27 May 2018

Creating a virtual office that’s open for business from anywhere!

It is common to think of cutting edge technology as reserved for enormous multinationals. However, as our interview with Michael Gibbs, Director at Synergy Technology demonstrates, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can equally reap the rewards of a well-designed secure workspace.

“For a recent project, we were approached by a local business that essentially offers a wholesale service. They have a team of drivers delivering products to customers, as well as a number of back office staff in charge of processing orders and managing the accounts. The company is growing fast, with plans to expand. However, the growth was hampered by a heavy reliance on paper-based records which took up a large portion of their time to process, as well as causing issues with stock levels and missed deliveries”.

Synergy Technology met with the company’s directors to understand how the business worked, and to discuss these problems as well as their growth plans and subsequently recommended the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV hosted on Synergy Technology’s Citadel platform. Dynamics NAV is designed for SMEs to manage their supply chains, operations, finance and logistics. Citadel is a cloud-based service designed to provide a virtual workspace. Previously, the company had a huge order book and delivery schedule and Synergy Technology’s solution was to develop and enhance this existing paper-based process with the additional ability to work remotely, including drivers amending documents.

“This solution has proven really useful for both the drivers and their office-based team. For the drivers, they are now able to file orders whilst with customers, immediately updating the database from a tablet or phone. Using the virtual workspace, drivers can also update future orders with additional products there and then, as well as updating delivery information and reporting non-deliveries.”

The deployment of Microsoft Dynamics NAV is only the beginning of the journey for this company. In addition to the ability to work virtually, Dynamics NAV has helped the company advance in other areas of the business.

“Dynamics NAV offers a clearer visibility of which products they are selling, up-to-date warehouse stock levels, what items are selling most, what items are slow moving and therefore helps the company to manage their stocks levels more effectively. Adopting Dynamics NAV also speeds up the process of receiving orders – a delivery driver can send the latest order directly from the customer’s location without returning to the office to hand over the paperwork. This, in turn, frees up the office-based team and directors to focus more effectively on strategy and business growth”.

“Adopting the virtual workspace also provides flexibility for the office-based team to potentially work from home. This can be beneficial to work away from the comings and goings of the main office and to focus on their work without typical workplace distractions”.

Of course, when setting up a virtual workforce, businesses may have some concerns around what employees are doing when working offsite. Michael explains that Dynamics NAV actually provides a business more visibility.

“The system is easy-to-use. With the metrics in place there is a range of indicators to identify whether an employee is working. For example, Dynamics NAV allows you to see when and who has raised orders as well as what time users log in and out of the system. As a result, you can see directly how out-of-office workers are performing”.

A final issue is how the users adapted to the new technology. For this company in particular, by hosting their line of business software on Citadel, the virtual workforce has been an effective solution.

“Overall, adoption of the new system has been very positive. It did require some changes in behaviour from working with a paper-based system to working directly online, but most employees were quick to appreciate the benefits of this new approach. Drivers save time, and can cross-sell and upsell onsite and benefit from less travelling between customers and the office.

“Office-based workers are pleased they can reduce the time taken to carry out mundane tasks and resources are freed up to focus on company strategy. Perhaps most importantly, the more responsive service is well received by customers particularly the instant electronic delivery of provision notes, receipts and invoices.”

If you think that you and your employees will benefit from a flexible workspace and you would like to consider adopting a virtual office for your business, we can advise you and provide the technology to make it happen! Call Synergy Technology on 0345 456 0050

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01 Apr 2018

The Cloud in Practice – a Guide for SMEs

The opportunities to use the cloud are countless and SMEs are, of course, seeking to use hosted workspace services that meet their individual needs. This will differ by sector – a manufacturing company will have different computing needs to a marketing agency for example.

However there are many commonalities to doing business no matter where your business focus lies and, unsurprisingly, it is in these areas the uptake of cloud-based computing has been highest.

This includes core services such as productivity applications – most notably Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics 365, collaboration services and data time and money. Cloud-based email, website management and social media management tools are also commonly used by SMEs.

