And if you want remote access — You NEED a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If you are thinking of cutting costs, offering remote access may not be the first thing that comes to mind. It may even seem counter-intuitive to add a service to cut costs. However adding remote access to your network not only increases productivity by allowing employees to work when they are not in the office, it also allows you to cut costs by reducing real estate requirements and even allowing you to use more contract workers which can mean a reduction in benefit costs.
It’s no secret that people like to work at home. I work at home. I love working at home. I have zero commute, I put less that 5,000 miles on my car last year; I don’t have dry cleaning expenses and, sometimes, yes it’s true; I work in my PJs. Some jobs necessitate that employees are in the office and but there’s more room for creativity than you may think. I once stayed in a hotel where the long-time concierge had to move for family reasons. Rather than let her go, the hotel set up a video conference solution for her. She could do everything from home even printing reservations and directions for guests who loved the novelty of the situation and also were impressed by her vast knowledge of the city. Had the hotel not made this arrangement, they would have lost her expertise.
What is a secret about remote access (shh, let’s keep this between us) is that remote workers cost less! My director’s budget is charged for every cube in her department. Not mine though. I don’t run up cell phone costs traveling between buildings. My **** never leaves my seat, so my co-workers can always reach me. Even if your company budget isn’t as prickly as issuing department charge-backs for office space, you still need to pay for facility space. My company doesn’t pay for my copy paper, paperclips, printer, office furniture and so on. I don’t call in sick to work, I don’t miss work due to inclement weather and I’m never late because of traffic. (though things can get pretty intense around the espresso machine if my husband and I are there at the same time). Right now over 34 million people work remotely for at least part of their jobs according to Forrester Research, by 2016 over 43% of U.S. workers will be telecommuters.
OK, so telecommuters aren’t drinking your coffee, using the washroom, or stealing paperclips, how does all that add up in savings? According to the Telework Research Network a teleworker saves the average company $10,000 per year (they have a customizable savings calculator on their site). And the employee saves anywhere between $1,800 and $6,000 per year in commuting expenses. One of our customers, Chorus, eliminated all office space by going completely remote. This saved them $400,000 per year in office space. They also saw an improvement in customer service, employees working from home were more efficient. As Rick Boyd, vice president of infrastructure for Chorus said “When you take the commute out of the day, people work longer but are happier.”
What is a VPN?
As part of a small business security solution, A VPN sets up a private Internet (IP) connection that uses encryption and authentication to protect the communications traversing it. Acting like private and exclusive tunnels from one place to another, VPNs extend your business to wherever it needs to go: home or satellite offices, shared workspaces, coffeehouses, or anywhere else your workers use their laptops, PCs, or IP phones. These private tunnels protect your data to ensure that it’s secure.
How much does a VPN solution cost?
I posed this question to Ryan Halper, CEO of Cynnex Solutions, a Cisco Select Partner in Seattle, WA that specializes in small business solutions. He told me that there are several factors to consider such as the number of VPN users [Remote Workers], the degree of redundancy (the backup technology), the type of connectivity (data, video, and/or voice services; software or always-on hardware solutions), and the network security hardware already in place. He says that many companies start with basic systems and then later upgrade to solutions that include redundancy and voice service.
I asked Ryan to be more specific and he told me that it’s not as expensive as you might think.
- For a company that has a few dozen users and has a VPN device such as a Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance in place licensing would roughly run $80 to $120 per user
- If you need to purchase a device a Cisco ASA 5505 would be about $1000 for 10 users
If you can save $10,000 a year per teleworker that’s a really great investment! Now, how many of your employees and contractors could perform their work remotely? How much will this save your business in overhead expenses? A Cisco partner can help you select the VPN solution that’s right for you.
Tags: remote access, small business, small business network security, telecommute, vpn
An optional service package can protect your technology investment and keep your network running
It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: A much relied upon appliance or electronic device dies the day after the warranty expires. Although annoying and frustrating, you can live a day or more without your TV, iPod, or dishwasher.
When you’re a small business, though, your network is your lifeline—it connects you to your community of customers, partners, and suppliers. Having your network go down because a key component (such as a switch, router, or storage device) has failed can cost you in lost revenue and customers as well as the price to replace the faulty equipment. By some estimates , the average financial loss due to network downtime costs companies 3.6% of their gross annual revenue.
Often, the product warranty just isn’t enough. That’s where a service plan comes in. These optional packages provide investment protection for your network and will keep it—and your business—up and running. This can be especially beneficial for small businesses that have limited or no in-house technical support.
Service packages vary in term length, coverage, and cost. Here are some things to look for when comparing plans:
Hardware replacement: When a network component fails, you want the fastest replacement possible. Look for a service plan that will deliver a replacement product the next day, at the very least; or, even better, within hours.
Software updates: Getting the latest upgrades and bug fixes keep your network devices performing at their best and reduces the risk of potential problems.
Multiple support channels: Choose a plan that provides more than one way to get the help you need, such as online chat, phone support, and a support community forum or knowledgebase.
A plan should provide comprehensive service so you get the most value from your technology investment. A service plan that keeps your network running smoothly, like Cisco Small Business Support Service, will help save you money, make employees more productive, and allow them to better serve your customers—ultimately, making your business more competitive.
What’s your experience with service plans? Share your advice with other small businesses here.
Tags: investment protection, small business, small business services, warranty
I spoke at PubCon earlier this week on the topic of social media, press relations and brand management. Judging by the well attended conference and the flurry of activity, social media shows no sign of slowing down. It may evolve and we may call it something different, but the idea that everything is connected – a networked economy if you will – is here to stay. We’ve all heard of the great case studies of social media success for consumer brands (large and small) and certainly personal brands, but what about for small businesses?
I recently had a conversation with the Small Business Solutions Marketing Group at Cisco to understand how they used social media to gain mindshare and drive product development, and am pleased to hear their great progress and success. Since the group started incorporating social media into their marketing efforts targeted at resellers and small business owners last year, they’ve seen great return including an approximate 200% increase in community growth across their external social channels.
How was this achieved? Marketing Manager, Jeanne Quinn, outlined the following four crucial steps:
1) Listening: Leveraging various social media listening tools, the group was able to identify their audience segment on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, they were able to assess the audience’s user behavior and information needs in these social networks.
2) Content Development: Based on the audience profiles and user behavior, they developed content that met the needs of their audience including how-to tips, product reviews and basic technology explanations.
3) Amplification: The content was then amplified across their Twitter and Facebook channels.
4) Engagement: Through their social channels, the team responded to feedback from their community and also participated in existing conversations from third party blogs and social networks.
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Tags: Content Development, engagement, Listening, small business, social media
Sites like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to promote your small business, but they also present some risks
There aren’t many Hollywood Movies that I get excited about, but I’ll admit that “The Social Network“, the movie about how Facebook got started, is one I’m looking forward to seeing. Facebook has enabled me to find long-lost friends and to keep in touch with relatives who are scattered around the country. But the use of Facebook also has its dark side.
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Tags: facebook, security, security report, small business, social media, threats
Share knowledge and expand your company’s reach with collaboration tools
This article is a follow-up to my last article, The Secrets to Attracting Business Online. Once again, small business expert Guy Kawasaki has tips for small business owner Ronald Banks, but this time the topic is collaboration tools.
Companies of all sizes increasingly are looking to technology-based business collaboration tools to communicate more efficiently and effectively with co-workers and clients.
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Tags: best practices, business advice, collaboration, small business, videoconferencing