By Christina Johnson
Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or you count your small business among the more than 50 percent that are home-based, if you’ve sent an email, you’ve participated in a virtual office function.
It’s just that easy, but it’s not that limited. The “virtual” reality for today’s small business owner is that you can perform many time/money-saving business tasks anywhere, any time. And, typically, you can run your business more efficiently and effectively with Web-based tools than with than traditional methods.
With a virtual office, you can work from anywhere with an Internet connection and collaborate with clients or employees instantly, without having to be in the same proximity. You could be on the beach working on the same document your co-worker is editing in a coffee shop half a world away.
Getting ‘N Sync with Business-Class Email
Did a group of Florida boy-boppers in the mid-'90’s realize how essential being ‘n sync would be to the world 20 years later? Probably not, but there are several ways synchronization is making doing business easier–even for those of us who don’t have the hair and fierce dance moves to compete.
Just about everyone these days uses email, but many aren’t aware there are differences in email that can make communication with customers and employees easier and more comprehensive. Business-class email offers a wealth of synergistic solutions.
Because people retrieve their email from so many different places — laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, for example — the ability to synchronize the exchange of information among devices is essential. Email synchronization used to depend on having an IMAP email account to duplicate changes made using one device or client to all products when the next scheduled sync update occurs. Quickly emerging as the new standard, however, is cloud technology.
Working in the Cloud
Being “in the Cloud” means you don’t have to wait for your products to update to synchronize because all changes made are made in one location, the Cloud. No matter how you retrieve your information, you can rest assured you’re getting the most up-to-date version of it.
Check out a few ways cloud-based products and services can save you time, money and headaches:
Virtual storage and file sharing. This virtual product allows you to securely save documents you want to share with specific users on any device of their choice. Instead of saving work on your hard drive, you save it on a Web-based platform, like Microsoft’s OneDrive™ or Google Drive™. Voila! Access wherever you are. You can share uploaded files — text, photos, videos, etc. — with others to whom you grant access, without the size limitations or security risks of email.
Additionally, you save time when your intended recipients can access your documents on their own rather than creating a new email for each revision. You’ll also find the convenience invaluable when you need to review a document and you only have your mobile phone available.
Virtual calendars. That same convenience is also available for scheduling and planning your time using a virtual calendar. Your “assistant” can see if you have time available for a client meeting and schedule it before you allocate that time somewhere else. You can set appointments for your employees, and even allow access to clients so they may schedule meetings at their convenience.
These synchronized products can be purchased individually but are more affordable (and sometimes free) when you buy them in a bundle.
Virtual Bookkeeping. Don’t overlook this incredible virtual tool that is designed to eliminate myriad headaches and synchronize many of the tedious functions required of business owners. Information is networked between banking, inventory, business expenses and sales to provide profit and loss statements, create invoices and even keep track of billable time.
Product options vary between manufacturers but a few popular products include QuickBooks™, Harvest, and GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping — which additionally can accept customer credit card and PayPal® payments and includes a pre-populated Schedule C, featuring estimated and sales tax due.
While these products and services might sound too good to be true, it’s a “virtual” reality that they do exist and are available as affordable tools for small business owners.
About the Author:
A small business consultant for GoDaddy, Christina Johnson has been writing freelance for newspapers, community magazines and various trade journals for over 20 years. Her specialties include community-oriented events and history, especially focusing on women’s roles. Connect with Christina on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.