Welcome to the world of the virtual office, the ultimate definition of ‘open plan’. A place not restricted by the number of square metres you can afford, in fact you can fit as many people as you want inside it, even when they’re thousands of miles apart.
But how does a virtual office work in reality and how can it improve productivity and the bottom line?
That’s something we’ve been wanting to explore in more detail, and have spent time with Matthew Stibbe, CEO of Articulate Marketing to find out.
Matthew uses Dropbox Business to power an office-less business, and according to him, building it in the cloud’s saved him £8,000 on server needs and freed up his time to invest more in his company. And it’s not just about money and time, it’s opened up a huge new pool of creative talent:
“Being able to operate solely in the cloud means that we offer a full virtual working environment, and in turn means we have a very large talent pool. We can pick people from anywhere in the world."
In this blog Matthew discusses how building a cloud-based infrastructure has saved money, made files more secure and increased the company’s talent pool.
Flexibility and Security
Having grown extremely quickly, by serving the content marketing needs for companies such as HP, LinkedIn, Symantec and Microsoft, we decided to put further emphasis on process, structure and scalability. Having a physical, on premise server was a frustrating and inefficient way of conducting file management because all of our employees needed (and continue to need) a virtual private network.
Nowadays, we write about virtual and remote working – you can check out our Tom Hanks guide to remote working piece here – and, we’re well placed to offer this advice because we practice what we preach.
We are an entirely virtual team; we have staff all over England, several in Scotland and even one in Australia. There's no physical office so we needed to implement a system that could work practically, on a day-to-day basis, across different regions and time zones.
When we first adopted the virtual office environment, we also implemented a ‘bring your own device’ policy for computers. This meant we were unsure what devices employees would be using, so we had to adopt an agile file sharing service that worked seamlessly across all devices and operating systems. Dropbox Business was the obvious choice.
Deploying Google Authenticator and Office 365 to accompany Dropbox Business also meant we had further security and a reliable, user friendly email client. These three solutions have made having a virtual office feasible, and the addition of Dropbox Paper allows us to create real-time changes to documents and lists. Our ‘Weekly standup’ document for example lists everybody’s writing assignments; everyone can access the document, update it as they complete tasks, and we use it on our planning calls to allocate work.
Moving to the cloud has also completely eliminated the need to manage a server and has made our virtual office environment more collaborative; we use Office 365 to create documents together, regardless of location. And, the day-to-day sharing of very large files with people, and the requesting of large files from clients, is now seamless. Gone are the days of File Transfer Protocol (FTP)!
One thing we do need to be able to do however, is lock down all that information should employees lose a device or have it stolen. Dropbox Business gives us that extra management capability without us having to install devices or put management agents on employees’ computers.
Every little helps
As a business we have saved roughly £8,000 on not buying a new server, which has allowed me to invest in other areas of the business. But more important than money, I have been able to invest more time in the business, employees and clients. We have various points of contact inside the multi-national organisations we represent and having access to shared folders, that ensure we’re all working from the same file version, really speeds up the workflow.
By moving to the cloud from on premise, I have saved approximately a year’s worth of work time as there is no down time from tinkering around with servers and no technical support requirement, which is fairly stressful! Being able to operate solely in the cloud, means that we offer a full virtual working environment, and in turn means we have a very large talent pool. We can pick people from anywhere in the world.
With a clear vision of how you want your business to operate, it’s possible to breakdown the traditional barriers of office life, and transform your business.