Small & Medium Business

The Basics of Working from Anywhere

The Basics of Working from Anywhere

Where will you conduct business today? Chances are that you, your colleagues, or your employees will spend time out of the office. These days, it's not necessary to spend eight hours in the office to put in a full-day's work.

How Things Will Change: Work When and Where You Want
Things to Consider: Access, Security, and Flexibility
Down the Road: More Ways to Be Efficient
Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner about This Solution

How Things Will Change: Work When and Where You Want

Imagine if you had full, secure access to all your business data, applications, and resources from anywhere, on any device, and at any time. Many small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners already do. They've extended their office networks to allow themselves, their colleagues, and employees to work from anywhere they happen to be.

Cisco SMB Solutions enable easy access to your company's business data, phone system, applications, and resources via secure, wired, wireless, and fast Internet connections. Cisco offers a range of SMB solutions that help ensure:

  • Employees will stay securely connected to the office and to each other. Cisco SMB Solutions enable workers to securely access the network from anyplace in the office. You can also allow employees to work from home, at a customer site, even the airport, which helps them turn potential downtime into productive time.
  • You'll have important company information at your fingertips, wherever it's needed. Employees can be anywhere while helping a customer and still retain full access to the company network. Your mobile sales force can access confidential company information, such as customer records, while at a customer's site. They can provide immediate sales quotes, inventory updates, and customer service on the spot.
  • Office visitors can get connected. Enable visitors such as contractors, customers, and vendors access the Internet, while you keep your network and data secure.
  • Your workforce will make decisions faster. The ability to work from anywhere helps your people stay in touch anytime, so they can react quickly to urgent matters. Fact: 93% of all businesses have missed deadlines or experienced project delays because high-level executives were inaccessible, according to a Sage Research study.

Adding voice and conferencing capabilities to your network will bring about other important changes to your business:

  • Witness an end to "phone tag." By setting up phone numbers to ring simultaneously on multiple devices (such as an office, home office, and wireless phone), you can reduce the number of opportunities lost by missed phone calls. In addition, customer calls can be routed automatically to available employees, regardless of where they might be. Employees can also check all their messages – voice, e-mail, and fax – in one simple-to-use browser-based window.

    In addition, with ‘presence' applications (which provide real-time status of who's available online) and instant messaging, employees can see who's online, on the phone, available or not, and the best way to reach anyone at any moment.

    The result? A reduction in voicemail and unanswered phone calls enables your business to operate more efficiently and helps ensure that important calls are handled quickly.
  • Serve your customers better. Improve your customer service by handling calls promptly. Because voice calls can be quickly routed over the network, customers can reach the right people at your company, wherever they may be located.
  • Give new meaning to the word "meeting." Because everyone can stay connected, you can bring the right people together, even if they happen to be out of the office. Use conferencing solutions such as WebEx and you can add voice and video conferencing as well as application sharing into each meeting.

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Things to Consider: Access, Security, and Flexibility

Here are some things to consider when choosing Cisco SMB Solutions that enable you and your colleagues to work from anywhere.

Adding a VPN and firewall enables the security you need. The technology behind remote access is called a "virtual private network," or "VPN," and it establishes a private, secure network connection over a public network, such as the Internet.

VPNs use secure firewalls and well-tested security measures at every network point of entry, to help stop worms, spyware, or hackers from attempting to disrupt your business network or steal sensitive information.

Here's the beauty of a VPN: Once it's installed, you can add as many employees in as many places as you need. You don't have to worry about expensive provisioning in each branch offices store or site; a PC and an Internet connection will do the trick. The VPN software handles all security and user authentication.

There are several types of VPNs from which to choose. Cisco Certified Partners can help you evaluate your business requirements and present the most appropriate solution for your business needs today and provide a growth path that will meet your business needs tomorrow.

Even on the road, your data is safe. With a VPN, you're essentially creating a secure private network, or "tunnel," over the Internet. This way, only valid users can access the VPN, and then only by using industry-proven methods of user authentication.

