Mobile Working: What Benefits Will It Give to My Business?

Mobile Working
The ability to work anywhere!

Mobile Working: The Business Case.

Old habits can be difficult to shake. For many employers and employees alike, the routine of turning up for work at 9am, working a fixed eight-and-a-half hour shift and clocking off promptly at 5.30pm are just part and parcel of what employment is about.
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Communication, Meet Collaboration: Why Matching Digital Tools Makes Sense

Matching Digital ToolsAccording to the people who think about these things, we are now in the third phase of the evolution of IT in the workplace.

First came the mainframe computer, followed swiftly by the personal or desktop computer, giving everyone access to digital tools at work for the first time.

For the past decade or so, we have been in the mobile phase – the advent of mobile phones, laptops, Wifi and tablets has thrown off the shackles of where, when and how we can work. Whereas once upon a time, to log on to a business computing network, you had to be logged on to a computer physically connected to that network by a wire, now you can do it from anywhere you like.

Nowadays, such is the development of multimedia communication tools, you don’t even have to hold meetings with everyone in the same space, you can just set up a video conference with as many participants as you like. To share work with a colleague, you don’t have to hand it to them, or even send it by email – you can put it in a shared folder on the Cloud that both of you can access whenever you like from any device with an internet connection.

The benefits of this new mobile way of working are manifold – flexible working patterns, more efficient use of time, are workforce that can be distributed far and wide but still connected, innovation on the move.

But there is also a feeling that most businesses are only at the beginning of this journey. And the reason for that is, according to some analysts, most businesses are not yet joining up the dots – or rather, the tools – of how to link communication to collaboration effectively.

To date, cloud-based technology for the workplace has tended to evolve along two separate paths – you have your software for doing your job on the one hand, and your communication devices and networks and the other. But what if these two were more closely integrated? What if, for example, your VoIP and mobile phones were somehow linked to your file sharing and collaboration platforms, like Sharepoint or OwnCloud

Would it surprise you to hear that the technology to do that is already widely available?

The key here is broadband internet, and the Cloud. If you are using cloud-based collaboration tools, and a hosted VOIP service, say, you are already running your comms and productivity software over an internet connection. Merging these into a single streamlined service is not only logical, but simple to achieve.

Part of the reason communication and collaboration remain separated is cultural. Workers over the age of 30 are a phone being used to make phone calls and computers being used to do work, even if the phone does run on an IP server.

But services like Microsoft’s Sharepoint already allow you to do everything from one place. In Office 365 Online for Business, you share working documents in company OneDrive folders on the Cloud, edit and collaborate on them in real time using Office Online programmes, all whilst talking face to face on a video call on Skype for Business. You can even start a message thread about it of social network service Yammer.

Long term, the business case for unifying all operations, collaboration and communication, into single integrated platforms that can be accessed on any device at any time is hard to ignore. It will reduce costs and downtime, while boosting innovation and business continuity, with a workforce that is empowered to be involved in more and to work with greater flexibility.

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?

Is It Time to Transform Your Office?As more and more millennials enter the global workforce, businesses are faced with a generational split. Older staff are seeking to work later into life, and they are used to working in the same place each day. At the same time, younger employees expect more flexibility: they want to work from home, work varied hours, and bring their own devices to work.

In the face of this shift in working practice, we’re seeing the traditional office slowly changing shape at the same time. Desks may only be occupied for part of the week, as technologies like hosted desktops allow staff to work from practically any location. VOIP telephony lets people take their phone lines with them, and hosted Exchange is shrinking the on-premise data centre.

The office of the future will be a very different place, compared to the function it has served over the last 30 years.

Millennial Perks

Millennials are a generation that has grown up with the internet. They’re the people most likely to use instant messaging to talk with a team, or fire up video calls rather than attend meetings. Google and Facebook have led the way in redesigning their workplaces to better meet the needs of millennial staff, and SMEs can learn a lot from these initiatives.

Facebook has reinvented the humble vending machine, offering free keyboards and other peripherals at the touch of a button. Google provides free gyms, pool tables, launderettes and massages to retain its best staff and keep them happy. Of course, these perks have a secondary purpose: they drive productivity and loyalty, and blur the line between work and play.

Most businesses can’t afford to repurpose meeting rooms as ping pong halls, but that doesn’t mean that change has to be expensive. We’re seeing more businesses offer relatively small perks: free burritos, shopping discounts and bowling trips, as well as a general re-think of the way their office space is used.

Changing Ways of Working

If more of your staff are working remotely, you’re going to be sitting in a partly empty office for much of the day. Reducing desk space and repurposing it can offer better utilisation of space, increased productivity, and a workplace that is more in tune with the millennial way of working.

For example, some businesses are splitting off a corner of the office and turning it into a soundproof booth – perfect for morning scrums and video conferences. Many are doing away with cubicles and introducing large desks that bring teams together.

More common space, coffee shop zones and outdoor facilities help to keep people stimulated and happy at work.

Does the office really have to contain banks of computers, and a fixed seat for every person you hire? Not necessarily. Changing technologies mean we all have the freedom to rethink how our office space is used.

Technology That Works For You

If you’re bringing in technologies like cloud file storage and online collaboration, do you really need vast meeting rooms? As we embrace the hosted desktop, is there any need for the 9-5? Millennials are already moving into management positions, and they are reshaping the way our offices function, which is aiding productivity and innovation.

To find out more about the cloud could drive transformation in your workplace, speak to the experts at Cloud4 today. From a handful of hosted desktops to a full virtual PBX, our solutions are driving change in businesses.

