The big recent news that the Iowa Board of Regents is moving to close state colleges and universities and have students meet remotely has caused a lot of families to scramble and come up with new plans.
But many of us aren't prepared to deal with this kind of challenge if our business faced it.
We wanted to put together some information to help local people and businesses be able to work remotely if we start seeing problems in our local communities.
WebWise Solutions works with clients around the country and we have experience in this area. If you need to work from home or if you need to meet with clients other than face to face, below are some suggestions for what you need.
Many of us have fast and reliable Internet connections. We recommend a minimum of 10 mbps download and 2 mbps upload to have a good remote experience. The last thing you want is to be meeting with a client and lose video or audio because of low bandwidth.
You can test your Internet speed by going to speedtest.net. If you aren't happy with your speed, you should call up your provider and see if you can get a faster connection. At the office we use Router12.net and have had good speed and service from them.
In order to be able to comfortably work remotely, you need a good computer. For normal business office work, almost any modern computer will do. You should have at least 8 gig of ram in your computer...with a recommended 16 gig of ram if you are like Adam and like to have 20 tabs open in Chrome at the same time. We also highly recommend either getting a new computer with an SSD (Solid State Drive) or upgrading your existing computer to an SSD hard drive. Many of these drives can be purchased for $100 or less, depending on the size you want, and can quickly have your existing data cloned over to it. We have seen windows load times go from 40 to 60 seconds down to under 15 seconds with the SSD. This certainly is a good bang for the buck in making an old computer more useful giving you a less frustrating experience.
We use computers a lot and know a lot about them, but we generally try to stay away from recommending computers and leave that to those that do it for a living. In our office we use a combination of both HP and Dell as they have served us well. If you aren't comfortable with ordering a computer yourself or are looking for help putting an SSD hard drive into your computer, we would recommend contacting a former student of ours, Chris at TechNerds in Mason City. Tell him we sent you and we are sure he will give you good treatment.
You want the image to look good if you are meeting face to face with a client. Below are webcams that we use for our video conferencing. There are some minor differences in the quality and features between the two. We have listed both below so you have options to fit your budget.
Now of course you want to make sure that whatever behind you is professional looking. Make sure your desk is clear (at least the part seen) and that your background is nothing a client might cringe over seeing.
If you find that your lighting is less than ideal, you can also try a light ring on or near your webcam. A light ring is designed to give you a soft light and eliminate shadows, helping you to look your best.
It is critical that your client can hear your clearly and you can hear them. We recommend using a USB headset. We use the Logitech one below and have had very good luck with it. We also provided a lower budget model that will work very well too.
On-line Meetings / Meeting with clients remotely
It is important to be able to have a shared meeting space where you can meet with fellow employees or clients. Especially when it comes to clients, you need to make sure it is easy for them to use otherwise they won't use it.
For meeting with our clients from around the country, we use UberConference. This is a very easy to use system where no software needs to be installed on your computer or your clients. You go to a web link and can either join in via your computer audio using a headset like mentioned above or via your telephone. They have a free service level that lets you meet with up to 10 people for up to 45 minutes. If you need more people or longer meetings, they also have a premium level that is as low as $15 per month per conference organizer account. (Note: you just need one main account to start the meeting and then everyone else can join under it at no additional charge.)
Connecting into remote computers
If you have to work at home but either need to run software on your computer at the office or be able to get files from that computer, we recommend the system ConnectWise Control. This is the software that we use to remotely support our clients. To just remote into computers at your business, the price is $300 a year for up to 25 simultaneous users. If you contact us before your buy, we may be able to get you some better pricing.
When you use this remote desktop software you take whatever computer you are on and essentially are virtually running your office computer on it. We do want to note that a lot of people often use the freely downloadable TeamViewer. TeamViewer is great, but it is only free for personal non-business use. The problem is TeamViewer is also very pricey, which is why we are recommending ConnectWise instead.
If you and your employees need to work remotely, you are going to need to have a project management system. One system that has worked well for us is a company called Monday. The pricing varies depending upon the features and users. It is pretty easy to use overall and you can even invite clients in to see the status of their project if you wanted.
Internal On-line Collaboration
You may not want to always be in audio or video contact with all of your employees. There are a few other tools that can be very helpful for keeping in touch when not in the same location.
Slack - This is an internal messaging service that lets you do instant messages and even video calls between co-workers. You can even easily share files over it or just share your screen while talking. There is a free tier that should cover most of the businesses that we work with. They also have paid plans starting around $7 per user per month that lets you have more file storage and lets you do group meetings instead of just 1 to 1 video calls.
Mural - Sometimes you need to have a shared whiteboard space for brain storming or working on other projects. Multiple people, including clients, can have access to a shared white board and everyone's updates are seen real time.
If you need any help setting any of this up, feel free to contact us.
We can work as a consultant to help get you established on-line.
Depending on how things go, it may be hard to get clients into your store. One way that you can still serve them is to sell products on-line and either ship them or do home delivery.
Realize though that doing E-commerce does require a fair amount of work on your end though and typically takes a little while to set up. One of the things we have found slows clients down the most is taking quality photos. While we can help by providing licensed photos from our BigStock Photo account for various services, this certainly won't cover products being sold. Most smart phones can take high enough quality photos to make a product look good. The issue is that you need a good background and good lighting. If you can showcase your product in its natural environment (like a coffee cup being sold would be on a table full of coffee) that is best. Otherwise you can take good photos of it using a photo studio like the one below. The size you would need or want will vary, but this is just an example of what one is.
When it comes to adding E-commerce to your website, there is a lot that is involved from configuring how the products and cart looks, calculating tax, shipping, and of course how you accept payment.
Contact us so we can help you add E-commerce to your site if you want to start selling your product or service on-line.
Nobody really knows how bad the virus outbreak, or its impact on normal life, will be. If it gets to the point where people either aren't able to go places where there are groups, you may either need to schedule private meetings with clients or schedule deliveries to their homes. We have a full suite of on-line scheduling options where you set the times and the client can auto book themselves.
With the state's universities having all students take class remotely, it could become commonplace that large gatherings from business meetings to church services have to stop people from attending. This doesn't mean that you still can't do your meeting, presentation or service on-line. We have been doing live streaming for years now and can help with streaming an event where only the speaker shows up and all the attendees remain home. Our live streaming service also allows for a chat box with the live stream so people can ask questions or provide feedback real-time.
Learn more about our live streaming service and contact us if we can be of help to you!
We hope that the virus outbreak doesn't end up becoming a big problem locally, but our goal was to provide information that you can use now or in the future to help your business through some potentially tough times.