With the rapid adoption of smart mobile devices, Cloud­based office productivity applications and fast, reliable connectivity, the concept of a ‘virtual office’ has now become very real. And increasingly, mission critical.

Today’s fast­paced knowledge workers demand efficient tools, mobility and always­on connectivity. Businesses are being pushed to adapt and embrace the requirements of the strong Bring­Your­Own Device (BYOD) preferences of this generation.

They want to be able to work efficiently from anywhere, at anytime. They want a virtual office that is seamless, accessible and ultimately gives them a competitive edge. Fortunately, the ever­expanding WiFi blanket and better connectivity is making this virtual office increasingly feasible. Technologies such as a Cloud PBX, for example, can enable mobile devices to seamlessly become office phones. In fact, Cloud­based applications are central to the virtual office environment.

While some businesses are ready to switch the majority of their business functions to the Cloud, others may prefer a staggered deployment or hybrid scenario ­ in which certain applications remain site­based and others move to the Cloud.

From an IT manager’s perspective, there are some important questions to ask when
transitioning to ‘virtual office’ set ups. For example, will the new Cloud­based tools work with existing site­based investments, or can they replace legacy applications in full?

Here are five key factors to consider when making the transition to a virtual office

  • Where do your vendors host? It is an expectation that Cloud services are hosted at a world­ class data centre environment, like Amazon or, if local, Teraco, IS and others.
  • Security: You will be relinquishing some control over your intellectual capital and will therefore have to trust your vendor with your data storage. Ask them about the measures they have in place to ensure the security and privacy of your data. Can they disclose the physical location of where your data will reside, are they compliant and how do they minimise legal risk? Their transparency in terms of data security and privacy will be a good indication of what the customer/vendor relationship will look like.
  • Continuity: Ensure that the SLA includes a business continuity plan in the event of a disaster or downtime. It needs to stipulate how the vendor will backup your data and get you back online.
  • Scalability: Determine whether the tools and applications are scalable to meet your changing needs. Ask the vendor if you’ll be able to select the tools you require or whether you will have to purchase the whole product suite? Consider the costs of the applications, their lifecycle and whether there’s a cost attached to gaining more capacity.
  • Support: The SLA needs to cover the extent of support the vendor will be providing and their availability around the clock and in real time.