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Working from home on STJ - my experience

 
lc98
 lc98
(@lc98)
Trusted Member

I recently spent about 4 months on St. John as a sort of extended pre-move visit. I work from home, so before committing to a permanent move, I wanted to see if the island's infrastructure (power, Internet, phone, etc) would allow me to easily continue my business -- my work requires me to be online during certain hours and perform certain tasks very quickly.

Internet: I lived in an apartment that already had phone service set up (included in my rent), and I arranged to get DSL through Innovative before I arrived. My understanding is that if you have to set these services up from scratch when you move in someplace, it can take many weeks. Even in my situation, it still took four business days and an in-person visit from a (very helpful) Innovative repair person before everything worked. My DSL connection worked quickly sometimes; at a reasonable but not fast speed most of the time; and occasionally very slowly or not at all. Calls to customer service sometimes fixed the problem quickly, sometimes not.

Wireless Internet access: Like so many things on St. John, it’s rarely free. As of this writing, you can get free wireless in the park by the dock and at the Tap Room, possibly Compass Rose and Quiet Mon Pub (haven’t tried those myself). Wireless at Wharfside is ridiculously expensive; at the Marketplace, it’s much cheaper.

Phone: The landline connection I had through Innovative sometimes sounded scratchy. Sometimes this would last for a day, sometimes just for one phone call. AT&T and Sprint both serve St. John for wireless phone service, with mixed coverage. It depends on where you live as to how good your reception will be at your desk. FWIW, I lived on the south shore and got mixed coverage from Sprint; my friend used her AT&T phone at my place with no trouble. I also tried using Skype, but I didn’t like the half-second or so delay that came between people speaking. If I had to do it all over again, I’d get an AT&T phone and aircard.

Power: I experienced very few outages over the four months I was there, maybe a total of 3 days, including Hurricane Omar, the STT/STJ outage when the boiler blew, and a couple of shorter random outages. The generator at my apartment would probably have made it too noisy for me to work, so I went to the Marketplace (which has generator backup) and worked there when the power was off. The folks out in Coral Bay had more outages than my side of the island did.

Tech help: Fortunately, I didn’t need to use their services, but there are several computer-fixing outfits on the island, at least a couple of which I’ve heard good things about.

Summary: If you work from home anywhere, you know you need a backup plan in case your connection services go out. I found that I implemented my backup plan a bit more frequently in St. John than in Virginia (where I live ~15 minutes from a small city), but not that much more. Current Internet connection speeds on island definitely are not blazing fast, but they are fast enough for most purposes. My experiment actually went much better than I had expected -- although if Omar had hit us, all bets would have been off!

My other experiences living on STJ were positive as well, but that's for another post. Suffice to say I’ll be coming back as a permanent resident. 😎

Edited to clarify that AT&T and Sprint only provide *wireless* phone service. Duh.

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Topic starter Posted : December 21, 2008 2:36 pm
Trade
(@Trade)
Expert

Very good info!

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Posted : December 21, 2008 2:45 pm
MattTheRed
(@MattTheRed)
Active Member

what do you do out of curiosity?

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Posted : December 24, 2008 9:30 pm
CodyTX
(@CodyTX)
Advanced Member

Very good to know. I will be working remotely from St Thomas. My backup plan is generally using my phone to tether internet if I am uploading anything (I am a software engineer and I program locally).

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Posted : December 24, 2008 10:26 pm
sugarlander
(@sugarlander)
Advanced Member

I’ve had a home office for years on the mainland. I resigned my position in June because my wife decided to pursue a business opportunity on STX. However, my employer said: not so fast. They said I could continue to do my job on the island. Here is my story…

Internet: The day after arriving on the island, I arranged for telephone and internet service. It took three weeks to get the line. The reason it happened so fast is that my wife knows the president of Innovative. Of course DSL is a separate division. I finally gave up on DSL after waiting for six weeks and getting frequent assurances that it was going to happen.

It took three days to get an antenna installed by Broadband VI. Speed is good and uptime is about 98% or better and technical support is excellent. However, it’s not fast enough to support VOIP.

Wireless Internet access: I have an air card from Verizon and Sprint. The Verizon card disconnects frequently and speed isn’t great. The Sprint card is considerably faster and more reliable. Signal varies according to the time of day and location (obviously).

Phone: Phone quality from Innovative varies every time you pick up the receiver. Generally, you know that when you pick up the phone. Hanging up and getting a new dial tone usually cures the problem. I prefer to use my Sprint Cell but the quality deteriorates as the day wears on.

Power: I live in a guest house in Judith’s Fancy—with no backup generator. There are outages almost weekly of an hour or more. I can run on laptop battery and an air card for up to an hour but the implications are no fan, no water, no AC, and no lights. Furthermore, it can be an expensive proposition cooling a home office in the summer. When the LEAC was at its peak, it cost $600 one month. (non-reimbursable by my employer). During Omar, power was out for about 10 days.

Tech help: This is a bright spot. There are lots of choices for computer gears and supplies. My main source is Office Max.

Time Zone Difference: If you are dealing with national clients, the Atlantic Time can really play havoc with your schedule (and productivity). For example, when it’s 5 PM in California, it’s 9 PM in STX.

