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3 tools to keep your virtual office humming

Mar 13, 2020

When an emergency arises, the ability to transition your team from onsite to at-home is one of the greatest benefits of today’s technology.

With clear communication and a strong contingency plan, this type of on-the-fly virtual office can help you keep business running.

To ease the transition, especially for employees who don’t have a ready-made home office setup, we recommend (at a minimum) four types of technology: internet access, VoIP, unified messaging and cloud computing.

Here’s a quick look at these four components and how you can get your virtual office up and running, quickly and smoothly.

1. High-speed internet

When your team needs to work remotely, you'll want to ensure that everyone has a stable internet connection. Without one, communications — and workflows — can experience disruptions.

Depending on the location of team members, many likely already have a secure, reliable connection from home. In an emergency work-at-home situation, those who don’t can try a public network, like those at a local library or coffee shop, for a short-term fix. Another option is to use a mobile internet connection via a smartphone or Wi-Fi hotspot device, although both these approaches have drawbacks, such as lack of privacy, bandwidth and speed issues, and potential security challenges.

2. Voice over IP (VoIP)

VoIP is a technology that enables calls via an internet connection and a computer. While most companies have VoIP, it’s important to make sure it’s set up for remote workers so your team can use VoIP solutions to facilitate group calls and web conferences.

VoIP solutions set up for remote workers include voice, video, mobility and presence services across different endpoints, devices and applications.  This will allow remote users to connect seamlessly from across the world. 

VoIP programs, like Skype or Microsoft Teams, make it easy to set up meetings with multiple people calling in from locations around the globe. To make the process even easier, do the following:

  • Designate the company’s preferred VoIP program.
  • Creating guidelines to help employees install and use the designated app.
  • Provide training on remote meeting expectations and best practices, such as muting your microphone when you aren’t speaking or are in a public location, evaluating your at-home office environment before a video call to be sure the view is acceptable, or recording important calls for record-keeping.

Many VoIP apps can be installed on multiple devices, including PCs, tablets and smartphones. Accessories like headsets or webcams can make the experience more pleasant for users, but most PCs and tablets have built-in speakers and microphones that are perfectly sufficient.

3. Cloud computing solutions

Finally, cloud computing can help remote teams stay organized by:

  • Offering centralized hubs for groups to share documents and resources, similar to having files and folders on a desktop but on the cloud where it is accessible to your entire team
  • Providing consistent access to the apps and programs your team uses regularly
  • Enabling a more secure experience

Products like OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online offer cloud computing services such as file and document sharing and collaboration while others such as QuickBooks Online, NetSuite and Sage Intacct can run help you run your business financials and operations from anywhere you have a good internet connection.

Stay productive even when staying at home

The good news is that many of your employees probably already have access to some or all of these tools. But if you haven’t established, say, a preferred VoIP tool or if you need to scale up SaaS licensing, now’s the time to do so. And be sure to provide company-wide guidance on which tools to use, how to access them, and who to contact if support is needed. By doing so, you can improve business continuity and help to maintain productivity even amid challenging situations.

Author(s)

Mark A. Burger, MCSA, MCTS
Technology Manager
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