Whether you have staff that work from home, a sales team on the road or simply run your business from a home office, mobility is a necessity for almost any business these days.
The most important consideration when taking your business communications system out of the office is ensuring that whatever software you choose works across the myriad of devices available such as PCs, Macs, iPhone, iPad and Android phone/tablets.
The answer to this lies in the cloud and the many apps hosted within it that are designed to both simplify and enhance our personal and professional lives.
The following are the top 5 essentials for any virtual office and work across all platforms as long as internet access is available.
Access to email is vital to staying connected while on the road. It’s easy to access your work email wherever you are with IMAP, which saves all your messages in the cloud. If you use an email service from your service provider, ask about switching to the “IMAP email protocol”.
You can then configure the IMAP details in your devices – PC (use Microsoft Outlook Express), Mac (use the built-in email client), smartphones or tablets, and they will be magically synchronised to your email whenever they are connected to the internet.
If your office is connected to a Microsoft Small Office Server with Exchange, ask your IT guy to set up Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol. This will seamlessly synchronise your email, calendar and contacts automatically across all your devices.
Free hosted services such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo support IMAP modes as well. Just do a quick search on their pages for “IMAP” and the instructions will appear.
Next to email, the other must-have is access to a phone to make and receive calls. While having a mobile covers this to some extent, it can also be more expensive than a desk phone.
Using Voice over IP (VoIP) or a hosted/Virtual PBX isn’t limited to phones in the office. There are additional features that can be utilised to keep you and your staff connected to the office phone system outside of the office.
Most reliable VoIP providers have free apps for smartphones and PCs/Macs that allow users to connect to the business phone system to make calls from it while on the road to save on call costs. For extra ease and functionality, you can also consider investing in a softphone. This is a desktop application allowing users to make video calls, click-to-call from Outlook and more.
Some providers also have a “call-back” or “global access” service which will let you log in to your business phone account to make calls wherever you are. If you’re constantly on the road, it’s also a good idea to ensure that you have Call Forwarding set up so that calls are forwarded to your mobile when you’re not in the office.
Like it or not, fax is still a popular form of communication. The best option for many businesses is a Virtual Fax service which converts incoming faxes to an email with a PDF attachment.
This can then be downloaded from wherever you are, ensuring you can attend to any incoming orders or requests even while on the road.
One of the great new advantages of cloud-based services is being able to share files from your office, to your home, smartphone or tablet, anywhere, anytime and keeping them all synchronised. Sounds fantastic, and it is. It’s also extremely easy to use and free for smaller users.
Dropbox is a great app that creates a folder on each of your devices – anything dropped into that folder will be auto-magically synchronised to all other devices with that account, no IT skills necessary.
Want to go further and actually edit or annotate your documents while on the road from your smartphone?
A great app called “Goodreader” will only set you back $5.49 and lets you edit and mark-up documents straight out of Dropbox while automatically updating the original version back at the office.
For the best instant messaging experience you simply can’t go past Skype. Skype has apps for all devices and provides instant message chat, file sharing, voice and video calling – and it’s free.
You can log into Skype on multiple devices with the same username simultaneously, and updates will go to all devices. Skype also has great group chat and conference features. It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.
We’re lucky to live and work in a digital world, which continues to give us the ability to be more flexible and mobile in business. The world is our office, but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
For more information about MyNetFone, please call 1300 395 468 or visit www.mynetfone.com.au/business