We’re fans of the virtual office as we run our entire company that way. Of course, not everyone deals in digital services and there’s great value in meeting up too.
However most people will do some aspect of homeworking (even if due to the ‘wrong type of snow’ on a train track) and you can definitely save some money.
When you start using mulitple computers and working in different places you need to take your files with you. It used to be that the easiest way to do this was using a USB Memory Stick/Key but that did require you to remember to plug it in and back it up.
Additionally you need to remember to keep backing up files regularly, not just onto an External Hard Drive in case your one fails (though this is always a good idea) but also to a remote location in case the worst happens – a fire or flood.
We use DropBox for our web design and graphics work (and so do many of our clients). It’s a little program that runs on your computer all the time (Mac or PC, plus mobiles); basically a folder that automatically synchronizes itself both with the web and any other computers on which you’ve got it installed.
This means it automatically backups your files remotely, to other computers via the Internet or your internal network (when it’s faster) and you get a little notification telling you that a file has been added, deleted or updated. And if there’s a mistake like an accidental deletion you can roll it back via their website.
It’s not perfect and if you have multiple computers using the same file as the same time you can end up overwriting each other, plus if you upload a lot of files it can go a bit ‘notification-crazy’ but for it being simple, quick and just ‘works’ we’re happy to stick with it.
Get DropBox Now
(this is a referral link which gives you and us more space for free)
Other File-Synchronising Solutions
Certainly DropBox isn’t the only solution, we just use it because it is simple, quick and works – plus most people only need the free version. Others with varying functionality include:
It sounds a little space-age but most of us have used a service like Skype before to make calls through the Internet and Voice-Over-IP is pretty much the same thing but usually with a phone handset.
It comes normally in two flavours:
- Special desk phones which have screens and just plug straight into your network
- A little box that plugs into your network and then you plug in a normal handset
Main Features of VOIP
Day-to-day VOIP can be pretty much the same as any other telephone, just pick up and answer or dial. No need to turn on a computer or get friendly with that little inbuilt microphone.
- cheaper line-rentals (eg. £5.99/month instead of a full landline)
- usually cheaper calls, especially abroad
- ability to have a number anywhere and because it isn’t set to a particular location you can move anytime you like and not have to change your number
- line-quality is usually good but calls can suffer if you’re using the Internet heavily at the same time
- you must check that your broadband provider is OK with you using VOIP as some contracts specifically exclude its use
We use Vonage because the way our company works means we don’t have a physical office (everyone works from a home office) and our team keeps moving around but we can’t keep changing our phone number.
The main reasons as similar to those above – especially free unlimited UK landline calls during the day (essential for business) and we can have multiple lines ring off the same main number (SimulRing) without needing to have a special phone system.
Additionally voicemails are emailed to us as audio files and we can redirect it to a mobile if no-one is going to be in the office. It also provides us with a very useful online call log so we can check any call we may have missed and call back even if they don’t leave a message.
Checkout vonage.co.uk and if you want to go ahead ask us to send you a referral link so we can both get two months free line-rental.
Because VOIP phones don’t have a physical location, some of them don’t allow you to call the emergency services as they won’t be able to tell where you are. Other services (like Vonage) do allow this but make sure you update your address on the particular phone-line – it may not be obvious to someone who is helping in an emergency that the normal-looking phone will send an ambulance to the wrong place.