Opinion & Analysis
OPINION: So you're looking forward to your Christmas holiday but work pressures, deadlines and commitments to customers could get in the way of total relaxation.
There is technology that can help you to stay away for longer and more easily keep on top of your business commitments from afar.
Regardless of whether you're working on holiday or not, the key mantra when making technology selections for any size business - is "Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device". This will typically mean using applications like email and intranet via your web browser or as a mobile app, rather than relying on software installed on your desktop. It also means that these applications are accessible over the Internet, not just when you're in the office.
This is important because it means you can use whatever device you have at hand when you're away - your in-law's PC or the tablet you bought the kids for Christmas. By consuming applications through the web-browser you're freed from being on a specific device. Email and office productivity tools can now all be consumed via the web - be it Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365.
Contrary to what some believe, most of these modern web applications do also work offline for at least basic functionality. This means a constant Internet connection isn't required if you're writing a document or working with a spreadsheet you can work when it suits you and not when the internet is available.
If you're wanting to collaborate face-to-face then multi-party video conferencing is a great way to have that visual contact without having to leave the comfort of your deck chair. Solutions like Skype and Google Hangouts work across a range of devices - and the performance over mobile data is better than you'd think. If looking at your workmates isn't key, then being online with Instant Messaging / Chat is a great way to answer quick questions and avoid having to log into email when you're on the run or away from a computer.
To really free yourself from your physical office the best step is to make the move to paperless business processes. Coming back home to post out invoices and pay suppliers is no longer a necessity. Cloud-based accounting and CRM packages like Xero, Salesforce and NetSuite all empower you to turn your paper processes into electronic ones. This means you can not only work remotely, but also shorten and simplify the "Invoice to cash" process. Automation can also let you make all this happen without you even logging on - payment reminders or statement generation which are pre-programmed before you go on holiday all occur without any human intervention.
All of the above assumes you've got Internet access - it's really a necessity if you want to be productive. There are some great mobile data deals out there - and many telecommunication providers offer "shared data" packages that mean you can have a 3GB plan and share it across all your devices and other members of your family. Great for letting the kids keep connected on holiday or downloading movies to enjoy in your downtime.
If you know you're going to be away, it pays to look at increasing your monthly base data allowance or buying bundles of data in advance rather than paying casual overage rates. Beyond wiring your bach for Internet, or using your mobile data plan - your other options are settling down in a cafe with free WiFi or finding a Telecom phone box which should offer you free or low cost WiFi.
Making changes to allow you to work Anywhere, Anytime and on Any Device also means you have some key parts of a disaster recovery plan in place.
The Christchurch earthquakes, and even the more recent Seddon ones, have highlighted how important it is to be able to run your business from a different location. So, why not take some risk out of your business, and some stress out of your life with an extended break, and run your business from wherever you are?
James Valentine is Fronde Chief Technology Officer. He has over 12 years' experience in senior technology roles. and has a Bachelor of Technology degree from Massey University in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology.
- Fairfax Media