Posts Tagged 'virtual office'

On Virtuality

I created a post a couple days ago regarding questions to ask if you want to be more mobile yourself, or create a more mobile, virtual office.  Now is such a great time to start or grow a business.  The technology exists to outsource so many business processes and operations…which leads to more efficiency.  When entrepreneurs can focus on their core business, without having to be swallowed up by non-core activities, the business can grow. 

If I can be anywhere, and be confident that my phone will be answered, my bills paid, my invoices sent, my HR issues taken care of…I can give 100% of my attention to growing the business.  Far too often, however, I see business owners that are afraid to give up control of administration.  Most business owners don’t start a business thinking “I can’t wait to pay bills, choose health insurance plans, and clean up my books.”

Many entrepreneurs think they can’t afford to outsource these functions.  However, what is the opportunity cost?  How much more business could you earn if you spent all your team developing new business?  How much more time would you bill? 

My feeling is that every small business needs to put a plan in place to move toward outsourcing as much as possible.  The plan is necessary to make certain data security, business processes, customer service are taken into account.  Only when non-core functions that can be outsourced, or virtualized, are, small businesses can grow to and past their full potential. 

Future blog posts will discuss some of the functions that can be outsourced, and how to go about the planning.

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So You Want to be More Mobile?

With the power of laptops and the proclivity of wireless Internet access, more companies are trying to “go mobile.”  However, being more mobile means different things to different people, and each companies will have their own reasons and their own challenges.  Following are some things to contemplate before jumping into a large laptop purchase.
 
Why do you want to be more mobile?
• Are you looking to do more work from your client sites? 
• Do you think it your employees will be more productive? 
• Are you trying to cut down on the need to commute? 
• Do you need to travel?

This is an important question because the answer has an impact on the technology you choose.  If the idea is to always be on the move, you will need to think about very mobile laptops with long battery lives.  They will also have to be a little more able to handle the shock of being thrown into bags, in and out of the car, and possibly even make it through some spills. 
 
What do you need to do your work?
• Do you have certain applications you need to access? 
• Are they on a server or on your PC? 
• How vital is email?
 
This question will determine the need for a server.  It will also help determine which laptops to purchase, and the need for a firewall and/or router.  If there is a server-based application (i.e. timekeeping software) you use, you will need to make certain the server is configured to allow access to the application from outside the firewall.  The speed of your internet connection will also partially determine the speed at which users can access the application.  If email is vital to your work, you will need to have multiple manners of accessing email.
 
How technologically capable are your users?
• Are your users comfortable using laptops? 
• Are they computer literate enough to have multiple log-ins? 
• Will they have the ability to be supported remotely?

Countless hours of productivity are lost when users cannot access their network because they can’t use a VPN.  Also, if they are the types of users that require someone to physically fix issues, mobility is not an efficient option.  Mobile users have to be comfortable and creative enough to get work done even if there is some issue.
 
What security requirements do you have?
• Do you have regulatory requirements governing your IT security? 
• Do you keep vital client information on laptops?

In answering this question you determine the level of management needed on each laptop, and on the network access.  Keep in mind every laptop is an entry point into your network.  If someone can hack into a laptop, or even steals one, they may gain entry into the network.  Also, a lost, stolen, or hacked laptop can put sensitive client or company information at risk. 
 
How will your users access the Internet?

This question is somewhat answered by the answers to the previous questions.  Using free wi-fi hotspots is not necessarily the safest option.  Operators of hotspots are making their networks open, which is inviting to hackers.  They can sit in a coffee shop and access other laptops on the network.  Also, wi-fi hotspots are not always reliable.  If one of your employees absolutely has to get online, and the local coffee shop’s Internet connection is down, you are out of luck.  A mobile broadband card and plan from your mobile provider might be a safer, more reliable option.
 
New technology has afforded us the ability to be more mobile, and more efficient.  However, a mobile workforce is not a situation to jump into blindly.  It requires an investment of capital and time to make certain it is the right move for you.