Video conference on board.

Boat office: Our experience of working on board - Technology & Devices

February 2, 2024

This article is part of a 3-part series in which we write about our experiences of working on board and covers the used and needed technology and devices.

  1. Part I: Workplaces
  2. Part II: Technology & Devices
  3. Part III: Advantages & Disadvantages

Technology & Devices

In the boat

The power supply for the work equipment is the first thing to ensure. We can charge our laptops with both regular 230V shore power and 12V on-board power. Retailers now offer corresponding functional transformers depending on the laptop model. We are using the HKY Universal Car Laptop Charger Kit for the Thinkpad and the HKY PD USB C Laptop Car Charger Travel Adapter for the MacPro. As we do not have an inverter, we are independent of harbors and marinas.

Power for smartphones on our boat is provided by these lamps with an extra USB outlet: LIGHTEU RV Reading Light LED 12V Interior 3W with USB Port . We have 12 of these installed throughout the whole boat. We also use them to charge several other devices at the same time, such as additional smartphones, tablets, active speakers, headlamp chargers, etc. Prior to installing these lights, we were satisfied with the two built-in 12V outlets, which you plug into a 12V USB charging adapter, as we know it from the automotive sector.

Dimmable LED lamps with USB outlet.
Our practical and dimmable LED lamps enable charging via USB outlet.

WiFi in harbors and marinas is now standard. However, the transmission quality varies greatly from marina to marina and pier to pier. You can often not rely on a working harbor WiFi, especially during holidays and vacation periods. To avoid frustration, we bought an LTE router and a mobile data plan in every country we visitj so that we always have our own WiFi with us. Connections near the coast are always good to very good.

Mobile LTE routers are now available for free from various mobile operators. However, you should make sure that both the router and the plan are suitable for use abroad. With the elimination of roaming charges and the introduction of fair use (in the European Union), some plans may exclude use abroad. We have purchased our own LTE router. The first Router we had on board was the TP-Link MR600 . It worked quite well, but could only run with 230V on the 3V DC transformer. We switched then to the Teltonika RUT955 . The RUT955 is an industrial router from the Lithuanian company Teltonika and has the advantages of robust design, can run natively on 12V or 24V (10-30V), hast 2-SIM-slots, and is GPS-enabled for geofencing. It also has the usual network features such as VPN, firewall and can connect to the marina WiFi as a client.

The em-trak B954 AIS device, a voltage stabilizer and a LTE router Teltonika RUT955.
From left to right: em-trak B954 AIS device, a voltage stabilizer and the LTE router Teltonika RUT955.

Especially when using public WiFi, it is important to ensure proper security. Virtual private network (VPN) connections are essential to ensure that data cannot be accessed from outside. When choosing a VPN provider, make sure they have a VPN server near you and one in your home country. This will allow you to use streaming services abroad that would otherwise be blocked in your home country.

Another aspect of data security is stored data. That is, all data stored on the laptop’s hard drive. Basically, every laptop should be equipped with hard drive encryption. This can be done either by hardware (using a TPM chip or firmware) or by software. We use the built-in FileVault for MacOS and LUKS for the Debian laptop.

Since the boat and its damp and sometimes rough environment at sea is an extremely unsuitable place for technology in general and laptops in particular, all important data should be backed up regularly. Of course, it is also important to encrypt these backups so that no unauthorized person can access them. An external hard drive is a good choice for fast, regular backups. It should be an SSD (Solid State Disk) with at least 500GB of storage space. HDDs (hard disk drives) have write heads that can be damaged by an impact on the spinning magnetic disk (a so-called head crash), which can lead to a complete loss of data. SSDs are more robust in this regard because they have no moving parts.

Another remote backup is recommended. You can use various cloud services or build your own cloud. For this purpose, we have integrated a Synology 2-bay NAS (Network Attached Storage) solution into the home network in our “permanent” apartment, which provides various services for backup, cloud, media server, or even collaboration. Since the backup is done over the Internet, the backups are not necessarily done daily or weekly due to the amount of data. For both backup systems, depending on the backup strategy and backup size, it may make sense to use software that can create incremental backups.

Technology at the employer

Employees usually rely on their employers to provide the necessary infrastructure. Before Corona, it was the exception rather than the rule that mobile working or home offices were made possible with the appropriate IT equipment, but now – a year and a half after the first lockdown – this is much more often the case. In principle, it is always possible to work from home if, in addition to the general consent of the employer, the technical prerequisites for unrestricted mobile working are in place. While access to email was usually sufficient for business travel, effective mobile working requires a little more.

MS Teams for collaboration
Using MS Teams to coordinate with colleagues

Our company has Office 365 workspaces with teams to make it easier to collaborate with colleagues, even when they are remote. In addition, our Voice-over-IP systems are convenient, allowing calls to be made from the company’s internal phone network using the same phone number used by customers and business partners. All calls with low data volumes or via WLAN can be handled without having to forward a number or use your own phone credit. An application on the mobile phone provides access to the internal phone system. With secure VPN access, we have access to our own virtual desktop and all the programs and files we need for our daily tasks. Access is granted with a password and an activation code (two-factor authentication). This ensures the highest level of privacy and protection of internal business information.

The next article in the series will highlight the advantages and disadvantages from working on board.

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