Online File Storage and the Virtual Office

The internet is changing the way we work and, whilst most businesses accept the need for developing an online presence, few have truly realized the potential of the virtual office. Organizations tend to stick to the traditional model, expecting staff to tackle the daily commute and work in the office.

As roads become more congested and fuel prices soar, this habit is becoming a financial drain for both business and employees. Consequently, innovative organizations are looking to the virtual office, and online file sharing, as ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

The Virtual Office is the New Office

There are many buzzwords emerging from within the business community, such as ‘The Virtual Office,’ and ‘Cloud Computing,’ which seem to be aimed at huge, hi-tech corporations. In fact, the concept is deceptively simple, and involves using online services to share information and converse, as in any normal office.

At one extreme, large organizations use full cloud computing suites, which move and store huge volumes of data, like a regular internal network, but without the huge investment in hardware and IT support. At the other extreme, file uploading and storage services allow small businesses to upload information, and give staff the ability to access, download, and amend files.

What is Online File Storage?

The advent of wireless internet access underpins the virtual office revolution, and allows staff to perform all of their normal duties, as if they were sharing an office. Some of the benefits of cloud computing are:

  • Storage: Laptops and notebook computers are portable and indispensable, but are restricted by small hard drives. Rather than carrying around bulky external drives, or easily losable flash drives, staff can upload and download from remote servers.
  • Security: The news carries regular stories of a governmental employee losing a laptop or flash drive containing sensitive information. With virtual office technology, this is not a fatal problem, as the data is securely stored elsewhere.
  • Portability: The original idea of the virtual office was to allow staff to work from home, sharing information without being tied to an office. Wireless technology gives the opportunity to work from anywhere, so a canceled flight means no loss of productivity.
  • Efficiency: Conference calls used to mean staff physically gathering at the office or conference venue, wasting time and money. With cloud computing, teams of sales reps do not waste hours traveling; they can find a quiet spot and log on.
  • Outsourcing: To most people, outsourcing means looking for cheaper labor abroad, but the idea also includes hiring staff in the same country. With the gridlock afflicting most cities, staff spend an increasing amount of time commuting great distances. This eats into their leisure time, lowers morale and creates stress. Cloud computing gets around this this, and allows staff to be less tired and more productive.

Traditionalism and Resistance

As you would expect, there is a great deal of resistance to the idea from traditionally minded CEO’s and managers. They feel that they cannot trust staff to work unsupervised and put in the hours. Apart from the fact that micromanaging and lack of trust is poor management, many cloud-computing applications include a time-logger. This measures activity and takes screenshots, ensuring that staff are not surfing the net whilst on the clock.

Many staff miss the daily interaction with others, and find working remotely to be lonely and isolated. In most cases, the best way to get around this problem is to select staff carefully; introverted staff are usually delighted to be given the opportunity to work from home. In addition, various chat and VoIP services allow staff to communicate, with voice and video, so there is still interaction.

The other major concern is keeping track of information and allowing auditing. Due to the long-standing idea of the paperless office, it is easy to install systems that provide a proper trail for auditors to follow, and a reputable online file storage service has back-ups to prevent issues with lost data.

Online File Storage – What to Look For

There are many cloud-computing providers, with tailor made packages for every business. Whether you want a simple file-sharing host for staff to share information, or you want the deluxe suite, you will be able to find a provider. Whatever level you need, you should look for a few things.

  • Interface and Speed: If you are paying a fortune for high-speed internet connections, you want a .service that does not restrict up-load and download speed, or place harsh restrictions on the maximum file size.
  • Storage: Most providers limit your storage space, and it can quickly fill up. The size and complexity of files and applications is growing rapidly, so ‘future-proof’ and invest in more storage space than you currently need.
  • Longevity: There are many new start-ups offering cloud computing, but the last thing that you want is for your service to go belly-up, as the Dotcom collapse showed. Do your homework and find a provider that has a good track record, and is likely to be around for a while.
  • Interface: Some companies provide complex and bloated interfaces, which staff hate. Keep it simple and find a service that staff enjoy using.
  • Security and Technology: You want a service that is secure and incorporates excellent firewalls, intrusion detection, and virus scanning. In addition, pick an organization that has an excellent 24/7 customer support department, because technical problems are inevitable – you want somebody available to fix them immediately.
  • Price: This is the last consideration, because cheap does not always mean good. For example, a cheaper organization may have a skeleton IT department, or restricts the speed of information transfer. Take your time, conduct a little research, and check everything.

Online File Storage – The Final Frontier

Cloud computing and the virtual office are the future of business, meeting the challenges of globalization and outsourcing. Using this technology, businesses do not need to hire huge buildings, with the associated overheads. For staff, no longer faced with the time and expense of the long commute, the virtual office is an exciting development.

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