More specialised services such as customer relationship management (CRM), HR and accountancy applications are less prevalent at present although growing steadily in popularity. Though many organisations identify a need for these, the uptake to hosted applications is slow.

Needless to say security is also an issue that concerns many businesses hesitant from accepting hosted solutions as the way forward. More and more software providers, including Microsoft are now adopting the new philosophy with a focus on security: “mobile first, cloud first”.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 therefore becomes a cloud management solution that enables businesses to adopt the best features of CRM and ERP and to combine both services on a single platform under a single data model, but in a totally secure environment.

By moving to this solution, you can design and deploy across board, all customisations within the systems to Dynamics 365 for phone, tablet and web applications. Dynamics 365, Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM are available as on-premise installations or “in the Cloud” – also known as Software as a Service (SaaS).

The number one benefit of SaaS is that you can access the system anywhere you have an internet connection and your data is always up-to-date. Fast implementation, no internal system management responsibilities required nor expensive servers or operating system software and you can access the data from any device that supports internet browsing.

The potential risk of data security is greatly reduced. With Microsoft your data is in one of the most secure environments conceivable, and much more secure than hosting your own data on premise. Alternatively your data and applications can be hosted on third party secure digital workspace services with the same level of peace of mind. Citadel secure digital workspace, provided by Synergy Technology offers this alternative SaaS service.

Preparing to make the move to Cloud

It is possible overall cloud usage is understated as many businesses may be using cloud computing tools without even realising it. Also, with such rapid growth in the market, demand is changing all the time. If your business hasn’t already taken the plunge, maybe now is the time to at least be considering it.

There’s no doubt your organisation could transition totally to a cloud environment, delivering many significant business benefits from lower costs and easier scalability to complete mobility and added security. However, there are many options to consider when migrating to the cloud. To discuss how cloud technology would suit your business needs contact Synergy Technology today to get started.

Most prevalent applications

If you aren’t a technology professional then it’s likely you won’t be aware of the changes the industry’s biggest brands are making to their services to take advantage of the cloud. Here is a run-down of the more notable business packages that are now readily available via the cloud:

Productivity software – For a small business it’s possible to run your main business functions in the cloud. Your core productivity software such as email and Microsoft Office have cloud computing counterparts branded Dyamaics 365. If you run a creative business, Adobe Creative Cloud offers their software from the cloud.

Storage solutions – Buying a server is a big capital investment for a small company, but cloud storage is now a viable alternative.

Accountancy services – Accountancy software providers have been quick to offer services for the cloud. Small companies can buy Sage on subscription. For mid-sized companies consider Pegasus Business Cloud if you have more complex needs.

Marketing software – There’s a wide range of powerful software and applications that help the marketer. Of particular note is CRM software such as SuperOffice that helps companies manage their client and prospect interaction and relationships to develop existing business and win new business.

Bespoke applications – Hosted services such as Citadel provides the platform to develop and deploy bespoke cloud-based applications. Using Citadel enables smaller businesses to fully leverage the cloud’s power and create new services that give them a competitive edge.

Exploiting the cloud with your IT provider

The role of your IT provider will depend on how much cloud-based computing you are going to do and how complex your business is and its requirements are.

Synergy Technology can advise you on setting up cloud-based services including:

  • Citadel hosted secure workspace : Which provides SMEs with a flexible, scalable alternative to in-house IT systems.
  • Pegasus Business Cloud : A flexible, secure and reliable infrastructure which is used to host Opera 3.
  • Microsoft Azure: Microsoft’s hosting service for Dynamics 365, a cloud base solution that unifies business applications (sales, service, operations, marketing, and finance) into one business solution.

 

We can check whether your business software is compatible with hosting services. As any movement into the cloud is likely to be gradual, it is important you receive help integrating the new services with your other business processes, which may not be currently in the cloud.

