During this crisis we’ve had people contact us about an easy way to setup and operate from home.  After talking, it is clear that there are a number of quick and inexpensive solutions to allow businesses to easily switch to a home based operation, with minimal disruption.

It’s important to realise that it’s not only email and computer access which is necessary to maintain operations.  Telephony access is equally important.  The ability to easily communicate between your staff, and more importantly your customers is paramount.  Unfortunately at this point in time, implementing an expensive and complex remote access system is not a viable option.

Below I’ve listed some solutions which are great workarounds to allow a business to quickly make the switch:

Use a softphone solution

Use of mobile phones is a quick and convenient solution, but staff using mobiles for potentially the next 6 months could cause expensive carrier charges at a time when you’re looking to reduce expenses.  Downloading apps like Microsoft Skype or Teams is a fast way to get your staff communicating again.

If you’re already using Office 365, Teams is already included.  Both Teams and Skype will provide you with basic voice, teleconferencing and chat facilities out of the box.  Teams does go a step further by offering a collaboration platform with file storage and web application integration.

The other benefit of using Skype and Teams over other solutions is that you can assign an external phone number.  This will give you the added benefit of forwarding your main office number to a staff member at home, so you can still answer customer enquiries.  The phone number can also be a local number which will keep expenses down compared to redirecting office lines to a mobile.

If you’re not subscribing to Office 365 already, Microsoft is offering a 6 month Trial to Teams for businesses up to 1000 seats. For more information about this offer, please contact me.

More info about teams can be found here – https://products.office.com/en-au/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software

Use a video conferencing system

During this time, face-to-face customer interaction is going to be non-existent.  Virtual meetings is going to be popular.  A convenient option is the use of a video conferencing solution that doesn’t require your customer to jump though a number of hoops to connect.  Teams provides the ability to invite a guest by scheduling a video meeting via the Calendar icon. However this does require the guest to have a Microsoft account, and it’s not overly intuitive.

As an alternative, I would recommend setting up a Virtual conference room like WhereBy (https://whereby.com/).  Whereby just requires the setting up of a room, and then guests can just click a link to connect.  Only requirement is the guest must use a supported browser – Chrome or Firefox.  Microsoft Edge will be supported shortly.  Guests can also download the WhereBy App on their phones which will make the process easier and avoid any troubleshooting issues with headsets and webcams.

Another alternative to WhereBy is Zoom (https://zoom.us/) which out of the box offers free 1:1 video meetings for up to 40 minutes.   Zoom does allow guests to connect via a simple registration process at the time of the meeting, however the zoom application will need to installed.  Similar to Whereby, a Zoom App is also available for mobile phones.

Use a remote accessing solution

Attempting to setup a secure remote solution for your staff is not easily achieved in a hurry.  The best solution at present is using Microsoft Office 365 with Sharepoint and 2FA security (a code sent to a mobile phone).  If you’re currently not using Office 365 or some other equivalent cloud storage offering, I would recommend using Teamviewer (https://www.teamviewer.com/en/).  Teamviewer is a quick solution if you store your business data on a local server or NAS.  Installing teamviewer on a PC in the office and then remoting into the PC will give you all the access you need, including access to line of business applications.

It’s important to note that the solutions listed above are temporary solutions to allow you to get setup quickly.  A more permanent solution would require better planning to ensure the most optimal solution is chosen based on your requirements.

If you would like to discuss any of the solutions further, please feel free to reach out to me, or any of the Axle Cloud staff.