We’ve written about telecommuting and specific productivity tools a few times on our blog. Studies have shown that giving employees the ability to telecommute has helped reduce company costs as well as improve workplace morale. In fact, a Deloitte study showed that telecommuting did all that in addition to helping reduce greenhouse emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
Over the past few years we’ve seen an increase in companies that are entirely composed of telecommuters. So called “virtual companies” are staffed by employees spread out over a wide geographic area, but they all have the ability to collaborate and work together as if they were in the same exact physical space. These companies have a much lower bottom line since they’re not paying the usual brick and mortar expenses such as rent, power & electricity, or materials costs; this allows them to be profitable in a much smaller timeframe.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a new business staffed entirely by remote employees, here are five essential tools your company can use to remain connected and productive.
Cloud-based Web and Email Hosting – Having a company website is no longer an option; every business needs a website outlining their services, contact info, and information about the company that will help potential clients find them online. And we’re not even going to get into the SEO and SEM that comes along with that! Company-branded email also goes a long way to helping clients and vendors stay in touch with you, and very often email can be purchased in a package along with web hosting. Potential buyers are no longer picking up the Yellow Pages to find what they’re looking for – they’re going online to use search engines (and more and more they’re doing this from their phones). Make sure your company can be found and contacted!
Internet Access – Yes, that’s a given! All of your employees need to have reliable Internet access since the vast majority of business applications are IP based. Some remote workers can probably get by just fine with their current residential Internet service, however we have seen some businesses installing a second business-class Internet connection into homes to be exclusively used for company purposes. This is especially true when employees spend a lot of time uploading/sending large files, as many residential Internet services emphasize download speeds, and have very little upload bandwidth which can be problematic when you factor in VoIP, VPN overhead, and Quality of Service.
Hosted PBX – As critical as the Internet has become to corporate communications, plenty of people still prefer to pick up the phone to find answers to their questions, or to speak directly with someone about an order. Hosted PBX service allows a business to keep all the traditional phone system features such as auto attendants, voicemail, and internal extension dialing, without needing to spend $10,000+ on hardware with no physical office to install it in. Employees can pick up their phone and dial a colleague who might be half the world away as if they were sitting in their next cubicle, and potential customers can reach anyone in your organization quickly and easily.
Offsite Data Backup – Unless your new company is handing out laptops and tablets, your employees are most likely using their own personal computers to work on a daily basis. Many times those PCs are being used and shared by other family members, and if there’s one universal truth about technology, it’s that accidents happen. Laptops are dropped, kids spill drinks on them (yes, we’ll blame the “kids” for that coffee spill too!), or hard drives simply give up the ghost one day. It’s important to make sure any and all company data remote employees are working on is backed up on a regular basis, and software like our MegaBackup service will not only securely back that data up to the cloud, it does it automatically so there’s never a concern about forgetting to back things up.
Server Hosting and Colocation – As your virtual company grows, so will the amount of data you collect and create. At a certain point it may be best to store that data and access it from a secure central location, such as a data center. With reliable bandwidth and power, along with location security, colocating a server (or opting to have a provider manage a dedicated server for you) will often be more cost effective than you think. This especially holds true if you have employees located in diverse areas and timezones who need access to your company’s data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Keeping that data on a server located in a home office that could potentially suffer from power outages, spotty residential Internet service, or local disasters such as flooding could potentially ruin all that hard work you’ve put into building your business in a matter of minutes. If your company has become more and more data driven, colocation should be an option under serious consideration.
Starting a new business in today’s economy is far easier and more cost-effective than it was even a few decades ago. By taking advantage of the five essential tools noted above, your virtual company should be able to quickly grow in size and productivity in just a short period of time.