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Ask a tech expert: How do I set up a virtual office?


Q
: I’m the owner of a small marketing agency. We’ve been renting an office, but I’d like to offer flexibility to my staff (and have it for myself), and save on rent. I know it’s possible to “go virtual,” but I don’t really know what is required. How do I set up a virtual office?

 

A: Going virtual is an excellent option! You’ll soon see it can serve your business needs now, and can even help you expand your recruitment reach in the future. With this kind of flexibility, you can attract and retain employees from any geographic region, including professionals with special skills. According to several human resources studies, work/life benefits, such as teleworking and flex-time, are among the most valued benefits a company can offer.

 

Here are some things to consider when you are looking to enable you and your colleagues to work from anywhere:

Adding a VPN and firewall enables the security you need. The technology behind remote access is called a “virtual private network,” or “VPN,” and it establishes a private, secure network connection over a public network, such as the Internet.

VPNs use secure firewalls and well-tested security measures at every network point of entry, to help stop worms, spyware, or hackers from attempting to disrupt your business network or steal sensitive information.

Here’s the beauty of a VPN: Once it’s installed, you can add as many employees in as many places as you need. You don’t have to worry about expensive provisioning in each branch, office, store or site; a PC and an Internet connection will do the trick. The VPN software handles all security and user authentication.

There are several types of VPNs from which to choose. Talk to an expert—like a Cisco Certified Partner—who can evaluate your business requirements, and present the most appropriate solution for your business needs today, as well as provide a growth path that will meet your business needs tomorrow.

You’ll also need a phone and conferencing system that can work with remote and mobile employees, and that means using a data network.  Look for a phone solution that:

  • Can be set up so phone numbers can ring simultaneously on multiple devices (such as an office, home office, and wireless phone), to end “phone tag”
  • Enables customer calls to be routed automatically to available employees, regardless of where they might be.
  • As an added bonus (and this is available with Cisco SMB solutions), make it possible for employees to check all their messages—voice, e-mail, and fax—in one simple-to-use browser-based window.

 
You may also want to consider additional collaboration technology to keep your employees connected anytime, anywhere. A unified communications solution that is cloud-based (like Cisco Jabber) can bring together remote workers with instant messaging, desktop sharing, and conferencing—across any device, and from any location. With conferencing solutions (such as Cisco WebEx) you can add voice and video conferencing as well as application sharing into each meeting. It really gives a new meaning to the word “meeting.”
 
With today’s solutions to stay connected, you can bring the right people together, even without an office.
 

Are you setting up an office? If you’re ready for a business-class network using a simplified approach, the Cisco Entrepreneur Xperience solution features everything you need to get your business communicating, collaborating, and connected. Customized for your business size and needs, the product bundle is simple to deploy and cost-effective. Fill in this quick form to receive more information on this “Office in a Box” offer.