Meanwhile, strong encryption technologies, which translate information into a secret code, help ensure the data is unintelligible to anyone attempting to intercept VPN communications—even over Wi-Fi networks.

You'll lower networking costs. Because a VPN provides a direct link to your business network, you don't necessarily have to install network equipment at each office or location in your business. A computer and Internet-connection can be all you need to access information, applications, and resources if working remotely.

Your phone and conferencing system is available to those who may need it the most: remote and mobile employees. Cisco SMB Solutions for voice and conferencing on a data network enable you to communicate easily and meaningfully with out-of-the-office workers, partners, suppliers, customers, and others.

You can expand your recruitment reach. With this kind of flexibility, you can attract and retain employees from any geographic region. You can hire executives or professionals with special skills wherever they live and have them join the company network quickly and easily. According to several human resources studies work/life benefits, such as teleworking and flex time, are among the most valued benefits a company can offer.

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Down the Road: More Ways to Be Efficient

Is your business growing? You can have a new location or employee up and running in the amount of time it takes to flip open a laptop computer and connect to the Internet.

You can even let your partners and customers tap into your network resources on their computers without worrying about security breeches.

Cisco SMB Solutions provide the foundation you need to extend your network in the future. You'll be able to take advantage of wireless networking, advanced communications (such as video conferencing) and other technologies when you need them. For example:

  • Improve your just-in-time supply and inventory management with wireless access to databases from the shop or warehouse floor. Employees can use handheld bar code readers to track packages, inventory, and supplies.
  • Set up kiosks in retail locations so customers can browse your catalog or service offering, check item availability, or select color and size choices. You can even provide additional information, such as indicating which items are available by mail order or are available in other store locations.
  • Speed delivery and reduce delivery errors by allowing delivery vehicle personnel to access the company database for updated delivery and customer information from their vehicles.
  • Extend your telephone and Web customer service hours cost-efficiently by hiring customer service reps who can work from home—which reduces costly office space and allows you to have workers located in multiple time zones.
  • Enhance customer service by integrating an IP communications system with a customer-relationship management (CRM) system. Your employees will immediately have access to important information about a customer, displayed on an IP phone or computer screen the moment a customer calls.

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Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner about This Solution

Here are five popular questions for partners who offer Cisco SMB Solutions:

  1. Do you specialize in working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Cisco has a network of certified partners who specifically focus on providing technology solutions and support to SMBs. Many of these partners are SMBs themselves, so they understand the business challenges you face and the goals you have in mind. Cisco certified partners have proven their qualifications in specialized technologies. They have the training, support, and services to design, deploy, and optimize networking solutions for your business. They also stay up to date on the latest software and hardware changes as well as upcoming Cisco products and solutions.
  2. What do I need to add to my network? A Cisco partner can discuss your business requirements and evaluate your current systems and network infrastructure. From there, a Cisco Partner can present solution options that will meet your needs today, grow with your business over time, and fit within your budget requirements.
  3. How can I minimize my overall costs? An end-to-end solution from Cisco is easier to maintain and support than a piecemeal, multi-vendor solution. Also, when budgeting for network enhancements, always take into account the cost of any software not included with your hardware purchases; maintenance; training; support; additional staff (if needed); and other factors. Research firm Gartner estimates such indirect costs account for up to 60% of an organization's total technology expenditures. As a result, by working with your Cisco partner, you can achieve the best possible TCO.
  4. What happens if there's a problem? Ask your partner detailed questions about the support he or she can offer after the sale. For example: Does the partner offer after-hours or emergency support? If so, during what hours is that support available? The specific support levels offered should be detailed in a service level agreement (SLA).

    Also, keep in mind many Cisco partners offer award-winning technical support service that offers anytime access to Cisco engineers and an extensive range of technical resources.
  5. What do we need to do to prepare? Before the installation, ask your partner what information—about your network, users, business procedures, and security requirements — he or she needs from you to make the network upgrade go as smoothly as possible. Also ask your partner what are the common oversights or challenges businesses like yours face when upgrading their networks, and how you should prepare for them.

Questions?

Contact a Cisco partner to learn more and get exactly what you need.

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