Ultimately, your organisation can transition totally to a cloud environment, delivering many significant business benefits from lower costs and easier scalability to complete mobility and added security. However, there are many options to consider when migrating to the cloud. To discuss how cloud technology would suit your business needs contact Synergy Technology on 0345 456 0050 today to get started.

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28 Feb 2018

Keep your business afloat in bad weather

The sudden extreme weather that is causing disruption across the UK, prompts us to remind you of our article about adverse weather. Be it floods or snow, are you prepared? Tony Poole, the Managing Director of Synergy Technology warns not to be complacent, protecting valuable business data and reducing the risk of financial loss due to damage to IT equipment and the subsequent disruption to business is critical to SMEs, particularly in areas susceptible to flooding or affected by snow. It may happen again!

“The Environment Agency warns that climate change will increase the risk of more floods across the UK, leading to further problems for businesses and homeowners. Whether or not we can expect more frequent adverse weather conditions, business owners must remember it only takes a single disaster to potentially wipe out the whole business with the damage it can cause.” warns Tony.

“Even if a flood is not necessarily on your doorstep and whether or not water damage is destroying your premises, it may affect the power supply to your business or accessibility to your office for your workforce. It is also important to remember that supplier catastrophes are as critical as your own, so know your supply chain too. It is therefore essential to consider how prepared you are to avoid an interruption to the daily running of your business, and the long term financial effects that adverse weather may cause to your business.

Many of these problems can be avoided by ensuring you are well prepared and that your systems are set up to cater for unexpected interruptions to the running of your business due to natural disasters.”

Based on his own client experience, here are Tony’s 10 useful tips to avoid disruption to your business due to flooding or adverse weather condition.

Ten Top Tips to keep your business afloat in the next floods.

TIP ONE :
Back up and storage of critical data

It is important to instil a regular data backup procedure. Power cuts, flooding and energy shortages will cause disruption, but preparation is key. As long as staff know in advance what to do if the worst happens, data can be saved. For organisations, a solid data backup plan is the best way to keep critical data protected; establishing a relationship with a trusted data recovery provider should also be an integral part of any disaster recovery plan.

Conduct a data assessment. Know your high-value data assets – where your customer information and other sensitive data is stored, which files are heavily used, who is using them and which departments and teams they align with. Try to restore data on a quarterly basis.

Prioritise what data you need to have on hand after a disaster and who will need to have access to it. And don’t neglect laptops, as most people do. Most disaster recovery plans are focused on protecting just the office server and business data stored at data centres.

Remember – never assume that data is irrecoverable. Professional data recovery services offer the expertise and tools required to recover data quickly and successfully.

TIP TWO :
Make sure critical applications are also accessible

Not only does your business data need to be backed up and accessed during a flood crisis, but business applications too. Make sure critical applications are also accessible. Protecting your data is not enough if you want to keep the business running during an event that causes downtime. Ensure critical applications can be virtualised in the cloud and are licenced for use in different locations or from different hardware and devices, should you have to change the location and computer equipment used, if your business office and IT equipment is affected by floods.

TIP THREE :
Keep sensitive electronic equipment high and dry!

It might seem obvious, but if your office is susceptible to the risk of flooding, keep IT equipment and cables at a reasonable height off the ground and store critical equipment on higher levels, i.e. first floor or second floor. Make sure that your team switch off and disconnect computers and electronic equipment at the end of the working day, leaving only the vital systems operating.

TIP FOUR :
Secure your data by using offsite servers

SMEs can actually improve their disaster preparedness by adopting a hosted workspace and cloud data storage which also greatly improves backup costs, recovery of data and boosts performance, and also reduces the requirement for office-based critical IT support.

Store business data in a secure cloud or hosted workspace and keep backups off site, in a safe location. How far off site depends on the risks you are worried about. Essentially, you are putting your business operational network into a hosted cloud environment and it is then delivered to you on-demand. The onus of responsibility for security, updates, redundancy, and failover and business continuity then rests with your hosted provider.

