​​​​Computers and Storage

Just because you’re traveling, doesn’t mean it’s all leisure. Like me, you might have to put in a little work while enjoying new places. And if you blog or take a ton of photos, you need more computing power than a phone or tablet.

Here are some recommendations for what works well while you exploring new territories.


HP EliteBook 840 G5

Although I’m very comfortable in the Mac world, my working life revolved around plenty of Microsoft products and PCs. I needed something a bit “beefier” than the typical MacBook Air. You can configure any Mac product these days and get an awesome amount of power out of it, comparable to any PC. However, it’s simply more expensive in the Mac world for the same type of power.

I like Mac and I have a MacBook Pro but I have so many software applications that are better suited for the land of PCs. I like the HP EliteBook 840 G5 because it is powerful, reasonably priced, and has a nice display. It also has nice speakers so we can play our music when we’re on the road.

It has a nice battery size and although it’s heavier than my wife’s MacBook Air, it’s not too heavy. This is more of a road warrior laptop and I’m very happy with it.

I don’t suggest that you buy the largest hard drive with this model either. The fastest type of hard drive these days is called a Solid-State Drive, or SSD for short. It’s not a typical spinning hard drive. An SSD is the equivalent of your typical flash drive. It’s just memory on chips. When you get your SSD from your manufacturer, they usually mark it up.

I travel with an external SSD drive for that reason. The cost of these devices has gone down over the years and it will continue to go down. This unit is a 1TB drive and I won’t say it is indestructible, but it is close to it. Since it’s only memory, there are no moving parts and it’s small and very fast.

MacBook Air

My wife converted to the Dark Side of Mac many years ago. All kidding aside, my first computer was an Apple II+ and I still have it. I was hooked on Apple from day one but my jobs in corporate America required PC, mainframe and server skills. Apple was left in the dust. Now, of course, Apple is used for so many things. We originally bought our first MacBook Air when we started traveling more. My wife already had her big iMac with the very large screen. If you are a photographer, you want to see your photos in brilliant color. The iMac was the way to go. We started using iPhoto and Aperture. Apple abandoned both of these products and created Photos. Most people don’t even realize that it’s not iPhoto anymore, but it’s been a couple of years, now, since iPhoto was around.

So, when we travel, my wife is still the photographer of the family and she wants to be able to edit and curate her photos along the way. So, the MacBook Air is the way to go for her. She likes it because it is quite light. You pay a bit more because it is light. You could also go the route of a MacBook Pro which is heavier. I have one of those now, but she likes the slim, thin and light appeal of the MacBook Air.

Laptop Dock

The reason to hook it up to a dock is so I can use dual monitors and hook up additional external devices to it. My laptop then becomes my desktop when I return from a trip. I got used to docking stations when I worked in the corporate world. You’d extract your laptop from your docking station and go to a meeting. When you returned to your office or cube, you’d simply hook up to the docking station and your larger world was now available. I think you’ll like the HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 laptop and the docking station. Don’t forget your SSD drive for cheaper storage that’s very fast.

Solid State Drive

I have plenty of my files on the Microsoft Cloud called OneDrive, but I like to keep all my travel and professional data with me. It’s simply faster. The Samsung T5 fits the bill perfectly. All my music travels with me as well. When I’m home, I hook up to the docking station and then stream my music to my Alexa devices since the larger Alexa devices like the Tap or Echo have a better speaker system.

When I return home from a trip, I hook the laptop to a Thunderbolt Dock.

USB Flash Drive

I always carry USB flash drives, mostly for work. But flash drives also are useful to store music, photos or movies. Since those file types take up a lot of space, storing them on a flash drive frees up space on your phone, tablet or laptop. I recommend at least 256 GB of storage.

The PNY Turbo 256 GB is about $35. If speed is a priority for you, the PNY’s USB 3.0 connection gives quick transfer speed.

Data Security and Backup

Since we were just talking about privacy and VPN, I think it’s important to talk about backing up your digital information. You might already be backing up your PC or Mac onto an external hard drive. That’s a good start.

However, if all of your backups are in your house, you would lose everything if there was a house fire or burglary. I’ve known a few people that did have a house fire and lost everything, including their external backups.

There are online syncing services like DropBox. These are useful when you have a small amount of data to save online or if you are sharing the data with family, friends or work colleagues. But these syncing services are not priced for the consumer who has a lot of data to backup.

Because of the amount of data you likely have with photos, documents, music and the like, we strongly recommend an online backup service over an online syncing service. We’ve looked at Carbonite, Acronis, Zoolz and many others, but we selected Backblaze for many reasons.

Price might be the first thing you notice. Since we have external drives that need to be backed up, only Carbonite Prime and Backblaze do this. Carbonite charges three times as much per year. The other highly desirable feature is all data is backed up without having to select individual folders. Your digital world is always be changing, and you shouldn’t have to worry about working with a program and changing things when you add folders and locations of data. Backblaze is terrific.

When comparing Backblaze to syncing services, you can easily see the cost comparison. If you have a lot of data with pictures, video and music, Backblaze clearly is more affordable. It’s also automatic and has no limit to the amount of data you can store.

Get a free trial of Backblaze, and try it out.

There’s no obligation to spend any money in order to try the software. We think you’ll agree it’s the best product out there.

Also, compare the various backup services that are in direct competition with Backblaze.

Feel free to send me any questions: pak.systems+backblaze@gmail.com.

After CrashPlan ended its relationship with the consumer business, I moved to Backblaze. I think you’ll be very happy that you’ve found the company that will protect all of your data for one annual price that’s affordable.

Virtual Private Network

So maybe you are looking at this and saying: What the heck is it and why do I need it? If you ever travel to China, you’ll soon realize that much of the internet not allowed. The government has exercised its right to screen information for its citizens. Google has been blocked for more than 10 years, as have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others. There are many other countries that use internet filters. So if you have Gmail, you are out of luck while in China. Certain hotels have forgiving censors, but don’t count on that.

There is another reason for VPN: basic privacy. You probably have a firewall in your own home, but when you travel, you need some protection, particularly if you are looking at your credit card, bank or investment statements while abroad. You need a VPN like a boy needs a dog.

Private Internet Access is what we use, and they are terrific. It’s very easy to set up, and there is an annual fee discount.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met traveling who disclose that their credit card was compromised along the trip. They didn’t understand VPN let alone have it installed on their devices. The compromised credit card could have been prevented if they had VPN.

Once you get VPN on your laptop or mobile phone, the credit card and bank account information are secured when using your devices.

You really need VPN these days and Private Internet Access is the way to go!

At the time of this writing, Private Internet Access is priced at $84 per a two-year commitment. Each year you can protect up to five devices. In our case, we have two laptops and two mobile phones. We haven’t found a use for number 5 yet.

You can pay by credit card or through Amazon account.

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