Making IT Travel Agent

It's difficult to find hotels that offer high-speed net access.

Its time for IT departments to absorb business travel planning because its outgrown agencies and agents. Sound radical? How much of your responsibility involves remote access? Wireless data and voice? How important is constant connectivity? Probably more important than wringing the last dollar out of travel.

Lets start with hotels. Many professionals require high-speed access on the road to download reports, update corporate data and do research. Dial-up doesnt cut it.

Many hotels offer high-speed Internet access, but its difficult to locate them. I recently booked rooms in Las Vegas for our Internet editors and had a devil of a time finding the ones offering broadband. I got help from Lawrence Serchuk, of DataValet, which provides high-speed access to hotels. He directed me to www.geektools.com and its comprehensive list of geek-friendly hotels, or geektels. But you still have to win the VPN crapshoot; many hotels high-speed connections dont support secure tunneling. Short of calling the hotel, how would you know?

Lets look at airlines. Some offer seat-back power; others dont. Some are developing rudimentary Internet and e-mail access. Do you know which?

Some rental cars have satellite navigation systems. Some Amtrak trains have power outlets at every seat. Does your travel department know which?

Travel agencies typically strike deals with a few hotels and airlines, yet the agencies usually do this without considering the data needs of clients.

Maybe IT departments dont want the hassle of running the corporate travel department. But they need to get involved in travel decisions because today, if youre not plugged in while away from the office, you cant do your job.

Are you ready to co-opt travel? Jim Louderback is editor in chief of Ziff Davis Internet. He can be reached at jim_louderback@ziffdavis.com.