have power, or you can invest in one of those cellular Wi-Fi hotspots, like the MiFi devices that Verizon and others sell. If you get one just for emergency use, look for a data plan that you can pay as you need it. Or, see if your smartphone will support tethering. You will want to avoid Netflix and music streaming, but you could actually help some neighbors by providing a neighborhood hotspot.

Storage is also something to think about, meaning backups and data cards for cameras. If you are going to rely on a tablet or smartphone that does not have your full set of documents and such, think through how to access your must-have set of files. This could be through Dropbox or keeping a copy on a flash drive. To use Word and Excel docs, you could try OnLive Desktop or CloudOn, both are sites/services that let you use a cloud-based Windows desktop for Microsoft Office files. If you have to work with your QuickBooks you need to look into Intuit’s online service to see if the cost is worth it, if you need to continue your business accounting for some weeks and you can’t scrounge up a computer, then it may be worth the cost.

And, finally, don’t forget to keep them all dry and above freezing, remember that rice is a good desiccant.

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