Build your own Virtual Office: Software
In part 3, we talk about the most important component of your virtual office: software.
The previous segment in the Virtual Office series talked about how to find a Internet provider and connect to the Internet using your device. Now we get to the meat of your virtual office: the software.
What do you do all day?
Before you start hopping onto the Internet and surfing, take a day or two and find out what you use the most during your busy day? EMail (that's a given), Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are all likely candidates. Determine which applications are the most important to you and your team and start listing them. Match up your needs with what is discussed below.
All-in-one online packages
Currently, I know of only three all-in-one packages: Google (as a whole), PortableApps.com, and Zoho Office. All of these applications are geared towards the laptop. We'll get involved with the PDA software later.
Google, as we all know, released the Google Apps for your Domain. Google Apps for your Domain takes all the common Google business applications and attaches the following applications to your own domain: a start page, GMail accounts, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator. All of these are free to use and would help dramatically.
In addition to Google Apps for your Domain, there is also Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which allow for collaborative editing of Word documents and Excel Spreadsheets online. The spreadsheet application is amazing. It has a chat section so you can talk to all of the contributors online while you're editing your spreadsheet at the same time.
One other collaborative effort on Google is their Notebook option. The Google Notebook is used to collect all of your research online and store it in a handy online notebook...hence the name. ;-) They even provide you with a nice Firefox extension to easily collect your data.
PortableApps.com is a downloadable collection of open source software that consists of 20 portable applications to get your most difficult tasks accomplished. All of the applications can be installed on a USB 512MB Thumb Drive comfortably and provide all the tools you need to work remotely.
Some of the applications you may have heard of include Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, NVu, FileZilla, OpenOffice (to read and write MS files), and many other vital utilities...AND IT FITS ON A 512MB THUMB DRIVE! This Rocks!
Zoho Virtual Office
If you were looking for a way to move into the Web 2.0 office space, the Zoho Virtual Office would be the place to start. Zoho is widely known for their Rich Internet Applications and their virtual office is no exception.
When you first register and sign in, the first thing you see is your Zoho dashboard. The left side of the screen has the Outlook style bar with the following functions available: Desktop (your dashboard), Calendar, EMail, Tasks, Documents, Notes, Links, Contacts, Writer (word processor), Sheet (spreadsheet), and Show (presentation).
Who goes there!?
Of course, if you're not a startup company, you may be assigned a user id/password to log into the company's VPN (Virtual Private Network). This allows you to connect to the company's network through a secure Internet connection and access company files when you're on the road. Some companies require certain software installed on your mobile device to properly identify and authenticate you when you connect to the company's server through a VPN.
For those who are working