Cloud storage and hosted workspace providers such as Citadel digital workspace and cloud services, takes away the requirements for an in-house server and subsequent in-house maintenance and server-based IT support. Desktop hardware can be replaced with the most up-to-date hardware or mobile devices available on the market offering significant additional cost benefits and user flexibility.

TIP FIVE :
Reduce the risk of damage to IT and computer equipment

By implementing a hosted workspace you immediately reduce the computer hardware and IT equipment required onsite in your office and you can operate your business using much less desktop hardware. Therefore much less computer equipment is at risk of water damage due to flooding.

Most business applications for users delivered via virtual desktops have very minimal requirements, so any laptop or mobile device with internet access is likely to be able to access the virtual workspace.

TIP SIX :
Adopting a virtual environment where your team can work from any location

Creating a flexible workspace is king. By adopting a mobile workspace for employees, users of a hosted workspace can gain a full desktop experience from Internet-enabled devices as varied as tablets, smartphones or their home computers.

Your business programs, applications and data delivered from the virtual desktop can therefore be accessed from any location – not just the office, so employees can even work from home.
If flood risk is imminent, encourage workers to take their laptops, work phones and other vital equipment home each night.

If creating a mobile office solution works for your business, just make sure in advance that your employees have a suitable Wi-Fi connection at home and that your insurance policies cover both the employees and company equipment when working from home.

TIP SEVEN :
Prepare a back-up workspace for business

In the case of flooding or a similar disaster affecting your office, if your employees still need to work collaboratively from one location, then ensure you have access to an alternative office location. Temporary office space leases are available with options to access:

  • Executive meeting room access
  • Wi-Fi, IT and phone support
  • Reception services

 

So make sure you have already a record of suitable temporary office services (think carefully about their location) which have the capacity to meet your business needs and can offer you office space at short notice.

TIP EIGHT :
Keep things running

When storms and other natural disasters strike, small businesses are especially vulnerable to power outages. While larger companies may have multiple locations that can pick up the slack while operations at one site shut down, the same is usually not true for the typical small business, particularly businesses in rural locations where the priority for reconnection may be lower than for nearby town centres.

Small businesses can combat these potential issues by installing a generator. Two basic varieties of generators are available. Automatic, or standby, generators that are permanently connected to a building’s electrical system. When the power shuts down, those generators automatically detect the problem and restore power to the building. On the other hand, portable, or backup, generators run on gasoline or diesel and have to be manually installed once a power outage occurs. While automatic generators require little or no work for the business owner, portable generators are typically less expensive.

TIP NINE :
Prepare a Crisis management procedure

To prepare for any future threat to your office being affected by flooding, prepare an effective disaster recovery plan. During a chaotic emergency in which there is flooding, fires or power outages, your team may not have the time to follow a long, complicated plan.

A plan must identify crisis management team members and set out their roles and responsibilities. It should also establish processes that:

  • Engage the right people at the right time
  • Maintain effective communication
  • Manage information and resources to keep the business running
  • Promote timely decision making

 

Think through the most likely threats to your business, cover all aspects, as well as natural disasters such as flooding keep in mind everything from human error to component failure. Most disasters happen without warning. This is what makes them so difficult to deal with. The actual disaster is not going to happen regularly, it’s going to be more chaotic. You need to be prepared.

TIP TEN :
Have a practice run!

Once you have considered all of the tips, make sure that your plans and preparation for running your business in adverse weather actually work, and don’t wait for the next spate of floods to see if your business sinks or swims! Try it and try it again. If you plan, the likelihood is that your business will stay afloat!

Would you enjoy working in a rural environment?

Nateby Business Park, Cartmell Ln, Preston PR3 0LU

Synergy Technology is based in Wyre House, Nateby Business Park which is located in the stunning rural setting of Nateby. Working from a converted barn complex the Synergy Technology team enjoy the balance of working in a stress-free environment with a calm countryside location yet still operating a fully professional IT business. “Our office environments were designed from the outset to be disaster ready. We have an onsite generators, fibre and lease lines, CCTV with 24 hour onsite security, yet all set in a tranquil environment with nothing but beautiful views to fill your vision and inspire your team.” says Tony.

