Will a virtual office enhance or impede your small business?
A number of my clients wanted to know about implementing a Virtual Office instead of maintaining their own server and buying new PCs. What is a virtual office and does it make sense for a small business?
The virtual office concept began with companies offering a small business the professional appearance of having a sophisticated office similar to that of a large company. A consultant could rent a desk and be set up with a mailing address, phone number, meeting facilities, a receptionist, and an answering service. The consultant need not rent permanent office space and equip it with expensive infrastructure.
Today's virtual office has morphed. While the traditional virtual office concept above is still popular, some people refer to a virtual office in the context of managed hosted virtual servers and desktops. You specify the features you need and the host does the rest. The host manages the server and desktops with security monitoring, automated maintenance, and typically 24 x 7 technical support.
Options include any Internet-enabled device such as a Windows or Apple computer, Tablet PC, Smart Phone, or Thin Client to access the virtual server and virtual desktops. You can access your complete Windows desktop and all of your applications from anywhere. Even a junky old PC will do, because the applications run on the virtual desktop, not on your computer.
There is monthly fee for the virtual desktops and virtual server. The question is whether that monthly fee is affordable and makes sense for your business.
For this article, I define a virtual office as hosting of a companys computer infrastructure, server and desktops, with a hosting firm on the Internet.
What considerations can help you make the decision whether to move your computer infrastructure to Cloud hosting?
1. Are company personnel mobile? Does everyone work from home or travel incessantly?
Do they live in different states or countries? A virtual office is well suited to mobile, geographically dispersed workforces
2. Do you want to access your virtual server and desktop from a mobile phone or tablet?
Virtual offices can be accessed using any device with Internet connectivity (although I find touch screens hard to use for productivity tasks).
3. Is the company a startup with capital equipment investment requirements such as a pharmaceutical firm?
They can do their testing on virtual servers instead of buying physical servers.
4. Does the company face heavy investment requirements to replace aging and failing servers and PCs?
For example, if the company has many Windows XP computers, Microsoft is ending support on April 8th, 2014. Switching to virtual desktops running Windows 7 or Windows 8 can avoid the investment in fast depreciating computers.
5. Does your company lack technical resources to manage local computer systems?
In other words, does the idea of eliminating your server and aging PCs appeal to you so you can focus on doing your work?
About the author
David Streit is an IT consultant and an entrepreneur, as principal of Stephill Associates, LLC. in Manalapan, New Jersey. Stephill provides IT infrastructure and technology advisory services for small business clients in New Jersey and New York City. Streit has worked with PCs and technology for more than 25 years. He and his wife, Claudia, have two daughters, Hillary and Stephanie.
Stephill Associates website.