Business Travel: It takes a solid day to get there and another day to get back. You’ll be spending a lot of time connecting in San Juan or Miami. It will also take you more time to clear the STX airport because of customs. With two weeks planning, I’ve been able to get fares in the $600 - $800 RT.

Summary: It is possible to operate a home office on STX but there are challenges. .I could have minimized some of these problems by getting a rental situation with a back-up generator and signing up for Broadband VI right off the bat. The government could do a lot to make this a more hospitable place for high tech workers but that doesn’t seem to be there vision. The government is more focused on promoting the hospitality industry. I can’t really blame them for that.

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Posted : December 25, 2008 10:22 am
CarlHartmann
(@CarlHartmann)
Advanced Member

We upgraded to the faster Broadband VI service ($99/mo.) and use AT&T's VOIP (a stateside service
we brought with us.) We're on STX. The VOIP works perfectly about 98% of the time. We had far less success when
we used another VOIP service (which is odd). We also use a slingbox
to stream TV from the NYC cable TV system for shows that aren't available here.
It works well for computer-sized pictures -- when using
the newer software (the upgrade runs only on a PC...it is not not available for Apple yet.)

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Posted : December 25, 2008 8:49 pm
Neil
 Neil
(@Neil)
Trusted Member

I too work out of my home here on STX. My "connectivity" experience is very similar to what's already been posted. BroadbandVI is the way to go, but you have to have a backup. I have two, a Choice Modem and my phone which can act as a modem, as well as browse the web.

Most of my business is conducted via the web, but some customers prefer to call my 800 number, which means people call at all hours regardless of where you live.

Before I moved here I started moving away from the phone as my primary means of communication with both customers and employees. About two years ago I created a text space on our company website's main database page for people to leave me messages, and I can respond back to them there as well. It feels more "immediate" and personal than email, and they can see that I'm around and not lolling on a beach. My voicemail message also tells people to email me -since my email program is always on.

I also implemented a "live chat" box on my website (for free using plugoo.com). I did this not only for customers coming to the website, but also put the live chat box on my employee's main database page, so they feel they can get in touch at any time. The live chat window has a red and a green light which signals that I'm "live" and available, or not. It's a comfort thing for them, and it works! The live chat works with my instant messenger service, which I can turn "on" on my smartphone when I'm away from the computer. So I can be at my computer, or at a beach, or in line at Plaza Xtra when I get a live chat alert on my phone, and can respond immediately.

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Posted : December 26, 2008 1:11 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

Neil,

Do you mind if an almost computer-illiterate asks you a question? I think it would drive me crazy to be "available" 24/7. Understand, I'm the sort of person who carries my cell around turned off to be used only in case I need it. Can you or someone else who works this way comment?

Sincere thanks,
Linda J

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Posted : December 26, 2008 8:22 pm
divinggirl
(@divinggirl)
Trusted Member

I used to be a 24/7/365 manager of a technical services group and got really tired of the 3am calls on Christmas, New Years and every other day. So I chucked it all and moved here and was soooo happy to turn in my corporate cell phone & pager and responsibilities! I even gave up my personal cell for the first 6 months I lived here. I suppose that 24/7 life could be more bearable here in paradise but I don't really want to find out!!

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Posted : December 26, 2008 11:44 pm
roadrunner
(@roadrunner)
Trusted Member

I have a pager that I call my electronic leash. Fortunately, it doesn't beep too often anymore, but I remember wanting to throw it out the window when it did. Other noises that sound similar (certain microwaves, etc.) still make me nearly jump out of my skin.

As far as personally being available 24/7 (not for work), my answer is the same thing I tell my mother when she worries that she might interrupt something if she calls me. Sure, I have my cell phone with me at all times (and I mean right there next to me, if not actually in my pocket), and it's on at all times... but that doesn't mean I have to answer it. Sometimes I just look up from whatever I'm doing and watch it ring. I call back when I have time, or when I'm more in the mood to talk to that person, or whatever. It saves me time, I think, and I believe it allows for more meaningful conversations... it's tough to really talk to someone when your mind is on whatever project you need to get back to. I guess that's about the same as your having your phone off most of the time... it's just that I can't stand not knowing who's calling. 🙂

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Posted : December 27, 2008 2:20 am
lc98
 lc98
(@lc98)
Trusted Member

what do you do out of curiosity?

Hiya Matt -- I actually met you in Connections a couple weeks ago. 🙂 Hope you and your girlfriend are happily settled in and really enjoying island life! I'm an editor for firm that publishes breaking news for its clients -- hence the need for constant uptime and fast access.

A couple more observations: As someone else mentioned, speeds do go down with shared load on various connection services -- so as the day wears on and more people go online, make phone calls, etc., connection speeds tended to deteriorate. Early morning (before 8 a.m.) always seemed to be the fastest for me.

Sugarlander pointed out the time zone difference; this actually was an advantage for me in morning work, as occasionally I would wow my colleagues by starting at 4:30 a.m. EST without too much trouble on my part. However, I definitely hated the times when the sun was going down and I *still* had to be working.

