Since last October I've been living the life of a Global Nomad, learning more about what works and what's best for people who need more than just email and voice mail. As a home office-based business owner, with 20 virtual team members across the USA and a client base that spans from Israel to Sydney Australia, knowing how to work virtually and successfully has led to some of the best of breed companies becoming our clients because we don't just "talk the talk," we actually "walk the walk," every day.
Basically, I've built the company (and am now rebuilding my house) by being the executive who works anywhere but the traditional office, allowing for a business lifestyle that is highly productive, and mostly more effortless than many people would ever imagine. For example right now I'm in Europe, floating between Lisbon, Portugal, Barcelona, Paris and London over a two-week period. After that I’ll be on the East Coast, the West Coast, back to the East Coast, into the Midwest, all before August 9, when I finally move back into my house. Along the way I’m staying in very business executive work-friendly and amazingly artistic, modern and well run hotels, all of which offer very high-quality Internet and many of the comforts and services a business traveler needs.
How do I do this? By using the technology my agency's clients offer and those of others many of us use every day.
Staying Connected Professionally
1. Covad-The nation's most established CLEC with service in 42 states, offers business the kind of bandwidth they really need to operate. There's a big difference between DSL from the local telco or a cable modem vs. a T1 or higher speed connection from Covad. The point about the bandwidth and reliable data connectivity that is business grade never really came out. http://www.covad.com/
For example right now I can check on my house via a web cam connected to the Covad Bonded T1 in my home office. That is made possibly by SightSpeed and from here in Lisbon I can "watch" the house. This business grade platform is far different than a regular DSL or cable modem, and while not as fast, provides stability and a one hop connection to the backbone of the Internet.
When It Needs To Be More Than Just You
2. SightSpeed-the best of breed multi-platform video communications company recently launched nine-way video conferencing for their SightSpeed for Business customers. This new capability provides small business with the kind of collaboration that makes virtual work as good as being face to face. With pricing every business person can afford, this drops the floor out from under the big and expensive room-oriented video conference services from Polycom, Tandberg and LifeSize. The big advantage though is it works just as well on laptops. I'm currently using SightSpeed on the road on a daily basis to talk with my team and even working with my General Contractor as the home office gets renovated and expanded. http://www.sightspeed.com/
With gas prices soaring, travel options being cut back by businesses and airlines now reducing flights the issue of business travel becomes a big deal. SightSpeed is the quick and easy solution that's far less costly than room based solutions or a round trip ticket.
3. HiDef Conferencing from VAPPS. Imagine sounding like everyone is in the same room on a conference call. That's the way Vapps makes it with their HiDef conferencing platform. From Skype, with one click you're in the "room." Others can call in from anywhere with direct dial long distance numbers and toll free 800 numbers. http://www.hidefconferencing.com/
VAPPs offering levels the playing field in audio conferencing. Beyond their own branded service, VAPPs is also supplying companies like AutoZone and Skype with their company conferencing platforms. These companies realize that the higher definition audio makes a big difference in attention and participation.
When You Need a Big Time Phone System, But Don’t Need The Big Bill
4. PhoneFusion-Who needs to have multiple phone numbers, when one will do? Some people like to use GrandCentral which I also use, but I need more and what is currently available from the telcos pales in comparison to what PhoneFusion offers. They have MeetMe conferencing, Call Record (which is great for sales people), multiple phone numbers to send calls to, Visual Voicemail on Blackberry devices, outbound VoIP from the office, International termination at very low prices, a pay for what you use cost base, predictable charges, plus unified voice mail and fax, all delivered by email and with mobile notification. http://www.phonefusion.com/
Large companies are relying on PhoneFusion's back end already to manage inbound leads. Now with a small business offering, any business can be like a big business, but at prices that are in reach of everyone.
5. OnSip-For those who are run and office and used to having a PBX or Centrex supplied by the phone company or think they need that level of service, but don’t want the high upfront cost or the upkeep, another option is from JunctionNetworks. We use their high powered, but easy to use OnSip hosted PBX platform. With a Softphone it becomes laptop phone service.