“We should encourage more businesses to set up office in rural areas to engender a more calm and welcoming working environment for employees” he adds. “Reducing the stress of commuting to crowded and expensive office locations in the city and town centres can only be beneficial to both the business and employees.”

“Our rural office can operate independently in adverse flooding or similar situations.  Says Tony, “By adopting a hosted IT system and engendering a mobile workspace it is the ideal solution to meet these requirements. I welcome any local business to come and take a look at our rural premises and determine the benefits of a peaceful rural office location. We have office space available for your business, and we can also discuss your business IT and data security, in fact, we can offer you a complete business solution.”

Footnote: For businesses located in areas prone to flooding, The Environment Agency provides a comprehensive guide for SMEs “Would your business stay afloat? A guide to preparing your business for flooding” 

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31 Jul 2017

Engage, inspire and empower your employees

The ability to work virtually makes your company stand out – both for customers and colleagues – and is ever easier to achieve.

The virtual workforce is not a new concept. For instance, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been available in businesses since the 1980s. Similarly, the advent of email – and fax before that – has allowed employees to work from a distance for decades.

What has changed, however, is the speed and ease with which virtual working is now possible. For instance, cloud technologies allow colleagues to collaborate on documents instantaneously wherever they are on the planet. Tools like Skype for Business allow for real-time communications regardless of location, and the explosion of mobile technology means people really can be ‘at the office’ wherever they are.

The ability to work virtually presents significant benefits for your business – from reduced staff turnover to higher productivity and less stress.  We explore why in more detail as well as looking at some of the practicalities of creating your own virtual workforce – it’s easier than you might think.

If you think that your business can benefit from a flexible workspace and you would like to consider adopting a virtual office for you and your employees, Synergy Technology can advise you and provide the technology to make it happen!

The virtual workforce is about more than just the available technology. It also needs to be seen in relation to a range of additional trends which are beginning to affect businesses everywhere.

  • A demand for greater flexibility:
    The virtual workforce is now widely possible. As a result, many employees have come to expect that they will have the option to work from home a couple of days per week. The employers that allow for virtual working are seen as more attractive by prospective job seekers.
  • The ‘gig’ economy:
    The last decade has seen an explosion in the number of people in the UK describing themselves as self-employed. Offering a virtual working environment gives you the opportunity to rapidly provide external employees access to your environments.
  • Sustainability and employee satisfaction:
    There aren’t many workers who relish a long commute to work. Not only are season tickets expensive commuting is also stressful and can be harmful to the environment. Allowing employees to work virtually and travel to the office less often can have multiple benefits.

 

Boost productivity, cut stress and reduce turnover

Data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey found that last year, around 13.7% of the population works from home, a figure which is constantly on the rise. The benefits of creating a virtual workforce are significant: YouGov research published in October 2015 found that 30% of virtual workers felt that their productivity increased when they worked remotely. The PGI found that 82% of virtual workers were less stressed than office-based colleagues and a study by Stanford University found that employee turnover dropped by as much as 50% at companies with a virtual workforce.

This all represents an exciting opportunity. Nevertheless, employers have valid concerns about the virtual workforce. Managers need to feel they can trust employees to actually do their jobs.

Regulated industries may feel nervous about employees accessing sensitive data from their local café and many workers might miss the interaction and relationships they build with colleagues.

Create the virtual workforce that is right for you

As with any new technology or management trend, the way you react to the opportunities it presents will determine its success. Understanding how the virtual workforce could be applied in your business, and implementing it in a way that brings about change positively, will take long term planning, strategy and change management.

Done well, you will be excellently placed to reap the rewards of this new workforce evolution years in advance of your competitors.

Contact Synergy Technology to discuss how you can develop your office to offer employees a flexible and modern virtual office. For further information about the virtual workforce, read our online magazine.

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01 Jun 2017

What to expect from the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

It’s set to be a turbulent year for data protection and security in the UK, and one that will affect the way you manage data within your organisation.