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Topic starter Posted : December 27, 2008 11:49 am
Neil
 Neil
(@Neil)
Trusted Member

Neil,

Do you mind if an almost computer-illiterate asks you a question? I think it would drive me crazy to be "available" 24/7. Understand, I'm the sort of person who carries my cell around turned off to be used only in case I need it. Can you or someone else who works this way comment?

Sincere thanks,
Linda J

Hey Linda... in answer to your question...

That I'm available 24/7 doesn't mean I'm answering the phone or messages 24/7. I do triage incoming calls and texts. It's more about MOBILITY and BACKUP for me.

Say a customer has a question while placing an order in the middle of the afternoon, yet I want to go watch my daughter play volleyball for the school team. I can be in the stands and make a quick response to someone who's at my website and get the sale. Whereas most all the other parents of players are stuck at work somewhere and can't make it to the games. Indeed, I'm one of the very few dads who attends games. Or... I can walk down to the beach mid-morning, or go out to lunch with my wife and still be "at work" if there's a customer with a question.

For 5 days after Omar, my phone was the only way I could connect to my website and be available to customers.

In my particular software business, I get a lot of people surfing our site in the evenings and weekends. And those who need some help are quite amazed that they can talk to, or text a real live person, when so many websites offer little in the way of live customer support at a time that's convenient to the customer. They think I'm sitting at my computer in a cubicle, but in reality, I'm probably sitting on the couch with my laptop watching a hockey game over the net, or reading this board, or an online newspaper, or standing in Plaza Xtra, or relaxing in my hammock.

You might think it's an intrusion to answer a customer's call or instant msg text after 5 pm, but I think of it THAT GREAT JOB that allows me the freedom to go where I want during the day, and live where I want to (StX) and still have a job I really enjoy.

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Posted : December 27, 2008 12:52 pm
dougtamjj
(@dougtamjj)
Expert

Linda, like Neil we are available 24/7 by phone and Internet. While the physical location of our business is stateside, we run it from St. Croix. Over the last 2 years our stateside employees, (mostly our adult children), have taken more responsibility in decision making so we don't have to be available so often. It is sometimes annoying when we are out to dinner or at the beach to have to answer a business phone call but then I remember how lucky we are to be able to live on St. Croix and be with our 5 year old son all the time.

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Posted : December 27, 2008 2:00 pm
MattTheRed
(@MattTheRed)
Active Member

ah cool - we're getting settled and adjusting, its been a little weird moving down right before the holidays. Hope all is well with you and you enjoyed your time on the mainland

~Mat

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Posted : December 28, 2008 4:36 pm
ColdWhether
(@ColdWhether)
Advanced Member

Why does Broadband VI they list pricing as more expensive for part time residents than for full time residents? I would think part time residents would be a gold mine for them because they would use less service.

Anybody here have any experience getting a REALLY fast connection? 1024 is slow by stateside comparisons to local cable/dsl offerings.

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Posted : January 12, 2009 6:54 pm
Jim Dandy
(@jim_dandy)
Trusted Member

Do the math. A part time snow bird uses their service for 2 -6 months then turns it off until next season. Full time residents pay for 12 months per year.

There is really fast internet service in the USVI unless your are willing to pay mega bucks and then yoou can have anything you want up to and including a DS3.

Jim

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Posted : January 12, 2009 7:54 pm
ColdWhether
(@ColdWhether)
Advanced Member

I see, what they mean is part time service, not part time "resident", just a wording issue that confused me.

Can you recommend the best non-wired Internet service provider(s) who you are happy with? I've read that wired providers will go down much more frequently than wireless because of well, the wires that can get knocked down in storms 🙂

I'm looking for a very fast 1Meg or greater service as I am a web designer and my clients are all mainland.

Thanks in advance!

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Posted : January 29, 2009 4:56 pm
Bombi
(@Bombi)
Trusted Member

I took a job as a condo manager a few years ago. After working as a facilities manager in the corporate world in the states I learned to keep a list of all concerns and complaints. At the condo the first year most of the concerns were about internet and TV. I thought they would have been about the pool and the beach.
While I haven't found a cost effective solution to the TV thing yet I did install a T-1 line and distribute it wirelessly and by cable modem. That decision has benefited our property. We regularly get business people here who rely on a good fast connection. After Omar we had SBA and FEMA people who left other resorts because of the ISP.
The new stimulus package is supposed to include $ for better internet connections. Maybe STX will get some.
Don't get me started on Innovative.

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Posted : January 29, 2009 6:12 pm
mydream
(@mydream)
Advanced Member

Okay, I'm in the process of selling my resale/consignment shop and have plans to relocate to STX. I will need to supplement my income alittle and I've thought about eBay business, or maybe something along the lines of a travel business. I really want to work from home, any suggestions? Thank you......Christina

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Posted : January 29, 2009 11:54 pm
sugarlander
(@sugarlander)
Advanced Member

Christina, I buy lots of stuff from eBay. Generally, the stuff I get from China gets here quicker than parcel post from the mainland. Priority mail can take a week or more. So I think if you're an eBay seller on VI, your feedback score is going to suffer because of slow shipping.

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Posted : January 30, 2009 1:18 am
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