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The Virtual Office

Ctrl-Alt-Del ® IT Consultancy employs a carefully selected group of highly trained professionals to assist business in building a flexible, mobile workforce that caters for the valued staff member, no matter what the situation. The Virtual Office allows parents on Paternity leave and people with special circumstances to have access to applications, information, processes and people on any device, over any network, anywhere, anytime.

Ctrl-Alt-Del ® IT Consultancy has a proven track record of integrating Virtual Office technology into financial institutions, food production companies, academic organizations and industrial manufacturing. Contact us today to learn how your business can benefit from quality solutions installed by professionals who get it right first time.

The following article from The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants website, offers more on the Virtual Office:

2004 Top Technology #8 - The Virtual Office

By Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA/CITP, Phoenix, Arizona, Copyright © 2004 by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc., New York, New York.

Source: http://www.aicpa.org/infotech/technologies/toptechs/2004/2004_8.htm

2004 marks the year where Virtual Office technologies regain prominence within the AICPAs Top Technologies list. The virtual office is defined as the technologies, processes and services that allow personnel to work effectively, either individually or with others, regardless of physical location. As the cost of virtual office technologies comes down and the benefits of working in this environment increase, more and more businesses will provide this opportunity to their personnel.

There are a number of benefits for companies who are considering allowing employees to work virtually:

  • productivity increases when individuals work uninterrupted and focused often difficult to do in a traditional office environment;
  • individuals who work remotely tend to become more computer literate, because they resolve issues on their own; and
  • working virtually promotes flextime that allows employees to work when they are personally most productive. Allowing a tax person to go home and work after his or her children go to bed, or having an auditor complete a project and respond to e-mail in the morning prior to coming into the office (while avoiding rush hour traffic), benefits the company and employee.

To ensure success of a virtual office program, companies must promote the right environment. The first step is selecting individuals that require minimal supervision, have disciplined work habits and good technical skills. Next, those individuals must have a favorable work environment that minimizes domestic impact usually a separate room configured with the right equipment to be productive (computer, printer, phone and Internet access). Companies also must develop policies and guidelines to address issues of security, data backup, accessing technical support, required insurance and any local zoning restrictions that may limit success of the program.

One of the primary technological reasons the virtual office is more viable than ever is the advent of almost ubiquitous bandwidth replacing dial-up connections. Broadband or high-speed Internet access, such as cable or DSL, is available in virtually every community today, and costs are lower than ever. This additional bandwidth provides effective performance for running Windows applications remotely and allows for secured (encrypted) sessions. Note that while some applications may work over a dial-up connection, the majority of accounting and business applications require significantly more speed. Companies relying solely on dial-up connections should limit applications to those requiring minimal overhead. In these cases, the virtual employee becomes frustrated and the use of the environment diminishes.

Access technologies are also another primary reason that the virtual office is thriving. Tools, including Citrix, Microsoft Windows Terminal Server, virtual private networks and remote control applications, are commonplace, allowing companies cost-effective options tailored to their specific needs. For an individual user connecting to his or her office computer, remote control applications managed by the company, such as PCAnywhere or Laplink, are effective if adequate bandwidth is available.

In order to provide access to a larger number of users and more intensive programs (such as tax or practice management), a more robust solution like a dedicated application server is required a case in which Citrix or Windows Terminal Server come into play. Virtual private networks (VPNs) also can be set up to allow individuals outside the office to work remotely, but note that bandwidth requirements for VPN technology must be carefully evaluated; VPNs set up a secured information tunnel to the company that encrypts the information and increases bandwidth requirements.

In addition to these internally managed solutions, an increasing number of Web-based solutions promoting the virtual office concept now exist. For remote control, an application service provider (ASP) such as GoToMyPC outsources the technical side of the equation to a third party. There also are ASPs that outsource specific functions within a company that can be accessed by any Internet-connected computer. For example, accounting ASPs would include sites such as Intacct, Intuit and NetLedger or data archival ASPs with Immediatech, Xdrive or Iomega. There also are sites like Creative Solutions virtual office in the accounting arena that allow firms to outsource their entire network infrastructure. In the future, it is anticipated that more applications will go toward an ASP model as the cost decreases and security increases, further promoting the virtual office.

As companies look for more ways to improve productivity and better manage costs, the virtual office environment will be one of the most popular solutions considered. Todays hardware, network infrastructure and virtual office applications make this more viable than ever. Evaluate the virtual office today; your company and your people will be glad you did.

More Information

  • Citrix has popular solutions for enabling remote connectivity over dial-up or Internet access.
  • GoToMyPC is an effective solution to allow individuals to safely and securely connect to a specific computer in another location.
  • LapLink Gold has long been a popular application to connect to a pc either through a cable, dial-up, Internet or VPN connection.
  • Microsoft Terminal Services is another popular tool for extending access to business applications from outside the enterprise.
  • pcAnywhere is one of the more popular remote control applications that allow individuals to connect remotely to a home or business PC.
  • VNC-Virtual Network Computing is a free application developed by AT&T and is a remote display system that allows you to view and work on one computer's desktop using a different computer and platform from anywhere on the Internet.

About the Author: Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA/CITP is president of InfoTech Partners North America, Inc. which consults exclusively with CPA firms to optimize the use of technology within their tax, audit, client service, and administrative departments. Contact him at roman@itpna.com.

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The AICPA Top 10 Technologies 2004 initiative was sponsored by the AICPAs Information Technology Professionals (CPA/CITPs). For more information on the AICPAs Technology Initiatives, refer to the following sections of this site: AICPA Top 10 Technologies, the CITP Credential, and the IT Membership Section.