Tag Archive: cloud_computing

4 Ways to Get Results From Remote Work Arrangements

Working remotely has become commonplace for businesses of all sizes. According to a recent IDC report, the United States has the highest percentage of mobile workers in its workforce, 119.7 million workers or three-quarters of the workforce expected to be mobile by 2013. Currently, nearly 85 percent of employees work remotely one day a week or more.

Technology has made telecommuting a viable and attractive alternative. Advanced laptops, smartphones, wi-fi, high-speed internet and cloud computing applications enable operations from anywhere at any hour. For small businesses with limited resources, remote arrangements can be particularly attractive. First and foremost, telecommuting could substantially reduce rent, utility and other overhead expenses. Moreover, eliminating aggravating commutes and providing employees with greater flexibility to manage childcare and other commitments enhances work-life balance and improves morale – both critical factors in attracting and keeping talent.

However, while businesses are increasingly embracing this trend, without the right policies and guidelines in place, out-of-office can become out-of-business. In fact, a Microsoft survey of small and medium-sized businesses found that nearly half don’t have official policies to govern the nuances of telecommuting.

When deciding to transition some, or all, of your workers to remote schedules, there are a number of considerations you should keep in mind:

Who is right for the (remote) job – Remote work isn’t necessary the right fit for every employee. When hiring or transitioning workers to remote schedules, jobs skills relevant to the role are only one part of the equation. Being comfortable and effective outside of a conventional workplace and away from a manager and colleagues generally requires someone who is team-oriented, a self-starter and a strong communicator.

Better safe than sorry – Guidelines for using and securing company technology should be updated to reflect the realities of remote work including specifics steps for ensuring that company equipment is protected from damage and loss and that confidential information is not compromised. For example, the policy should include specific standards for encryption, firewalls, virus protection, remote wipes in case of loss/theft, etc. Depending on the nature of your operation, you may want to consider retaining an IT professional to assess whether company data or customer information will be adequately protected on external servers or employees’ personal computers. Out of sight, but not out of mind – A prevailing concern regarding remote arrangements is that without regular supervision and oversight, workers might slack off or be less efficient. However, the key to maintaining performance and productivity high in or out of the office is setting specific expectations and keeping the lines of communication open. You should maintain the same schedule of routine meetings and check-ins as you would with in-office teams and enforce office policies and deadlines. Lead by example by remaining engaged and accessible via phone or email. Finally, there are a number of affordable web-based software programs — Basecamp, Zoho Projects, Liquid Planner, 5pm, and others — that can help add more structure and clarity by enabling you to assign tasks and deadlines and receive updates when milestones are completed.

Staying close-knit while working apart – Clearly, there are cultural advantages to having staff under one roof. Opportunities for in-person collaboration, impromptu brainstorms and social outings build a bond between employees and a connection to the company. However, it is possible to preserve a sense of culture even if the majority of your workforce is remote all or part of the time. Scheduling group events/meetings at regular intervals is one easy idea. Another is using interactive technology like Skype and other video/audio conferencing systems. Unlike traditional conference calls, these tools put remote workers “face to face.” Many also have simultaneous chat features that make it easier for every person on the line to be an active participant in the conversation.

Cloud Computing: No Longer Pie in the Sky

Cloud computing is more than an IT buzzword. With the worldwide cloud computing market estimated at $10.7 billion (the U.S. accounts for approximately 40 percent of that total), cloud computing is quickly becoming the technology of the future. In fact, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 70 percent of Microsoft employees are doing work that is related to cloud computing, and that figure is expected to continuously increase.

So what is cloud computing?

Simply put, cloud computing is a model in which services and storage are delivered through the Internet instead of a desktop application. Sometimes referred to as ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), a true cloud-computing solution requires no software to purchase and install. Many cloud computing applications have become so commonplace that you probably don’t even realize you’re using them. Internet-based email, document managers and anti-spam/virus programs that update and secure your desktop applications are just a few examples. Along with smartphones, tablets and other technologies, cloud computing is redefining how we work.

Cloud Computing and Small Business – A Perfect Match Made?

With applications available for various business functions and technical needs, it is not surprising that small and mid-size businesses are significant consumers of cloud-based solutions. In fact, a recent report from AMI Partners predicts a 25 percent increase on SaaS spending versus five percent growth for all other categories of on-premise software combined.

cloud computing benefits.pngThe two biggest benefits of cloud computing are convenience and cost. By releasing operations from data centers, file servers and packaged software, cloud computing offers small businesses a high level of flexibility and it allows business partners and employees to connect easily. Another added benefit is that cloud applications are scalable and can grow alongside your business. Applications get updated and improved regularly without the cost and effort of downloading and configuring upgrades. Moreover, the solutions are inexpensive. Generally billed in relatively low monthly installments (which could be adjusted according to the number of users, transactions, etc.), cloud computing tends to be substantially more affordable than the initial investment required for physical data infrastructure and software. Some prominent SaaS vendors include: Omniture, Taleo, SuccessFactors, NetSuite Microsoft, IBM, Google, etc.

Similar to any other type of technology product, you should consider security, uptime (essentially a hosted application’s performance record) and privacy concerns when evaluating whether cloud computing is a good fit for your business. Though SaaS applications may actually offer added protection against issues such as data loss, you should ask vendors for written documentation detailing their security measures and standards. When evaluating uptime, the performance record should be in the range of 98-99.9 percent, (accounting for maintenance or unexpected problems). You should also inquire how long it generally takes to resolve technical issues.

While cloud computing has many benefits, there is no “one-size-fits-all” recommendation. Determining whether cloud applications are right for your business –and to what degree– is a decision that will need to be based on your company needs. It may be worthwhile to kick the tires before committing. In fact, many cloud services will offer a trial prior to purchase.

If you choose to pursue a cloud computing solution, the following are some considerations you should keep in mind:

Ensure that the vendor offers good customer support and check to see if there is an added charge for support and maintenance.

Look for a flexible cloud computing vendor that will allow you to add and subtract users and scale other capabilities as your business needs change.

Determine whether your cloud computing solutions run on complementary interfaces. For example, it may be useful if accounting packages integrate with contact management applications.