Using web-based tech to keep your business afloat
With floodwater still rising across the UK and major transport disruption seeing many stranded execs trying to trouble-shoot from train carriages, the importance of staying geographically independent (and reliably backed-up) is really coming to the fore. Companies of all sizes have, in recent years, been turning to online hosted applications - from word processors to video conferencing and call centre dialer technology - that inherently back-up documents, provide easy synchronisation and contingency, and allow you and your workforce to access your infrastructure from wherever they are - or, at least, wherever there’s a web connection.
Adequate version-control is crucial when you’re collaborating on a project, even across a local network, and especially when you’re not working in the same office as your collaborators.
Version control means that several of you can work on the same document, piece of code -or whatever - simultaneously, and when it’s saved back to the server you’ll receive messages about any conflicts, changes made and what’s been updated. Most applications will also store, number and list previous versions of the project, so you can easily restore if mistakes are made.
This facility also permits a little more creative freedom - you feel more comfortable with taking tangents, knowing you still have “the good version” on file. Look for solutions that offer version control as standard - if they don’t, they’re not really keeping up with the Joneses.
Flexibility makes its easier to adapt to demand, which makes survival more likely. It certainly minimises loss. Renting off-site capacity, be it server space, telephony or accountants, has so many benefits: automatic contingency, with less worry about what might happen to the operation if something bad happens on site; the aforementioned scalability, with the option to rent more or less capacity when needed; and financial flexibility, with pay per month and PAYG options becoming the norm, compared to to annual contracts or the cost of investing in lots of equipment. Look for flexible payment plans and facilities that are hosted in multiple physical locations.
This is still the stuff of dreams for most people, which is possibly why nobody’s come up with a catchier way of describing it, but being able to work from multiple locations is efficient. Whether it’s a work/life thing, an international workforce or unavoidable travel, being able to log on to work instead of driving there definitely feels like a step in the right direction.
Although it’s unlikely that everyone will be working from home in the near future - at least until the 3D printer becomes a household standard - it’s increasingly easy to run a business without premises, especially if the services offered are web or phone based. Project management apps and freebies like Google Hangout help maintain a group mindset and working atmosphere. Look for a solution with a self-explanatory interface that staff can pick up easily - there’s nothing like tech-fear (’computers just don’t like me!’) to stand in the way of implementing that efficient new process.
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