The award-winning OnSip Hosted IP PBX has all the features a business team needs, but is a true pay-as-you-go service, so there’s no per-seat monthly minimums. One of their big pluses is I can customize the outgoing number to any Caller ID I choose, thus making it appear I’m calling from my office and in turn routing my calls back to whichever telephone number will reach me the most conveniently and cost efficiently. As with PhoneFusion I can also decide where to route the inbound calls and where to deliver the voice mail. The major benefit here is anyone I would be calling on my company network (or any SIP network) is free, just like Skype, but the calls can be to a VOIP or a regular phone line. http://www.onsip.com/
6. Jazinga-Despite what you might think, I don't want to be the IT Guy. So when I was asked to represent Jazinga, the No IT Guy Required PBX and Hotspot in a Box, I said sounds interesting. After a quick five minute set up I had a new router, WiFi access point and PBX all configured and up and running. What’s more, like with Junction Networks’ OnSip or Phone Fusion, I get more than a single number, can add extensions inside the home office and manage it from anywhere. The big plus is Jazinga also works with leading SoftPhones because like Junction Networks it runs on SIP, so my CounterPath Eyebeam or Bria software sets up fast and calls I make look like they are coming from the office.
Jazinga is in Beta right now, but like PhoneFusion and OnSip, it takes the high cost of a big-time office phone system and brings the costs down to what any small business can afford, while giving them a big time sounding service. http://www.jazinga.com/
7. PhoneGnome. If a tad more personal is your style, and where you don't want to do any switching around, grab a PhoneGnome. The tiny little box plugs in between your router and your telephone line and you get all kinds of features you were paying your phone company for and more, plus remote access, VoIP calling prices with your choice of carrier and more. http://www.phonegnome.com/
8. Boingo- What happens when your somewhere that's not an AT&T or T-Mobile HotSpot location? This is a real dilemma for many, especially those of us who travel internationally.
Enter Boingo, the roaming partner with many of the hotspot operators (including AT&T) which for one low monthly fee provides access in more places and with only one bill. http://www.boingo.com/
With the new GoBoingo software for PCs and Macs, logging on is a snap. If I end up in a Boingo HotSpot, the software will most of the time log me on automatically. If not, I can always authenticate via the browser. There’s also a Boingo Mobile client which makes it easy to use numerous mobile phones over WiFi. That’s great for live streaming, uploading lots of photos or simply making VoIP calls over WiFi, like with Truphone.
9. Truphone-This is for the person who has a Nokia N or E Series phone and has the ability to connect via a WiFi hotspot, or wants to take advantage of very low rates when on their cell phone. Think of Truphone as the first company to unbundle your cell phone’s long distance package. Basically, their software is smart and decides the best way for you call to go when you make International calls on your cell phone over the carrier’s network, so while you still use your bundled minutes, you pay a lot less when you use Truphone Anywhere. When on WiFi calls between Truphone users, calls are free with very low rates the rest of the time too. http://www.truphone.com/
10. Mobivox-this is another low-cost calling service. Mobivox offers voice command over their IVR (interactive voice response) platform. This is great for hands-free calling, which now more than ever has become very important because of laws, such as one that went into effect July 1 in California. How does it work? After signing up for a Mobivox account and purchasing some credit, a user simply visits their personal Mobivox page, adds the local dial up numbers they will be calling into, then adds their phone numbers they will be calling from (mobile, home and office) which can be changed at any time. After that they load in their contact names and phone numbers, including Skype IDs. Then they just call into the local Mobivox number, Mobivox recognizes their phone and they then say the name of who they want to call. Mobivox does the rest and more. http://www.mobivox.com/
12. Using the right mobile phone is also key, and right now my favorites are from client Nokia, with their new E71, the E90 and the standard bearer, the N95. The RIM Blackberry is a essential business tool these days, and even Apple has gotten into the act with the much improved iPhone 2.0 that now has more business ready features than its original release. The key here is all these phones use GSM and require SIM cards. The Nokia's are the only one's though that are most easily found unlocked and which can work independent of a carrier for data and email without going through many steps to unlock the phone. For the Global Nomad, an unlocked cell phone is the key to a fortune in savings and the major way to being flexible. Global Roaming SIMS like MaxRoam and Truphone owned Sim4Travel also provide even more savings than a local SIM, with no waste.
Being a Global Nomad these days isn't hard. It just takes planning and the knowledge of what works best, and where.