One of the biggest factors to change is the arrival of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Coming into force in May 2018. The GDPR aims to make it easier for individuals to understand how their data is handled and what it’s used for.

For businesses, this means a stricter code of conduct in terms of data protection. The new EU regulation overrides national law, meaning the GDPR will supersede the current UK Data Protection Act (DPA) that has been in place since 1998.

Getting ready for GDPR

Regardless of the effects of Brexit, UK SMEs and large organisations alike that process data regarding EU individuals will be subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“Processing” of data refers to obtaining, disclosing, recording, holding, using, deleting or destroying personal information – essentially, whatever you do with information digitally inside your company.

The GDPR is subjective: it’s about the data, not the company. It’s about whether the data you handle concerns individuals residing in the EU, not whether your organisation is in the EU. Indeed, even monitoring the behaviour of an EU individual – through implementing website cookies on your site, for example – can make you liable to the GDPR.

And with monitoring features like cookies now more or less ubiquitous, companies that offer a digital service like a web app, platform or website (which is more or less every company) accessible by EU individuals must comply with the GDPR by 2018. The new regulation also voids the distinction between personal and business addresses. A marketing email that identifies a person (yourname@yourcompany.com, for instance) will require consent, and it is up to the sender to prove that consent was given.

Whether your business is B2C or B2B, the incoming changes will most likely affect you.

The GDPR is casting a much wider net when it comes to the collection, storage and use of EU citizens’ personal data. As such, you need to be more vigilant than ever when it comes to data protection. The following are five areas of focus when it comes to data protection best practice.

1. Secure the cloud

Processing data in the cloud presents a risk. The personal data which you are responsible for is not located in the known confines of your on-premises network, but instead processed in systems managed by your cloud provider. You therefore need to assess the security measures your cloud provider has in place to ensure they are appropriate.

We can advise you on your options to work within a secure digital workspace. Read more about our services provided by Citadel. Read more>>

2. Understand what you have

Given just how much data we now generate, part of keeping it secure involves understanding which information is and isn’t valuable to your company.

  • Necessary: ensure you only collect the most necessary information, as systems can quickly get overcrowded. Usage logs can help you identify content that is no longer being used.
  • Secure: it is your legal obligation to keep customer information secure. Data encryption and user training are vital parts to this – you can’t afford employees unintentionally sharing information they shouldn’t.
  • Readily available: under the GDPR, an individual can ask if your organisation holds any personal information about them, known as a ‘subject access request’. In this case, you must reply within 40 days. Make sure that your staff can recognise subject access requests and quickly find the relevant information.

 

3. Staff training

Whether intentional or not, it’s common for employees to be the main contributors to data breaches. Accidental disclosure and human error – from sending an email to the wrong recipient to opening an attachment with malware – are the main causes for breaches in personal data, according to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

By ensuring your employees acknowledge and understand their roles and responsibilities, you can greatly improve data protection across your organisation. Train your staff to make sure they understand the right and wrong places to share information regarding the company or customers.

4. The right to retain

It is good practice to review and refine the length of time you keep personal data.

Ensuring that any personal data is disposed of when no longer needed will greatly reduce the risk that it will become out of date, irrelevant or inaccurate. Always consider the purpose for which you are holding information, whether that purpose should constitute keeping hold of the information. Information that is out of date should be updated, but if it is no longer needed for this purpose, it should be securely archived or deleted.

5. Audit your activity

Unaware or inexperienced users are more prone to mistakes when it comes to keeping content secure. Running audit logs are a great way to keep on top of company content – where it’s going and who it is accessed by. By monitoring your systems and services, you can be alerted to any suspicious behaviour or activity. So, make sure this is the case in your organisation – ensure you can check what software or services are running on your network, and make sure you can identify when there is something there which shouldn’t be.

