Among the many great partner conversations I had at the recent ChannelNEXT Central event in Niagara Falls, Ontario, one stood out. Jeff Bawl is a technology consultant at Advanced Office Solutions, an MSP whose portfolio ranges from managed IT, print, and mobile services to business telephony and business process optimization (BPO) services. The solution provider is headquartered in Grimsby, Ontario, and runs three satellite offices, running from Brant to Niagara along the western edge of the lake.
As we talked, Jeff dropped a hint about a lifestyle choice he made long ago; he traded Web connectivity in exchange for The Tranquil Life. I knew then and there that I wanted to share Jeff’s story with our readers, and he agreed to let me follow up with him after the show. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
Your title at Advanced Office Solutions is Technology Consultant. How would you summarize your role and responsibilities?
I work with small businesses — customers and new prospects — helping them use technology to make their organizations productive and profitable. I give business owners peace of mind that all is looked after. Our outsourced IT services work well either in places that are too small to have an in-house IT specialist or in organizations whose IT teams need additional hands to help out.
So in contrast to your connection-oriented, high-tech professional life, your home life is off-grid, right?
ALMOST off-grid! We collect rainwater, use a septic system, and have “tanked” propane heat. We, of course, have electricity and a back-up generator, but satellite Internet is all that is available to me, and that is snail slow. Any LTE [mobile data] connectivity is prohibitively expensive. I have my Blackberry for urgent business email, and that works well enough to keep me connected.
Amazing. How does this play into your vision of the ideal work-life balance?
When I am home, I am HOME. Keeping the acre of lawn presentable, the chickens happy, the flower and vegetable gardens weeded, and fruit trees healthy are all completely consuming and so different from my job. I love both worlds — I just like to keep them from colliding!
Did you set out to live in a place without access to the Internet?
It’s funny … we chose the location based on what we wanted our life to be — far enough out to be private, but not so far to be cut off from civilization. The real estate listing stated “high-speed internet,” so we crossed that off the list of things to worry about when living in the country. Then we move in and find out there’s really no decent connectivity available.
So are there any capabilities you miss there?
Broadband is such a given today for any service or product, vendors absolutely assume you have it. I have Netflix, but it’s impossible to watch. FaceTime is almost impossible. YouTube is pretty bad. I keep thinking about security cameras at home, but there’s no way to connect back into them to check in. A private cloud is pretty well out of the picture, as is any other home-hosted server!
Are you able to work from home? How do you pull that off?
Yes, I do work from home from time to time. Much of the time I’m talking with clients or colleagues on my cell, that’s no challenge. I can connect to my office, but again with the latency, I need to be patient!
How do you protect your data at home?
Our equipment is generally kept out of site when we’re not at home. I have a decent firewall and a German Shepherd at the ready.
I’m truly thankful to Jeff for sharing his story with me, not least because I too traded away the city life to raise a family in a rustic setting some 15 years ago. Moreover, while Jeff’s choices were more extreme than mine, his experience proves that certain technologies – mobile voice and data in particular – can provide just enough connectivity to allow him to work from home. What’s inspiring is Jeff’s conscious decision to work intensely in the cloud and to enjoy a home life just beyond it.