Over the past 48 hours heavy snowfall in the Southwest has caused major disruption for businesses. As usual when there’s adverse weather, our helpdesk at Systemagic has been inundated with calls from clients asking how they can access their network remotely, whether there’s any way we can connect them to their phone system so they can update the answerphone message and if there’s anything we can do to help them work remotely.
The answer to all the above is “yes” There’s no excuse with modern technology why any business shouldn’t be able to operate remotely if employees are stuck at home. This technology isn’t expensive, and in some cases is cheaper than using older systems.
Here are a few easily accessible and affordable technologies that can weather-proof your business:
Telephone Systems – VoIP (Voice over IP)
VoIP systems are the ultimate no-brainer. Not only do they give you the flexibility to connect to your internal phone system from almost anywhere (and in most cases, from many types of device) but pretty much without exception they are cheaper on rental and call charges than traditional systems. We use VoIP at Systemagic, so when our helpdesk guys can’t get into the office because of flooding or snow they simply plug their IP handsets in to their home broadband connections or fire up the VoIP app on their smartphones and are immediately able to deal with support calls.
VoIP is great if you have home workers or multiple offices – calls between internal extensions are always free regardless of where they are (including overseas which is a godsend for a number of our clients). It’s handy for part time workers who need to work seamlessly from home, or for busy MDs like myself who spend a lot of time out of the office but still need to be part of the system to receive and make calls.
‘Cloud’ is a huge subject to cover here, but in summary – your data and software no longer needs to be confined to an internal computer network. With cloud you can access your files, folders, emails, software remotely, usually from almost any device.
The benefits of cloud are wide-ranging, from flexibility, resiliency and backup and compliance through to saving both money and the environment.
I’ve discussed both the pro’s and cons of Cloud before on this blog – summarised here.
Remote connectivity to your office network (VPN)
VPN – Virtual Private Networking – isn’t new by any means, but is still a great way of connecting remotely to an internal IT system that hasn’t yet embraced cloud computing (and in some cases, systems that are in the cloud too – though that’s getting a bit technical). Essentially, a VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between the device you’re using (e.g. a home PC) and your business computer network, allowing you to access internal resources via a secure link.
We’re happy to say that Systemagic practices what we preach when it comes to remote access, and the team are able to remain fully operational during times of adverse weather. The Systemagic helpdesk has been operating at full capacity during the recent weather warnings despite our staff being spread across B&NES, Wiltshire and Somerset.
We use a combination of all of the above – we have a VoIP telephone system allowing all staff to connect in from home, and we can also connect mobile phones and tablets to the system if necessary. Our systems run in the cloud – our data is stored in a secure online datastore so we can access it from any location and any device, our email server is online and of course our helpdesk is hosted in the cloud. We use a secure VPN connection to connect into the office in case we need to access our internal servers.
So, if you’d like your business to continue making money whatever the weather, isn’t it time you made your business weatherproof?