3 Ways to Stop Business Interrupting the Holidays

The summer’s officially over, and the kids are going back to school. Whatever fun we had over summer is soon going to be a distant memory, and before long, the Christmas countdowns will begin. We had precious few summery days in 2015, and for many entrepreneurs, holidays had to make way for essential work.

It’s the same every year. For SMEs, family holidays never really mean true relaxation. Fortunately, cloud computing is helping more entrepreneurs enjoy the summer, while offering clients a good level of service. Here are five ways to find a better balance.

1. Turn Off the Smartphone

To an entrepreneur, the idea of disconnecting the phone lines is akin to commercial suicide. But as convenient as smartphones are, they are also responsible for keeping us connected to the world of work when we should be relaxing. Last year, the German labour minister Andrea Nahles looked at banning employees from checking emails at home, due to the risk of “psychological diseases”. While it’s not helpful to overstate the risks, there’s certainly an argument for giving yourself a break.

To contain risk, ditch the mobile number and use hosted VoIP. That way, you can give our a respectable geographical or non-geographical number, while routing calls to your smartphone or a softphone app. Using an IVR, you can direct callers to an answerphone greeting and voice mailbox, or have urgent requests forwarded through to your phone.

2. Take Your Desktop With You

Hosted desktops function in the same way as a regular desktop computer. When you log on, all of your applications are there; your files are stored in the right places, and authentication prevents anyone else logging in. Unlike a regular desktop, your hosted desktop can be accessed through a browser, so you can enjoy the familiarity of your work machine from practically any location.

Hosted desktops let you access work when you need to, without the hassle of carrying a laptop on holiday. If you really need to work, you can jump on to any computer in the hotel’s business suite, and pick up where you left off. If you’re not staying in a hotel, take a tablet PC, and use all of your usual software on a virtual version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.

3. Sync Your Files

If you get a sales enquiry when you’re lounging by the pool, hiking back to your room for the laptop is the last thing you’ll want to do. It makes more sense to sync important files to multiple devices so you always have a copy on hand.

Cloud4 has a cloud sync product that’s a holiday essential. MyOwnCloud is packed with business features, with all files hosted in the UK. Download the apps for your PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, then sign in to sync them together. Sharing is simple, and the service works offline, even when you don’t have a data connection.

Get Set Up Today

The summer may be over, but the Christmas period will be upon us before we know it. Get set up with Cloud4 now, and your next holiday will be all the more relaxing. For a free demonstration, or details of our offers, speak to a Cloud4 sales advisor today.

Can Mobile Working Save Your Business?

mobile business apps for productivityBy 2020, half of the world’s workers will be remote workers. That’s according to a survey at the Global Leadership Summit in London. Over the course of the next five years, we’re going to see some big changes. Not every business will keep pace; some will fail.

The global economic crisis continues to put financial pressure on companies, and smaller businesses are still finding it difficult to raise capital. Now more than ever, remote working could be the answer if your business is finding it hard to adapt.

Benefits of Working Remotely

Employees are looking for a good work-life balance, and that means changing the way they work. People don’t want to travel at rush hour with everybody else. They don’t want to put their kids into after-school clubs if they can avoid it. As the world’s best employers offer more flexible working, the world’s best employees will follow.

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin group, is a vocal supporter of flexible working, and says that remote access is making this easier. Virgin employees can take unlimited holiday leave, providing their productivity is not affected. That means taking time off when you’re not needed, and being around when you are. Richard himself works remotely from Necker Island, a career move that would have been unthinkable before the internet became so widespread.

While we can’t all work from a Caribbean beach, the benefits of remote working can be felt on a smaller scale when working from home. Freedom to choose when to work, where to work, and when to take breaks; the chance to get fresh air, spend more time with the family, or cut back the daily commute. Far from being less productive, remote workers get more rest, are more energised, and feel more connected with their home life, helping them achieve that work-life balance they so crave.

The company gets its share of the benefits too: a workforce willing to work, and staff that enjoy collaboration. Rather than forcing people to fit the company mould, giving them the tools they need to work anywhere means work will often ‘just happen’.

Make it a Reality

You don’t need to have complex infrastructure to let people work remotely. But you do need to invest in modern services that help keep people connected.

Here are some ways to free up your employees and let them work wherever they like:

  • To ensure everyone has access to the right software and data, purchase hosted desktops rather than a fleet of laptops
  • Issue everyone with a smartphone capable of 4G connection, plus a tablet that can be tethered to it
  • Use hosted Exchange email so that employees can access their messages from anywhere, free from the size restrictions of an on-premise Exchange mailbox
  • Invest in VoIP telephony, project management tools in the cloud, and use video conferencing in place of lengthy on-site meetings

All of these things are affordable to small businesses, helping to keep costs down and ensure the company stays competitive.

By kitting out the workforce with cloud services and relevant support, they can access company data in a secure, compliant and speedy manner, without a break in productivity or an increase in IT spend. The reality is this: if you don’t wise up to remote working, your business could be overtaken by the dynamic, youthful competitors just waiting to steal your thunder.

How the Cloud can help Business Start Up to succeed?

Cloud leads entrpeneurs to successIn the last couple of year more new start-up companies than ever have been formed young entrepreneurs and experienced professionals decide that they want to start a business of their own. But these entrepreneurs need technology to function like any other business, Continue reading How the Cloud can help Business Start Up to succeed?

Why businesses should choose Hosted Exchange over Office 365?

840428c5-5504-4130-9a81-732cec5e2743Both Hosted Exchange and Office 365 are synchronous collaboration suites developed by Microsoft that focus on email. They allow users to work remotely on a huge range of devices, such as Smartphones and tablets, PC’s and laptops anywhere at any time with various levels of support 24/7 when needed. Continue reading Why businesses should choose Hosted Exchange over Office 365?