Now’s the time to be thinking of developing a traceable and transparent system for recording communication with your customers and prospects. Synergy Technology can advise you on CRM solutions and emarketing options to create a system suitable for your business. Read more >>

A wider reach than ever

The territorial reach of the GDPR is considerably broader than the UK’s current Data Protection Act. You can be subject to the GDPR if:

  • You hold data about individuals that reside in the European Union.
  • You handle data in the context of offering goods or services to an individual in the EU, or if you monitor their behaviour.

 

It is important that SMEs residing in Britain can fully identify with the current and future security of their data to ensure they don’t get caught in the increasingly wide net of data regulation. Given the associated fines, it very much pays to be educated on the details. Read our Spring edition of Business Talk to help to fully understand the implication of GDPR on your business.

This article is a guide only. To fully comply with the changes to Data Protection regulations that will be in force by May 2018, please also check the Information Comissioner’s Office (ico) website for regular updates.

Synergy Technology will be hosting GDPR workshops across the region during the next few months. To register your interest in attending a workshop please contact Synergy Technology for further information.

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06 May 2017

Create a virtual workforce

How can you begin creating your new environment?

Virtual working has never been more cost effective or easy to implement.

In the last few years, a plethora of technological advances have put the possibility of creating a virtual workforce within reach for most companies. No longer is the virtual workforce only relevant to international organisations or businesses that depend primarily on office-style working. The technologies that support virtual working can be used by anyone from warehouse workers to wholesalers, from delivery drivers to directors, from consultants to counsellors. This technology allows access to crucial data, documents and software wherever the user is, whatever device they use to connect to it.

However, while the technology is now widely available, many employees are continuing to use existing and often outdated software which requires that they be in a physical place at a specific time to be productive. Creating a virtual workforce and accessing the benefits it promises will require some investment – although this need not always represent huge up-front costs. Many tools used to build a virtual workforce are provided as a service, meaning you pay a relatively low monthly fee for each individual licence.

So, what are the investments you’ll need to make in order to build your virtual workforce?

  • Equipment and hardware
    While the virtual workforce can help you spend less money on maintaining servers in your company’s buildings, you will still have hardware requirements. First among these will be devices for ‘virtual’ staff. You may opt for a policy that allows workers to use their own computers, laptops and tablets to access company data, but it may be more effective to provide your own tools for consistency and training purposes.
  • Additional materials
    If some employees are spending much of their time in home offices, you may need to think about providing appropriate office chairs, desks, keyboards, headsets for voice calls and additional monitors, for example. You will also need to consider broadband in your employees’ homes. While internet connections are generally improving in the UK, there are areas where coverage is still poor. You will need to investigate this for your area, and explore the costs of providing employees with the best service possible.
  • A central document storage and online hub
    It will be essential to provide access to company data in the cloud. Typically, this will require file storage, sharing and collaboration tools which allow virtual employees to access data from wherever they are working.
  • Effective enterprise mobile apps
    Many of the major enterprise IT providers offer their tools as apps that can be used online via mobile devices and laptops. However, if you currently use any custom apps in the business, investigate how you can bring them online so that distance workers can access them.
  • Telecoms, video and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Communication is central to virtual workplace success, and you will need to select a communications tool which supports this; allowing virtual workers to make and receive calls and communicate with colleagues regardless of location.
  • Security
    Essential in any business but especially so when the workforce is accessing data from outside the office, you will need to decide on a security strategy. Central to this will be the granting of permission levels and methods of authenticating the identity of employees accessing data from outside the office walls. You should also investigate mobile device management tools which offer the ability to wipe all data from a device remotely in case it is lost or stolen.

Infographic-Two

While creating a virtual workforce may involve some upfront investment, the long-term benefits and ROI will outweigh any initial costs. An immediate benefit is that you reduce your IT costs and end the need for expensive upgrades – instead, your service provider takes charge of hardware maintenance and you pay a much lower, scalable and predictable monthly fee. Longer term, you provide staff with more flexible working that fits better around how they actually want to work – encouraging greater loyalty and higher productivity.

Contact Synergy Technology to get your virtual workspace off the ground and going, call us today on 0345 456 0050.

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