Prepaid SIM card or contract with inclusive data volume?
The last open question for functioning mobile Internet: Where does the data come from? Should it be a prepaid card or an international package for the existing mobile phone tariff?
Both options are possible, but ultimately only a comparison of all alternatives that are available in your country will help. Prepaid SIM cards offer the advantage that you can also buy cards with a certain data volume abroad, where there are sometimes quite favorable offers. Whether prepaid or contract option: the most important indicator is the amount of included data volume, specified in gigabytes (GB) abroad. Pay attention to two points in particular:
- Many mobile providers advertise unlimited data volume, sometimes even for abroad. This is basically good and correct, but they often refer to a so-called fair usage policy in the fine print. This policy states that the speed is throttled in case of “excessive” usage (e.g., more than 60 GB). This throttling is then quite severe and makes even calling up a website a waiting game – not to mention mobile working.
- Take a close look at which country or countries you want to travel to. You can often purchase additional options to your existing mobile phone contract that offer unlimited data volume for certain zones/countries for one month. For example, there is a zone with most of the Central, Southern and Northern European countries, which may be sufficient depending on the planned trip.
Data security for mobile working
Anyone who works remotely, and especially anyone who does so from a van outside their own four walls, should be aware that, depending on the employer, there will always be people watching you and your actions with eagle eyes. Whether out of envy, resentment, or lack of understanding, nothing would be more convenient than to use the broad topic of data security as an argument to put a stop to Work Anywhere.
There is often a lot of emotion involved in such discussions, but fortunately, soberly speaking, it can be said that working out of the van is no safer or less secure than working on-site in the office – if you take care of it in time. I would like to limit myself here primarily to the topic of network security/WLAN, that you should always lock your laptop as soon as you leave it, encrypt your hard drive and use a strong password for your user account as well as a password manager in general should go without saying.
So what do you have to pay attention to? There are various combinations that I would like to highlight individually.
- Internet access via smartphone hotspot and mobile data: provided you have opened a password-protected hotspot, nothing stands in the way of a secure data connection and you do not need to follow any further measures. All data traffic is always forwarded in encrypted form.
- Internet access via WLAN router and mobile data: The decisive factor here is the WLAN encryption. If your router uses WPA2 or WPA3 technology for WLAN access, you don’t have to worry. An open WLAN, on the other hand, would be problematic and should therefore be avoided (this also applies to your normal router at home).
- Internet access via WLAN router and amplified WLAN from the campsite: This combination should be regarded as critical, since your own password-protected WLAN creates a false impression of security. Although it is unlikely, a so-called man-in-the-middle attack is conceivable. In this case, data could be tapped between your router and the possibly open and thus unprotected WLAN of the campsite – even though your own WLAN is protected.
In a situation like the latter, I would advise using a VPN connection. You can set up such a setup even without in-depth IT knowledge. If your employer does not require and provide a VPN connection anyway, you can, for example, go through a provider like NordVPN and buy a corresponding package there for little money. What then happens technically when the VPN connection is activated is, in simple terms, as follows:
- Every data packet that leaves your computer (for example, when you call up the website with your online banking access data) is encrypted on your device using a modern and secure method. For this purpose, a key pair is used, which is provided individually by the VPN provider.$
- This encrypted data packet now passes your own WLAN router, then the possibly vulnerable passage between your router and the router of the amplified WLAN, and is only decrypted again on a server of the VPN provider and forwarded to its actual destination (your online banking provider).
- The same happens on the “way back” – that is, the response from the online banking server is also transmitted to your computer in the same encrypted way.
The trick is that the part of the route that you cannot assess via the possibly compromised router of the external WLAN provider is secured by strong encryption. This makes “eavesdropping” on the data traffic virtually impossible or would require a disproportionately high effort.
The impact on data speed is negligible and should always be subordinate to increasing data security.