The Way We Work

No matter how reliable your Internet connection, there is always a possibility you’ll lose it at the most inopportune of moments. In my own experience across Canada, this has occurred mostly due to weather—snow and ice storms, lightning storms, hurricanes, or transformer fires caused by winter rain—and, less often, for system upgrades or construction.

I do my best to prepare for these events by ensuring that all of my electronics have full charge before they start. However, outages can be unpredictable or last for days or weeks at a time, and just a full battery won’t get you very far.

Outages can be celebrated by office workers because they mean a surprise day off with companies bearing the brunt of the loss. But for a freelance business owner, an outage means lost dollars and lost business opportunities. The trick to making it through an Internet outage, with as little impact on your work as possible, is to be prepared. These five solutions can help.

1. Tether mobile data

Tether mobile data

I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me during unexpected outages. I tether my laptop to my mobile phone and can work just as quickly as when connected to WiFi.

Though awesome in a pinch, this is not recommended for data heavy uses like streaming services or uploads/downloads—but it is great when you need a few hours here and there for basic web function.

2. Mobile hotspots

Karma mobile hotspot

image via

In some cases, tethering a mobile device to a laptop is either impractical or impossible. Setting yourself up with a mobile hotspot is a great backup—and it has the additional perk of making your laptop a 100 percent portable office. Afternoon working by the lake, anyone?

Hotspot providers like US-based Karma allow you to pay as you go, or to subscribe to an unlimited monthly service. If independent brokers are not available in your country, check with your mobile carrier or ISP to see if they have this offering.

3. Backup power supply

Backup power supply

Often, your Internet goes out because you’ve lost power. As long as your service provider isn’t also affected by the power outage, you can fix this by investing in an affordable backup power supply that you can use to power your modem.

From extra batteries to uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to generators, assess how reliable your regular power source is and choose the backup option that is robust enough to suit your needs.

4. Dial-up Internet

Dial-up Internet

Wait, what?! Remember when everyone accessed the Internet using a telephone landline? While many of us have access to high-speed Internet, there are still dial-up options available—typically for the price of a couple specialty coffees. Bonus: They are, for the most part, power outage proof.

Like mobile Internet, uploading and downloading large files or streaming can be tedious, but for anyone who is “data light” in their online work, it will pass. Keep in mind that your computer will need to have dial-up capabilities for this option to work.

5. Alternate locations

Alternate locations

Make a list of known and reliable WiFi locations in your immediate area and in locations a little further away—just to ensure you have options in more than one power grid.

When the need arises, call around until you find one that still has power and an Internet connection, then make the commute. This list can include not only the expected spots like the local Starbucks, library, or drop-in coworking space, but also friends, family members, and local clients with whom you have a great relationship.

What is your backup plan for Internet outages? Tell us in the comments!

Melanie Feltham

Contributing Author

As the Social Media Community Manager at Upwork, Melanie Feltham works closely with the social team to engage Upwork's active social audience. Her spare time is spent walking the lakeshore near her home office in Toronto, drawing and painting wildlife, and working on passion projects–the latest, a book about misconceptions spread by popular media. Connect with her on Twitter @MelanieFeltham to find out more about… read more