Cloud computing is revolutionising the way business and consumers access software and IT applications. With the rising costs of operating a business, property rentals and business rate increases – many organisations are migrating to a virtual office platform to enhance efficiency and reduce costs.
A virtual office is essentially all computing and technology systems operated and managed within a cloud environment. From an IT users perspective all that will be required is a PC or laptop and stable internet connection in order to access all the company’s systems and servers.
Cloud technology has advanced to the point where a complete office network is able to be recreated including user permissions and application access levels. From the end-user perspective once they have initiated a connection to the organisation’s hosted desktop or VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), shared drives and systems look and feel like a normal desktop and office environment.
The advances in IP telephony in recent years, allows for every virtual office user to be afforded a unique telephone extension and PBX (telephone switch) type features including voicemail and call routing with the outward appearance that they are in a central office, when in fact they could be anywhere.
Combining the telephony and computing systems into a cloud environment allows for a virtual office to be rapidly provisioned and operable within hours.
Let’s look at the main advantages of operating a virtual office:
There are some compelling advantages for utilising a cloud solution. Some of the benefits are listed below;
Cash flow benefits
A cloud virtual office does not require significant upfront expenditure in terms of purchasing server and network hardware, data housing and software licensing. It is typically rented via a monthly recurring charge – freeing up cash flow for your business.
IT cost reduction
A cloud-hosted solution will be managed by the virtual office provider meaning that that your business would not be requiring hardware or software support contracts or permanent IT staff to support your user base. The virtual office makes it easier to realise overall cost savings from running an efficient IT infrastructure for your business.
With a cloud-based solution your data and systems will be provisioned from a secure datacentre environment which is optimised for housing computing hardware and delivering IT services. As your systems will reside within this environment your IT systems should be very stable and fully redundant.
Cloud licensing models allow for software future proofing by providing upgrade paths within the lifecycle of your contract – ensuring that your staff remain productive using the latest software and services.
Scalability (what goes up can now come down!!!)
By using flexible contract terms typically offered with virtual office and SaaS services, you are able to scale your systems up and down as and when required. For instance – do you need more staff during seasonal fluctuations? With a virtual cloud office solution you’re able to add new users on-demand within minutes if necessary. The reverse is also true in terms of downscaling should you need to reduce staff headcount.
Key things to keep in mind
Selecting a provider is a difficult and sometimes tricky process. Here are a few bullet points to be aware of and which should play an important part in your search and evaluation:
What is the security policy of your provider who is now looking after your business data? And if your provider runs into trouble do they offer options for data escrow? Where is your data residing and does the provider comply with data protection legislation, and have a suitably thorough data backup policy?
What performance do you require from your system and will your proposed provider help you with a system scope to ensure maximum efficiency and optimisation of your systems in terms of price and performance.
Your virtual office is accessed over the internet so you will need to check broadband access speeds, latency and network stability to ensure they meet the needs of running your virtual office from whatever location. VOIP (internet telephony), Cloud-hosted applications and other bandwidth hungry apps such as video conferencing will all need to be catered for.
Ensuring your applications seamlessly work in harmony is a key metric for selecting a provider. Whilst there may be cost benefits for using multiple providers, always check that there are professional services available to integrate your systems. If you do not have the skills in house use a consultant to advise you.
At Compare the Cloud, we’re here to help you make informed decisions and identify suitable partners for your cloud virtual office. Take a few minutes tell us about your company in our Cloud Comparison tool and let us find your perfect cloud virtual office partner.