The current climate has forced many employers to consider what they had previously ruled out- allowing their employees to work from home. For some, it has become a decision of whether to lose revenue or take the plunge. While many modern and online businesses are used to having a distributed team, there's a lot of catching up to do for much of the world.
Over the past fifteen years of running distributed teams for myself and clients, I have run across so many remote work and cloud-based tools. Some were duds and others made a huge difference in productivity. Of course, the only thing that mattered is whether they had a net positive impact on the team and the bottom line at the end of the day. I'm here to share with you some of the great tools I've used for various applications. I'm putting the essentials at the top. These are the ones that every business should be using to the max, and virtually guaranteed to save you headaches and money.
The Must Haves
Office 365 & Exchange E-Mail
This is the full technology stack for your business. Think of the massive computer rooms in businesses of 50 years ago, churning away at programs and reports that supported all of the employees and kept the business running. This is the replacement for that and more, and do you know what the best part is? It's a heck of a lot cheaper. So cheap, in fact, that even the tiniest business can afford the best tools. When I say the best tools, I mean the stuff conglomerates rely on. It's better than Google, just as cheap, and comes with local support when you buy from us. What else could you ask for?
What you get:
- The full Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
- Access your e-mail and files anywhere (Business e-mail, Onedrive, Sharepoint)
- The cooler stuff (Bookings, Teams, MileIQ)
- Access, Publisher, etc. for the techier folks
- Your e-mail is always secure, and always in sync across all your devices.
How much does it cost?
- Office 365 Business Premium (the works): $14.95/user/month
- Office 365 Business Essentials (online only): $7.95/user/month
Other plans are available, and we are happy to mix and match so you spend only what's necessary to support your business. If you use it to it's potential, it's really an incredible value and will pay for itself many times over in increased productivity. Get in touch to learn how we can put o365 to work for you.
Cloud Business Phones by Netfortris
What would it feel like to unplug the cable from your desk phone, take it home and plug it into your router, and go back to work as if you are in your office? I know you think I just made a joke... who in their right mind would want to take their nagging, ringing desk phone to their place of solitude??? But imagine, if you could do this on days when you can't go in to the office, or send your employees home with a second desk phone that's as connected as if it were in the office. That's the power of cloud phones.
How does it work?
Instead of installing a physical phone switch in your office, we run the phone switch (PBX) in the cloud. This has significant advantages, including reduced cost (no upfront investment), increased reliability (since your phone system is in a protected data center with redundant everything, and many layers closer to the telco than your office), and easier configuration. Your phones connect over the internet, and will connect just as easily from your office or your home.
What if the internet goes down and I lose my phone?
Consider the fact that most telephone communication runs over internet (IP) lines or is multiplexed at some point in the journey anyway, so often when the internet goes down, even traditional phones will experience disruption. The days of solid copper from a phone to another phone across town are over.
Your phone switch being in a protected data center is actually an advantage and here's why: Consider if for some reason communication to your building is lost completely due to construction or cable-break. Since your cloud phone switch is tied very close to the telco's network far up the chain, and in a data center, it will still answer incoming calls and can now route them through any configured channel to you, or if even your cell phone is down, can at least take messages and possibly route calls to remote answering services. If, on the other hand, your phone switch is in your building, it is affected by everything: construction, moving, backhoes, lightening, power loss, etc.
The bottom line is that with cloud phones, you stay connected, agile AND mobile, and that puts you at a distinct advantage to your competitors who are tethered to physical lines.
What do I get?
We can port any landline number, provide additional numbers or toll-free numbers, and provide stunning color-display desk phones or cordless phones at minimal monthly cost. You get a heads-up display for your PC where you can control everything, including call routing and voicemail. In fact, it's a whole communication suite for your business. We support one user or over 1000, and can add incredible features for call centers and larger businesses at the flip of a switch.
What does it cost?
$0-$150 upfront, and from $20 to $30 per month, per line. Additional numbers are $5/month. Get in touch and I will go over your bill, find savings, and get you remote-ready.
A Business Web Site
Yes I had to go there.. The current climate is pushing business online, and in this day and age, a Google, Godaddy or Wix site is just not going to cut it and here's why: Your web site is today what your brick-and-mortar building was fifty years ago. Unless you like camping out in another shopkeeper's lobby, you would not want to do the equivalent today by relying on a nameless, faceless company to host your vital web presence. The companies who succeed in 2020 and beyond are building their own brand online, today.
What does it do for my bottom line?
Well, firstly, it will save your business from the obscurity of the increasingly internet-based world we live in. The yellow pages are dead. Newspapers are barely hanging on. Now, face-to-face business is no longer a guarantee. From this day forward, a significant part of your business is going to exist, or at least start, on the web.
Secondly, you will save time and create efficiencies by using your web site to bring your messaging to your customers. Whether it's news and updates, forms, or just your brand message, you need to take advantage of the automation of the web to free your time for more important money-making tasks.
Third, and this is an important one. If you receive money, donations or deposits of any kind from your customers, you must start accepting online payments. It's no longer an option. The fees are well worth it and more than covered by the time savings and increased sales and participation you will experience. Just think: if business is transacting online, and your competitor is accepting payments, but your customer has to drive to you or mail a payment, who is getting the sale? Don't make it hard for your customers to do business with you when accepting money online is so incredibly easy.
What does it cost?
Typically $6,000 and up. Typically. But we are not a traditional agency. We will build you that $6,000+ small business site for less than half. How? We are really good at what we do. And if your needs are greater, we can handle that as well.
Asana is a (relatively) simple and quick project management board that we have used on many projects over the years. In fact, we watched Asana grow from a sprout of a startup to a full-featured SAAS productivity app. If they use their own product, then their product's progress is a testament to it's own usefulness.
If you need to keep track of lists and tasks of any kind in your business, this is where Asana shines. You can collaborate with your team, and there is even an app that will keep everyone in sync.
Asana excels at task lists, and most businesses would be able to put it to productive use. They offer a trial, so give it a try.
When many people think of Skype, they think of video chat, which is partly how Skype originated. However, Skype has grown into a pretty useful general chat and productivity app that is relied on by a lot of small businesses to keep their remote teams and partners connected.
I text and e-mail, so why do I need Skype?
Skype does some things text and e-mail don't:
- You can carry chats seamlessly between PC, tablet and phone. Not many other apps do it as well as Skype.
- You can video chat and screenshare at the touch of a button. Not only can you video chat, but you can keep your chats going with others, and the same person, while you video. You can also send pretty large files.
- You can get a Skype phone number for a small fee. I wouldn't use it as a primary phone, but it's really handy for backup purposes and integrated very well with Skype itself.
How much does it cost?
Skype is free to use and included with Windows. There is also a great app for cell phones. Skype phone minutes cost a small amount, but again, these are really useful as a backup phone.
The ability to work remotely can be a blessing if your stay connected and up-to-date on technology. Keep an eye out for more tips and advice, as I dive deeper into remote work life to help you find success and sanity in this strange new world.