The Perfect Home Office Setup
Home office Setup: workplace flexibility from the comfort of your own home.
Whether self-employed, freelancers or employees, telecommuting or working from home has become an integral part of the work force for most industries. There are numerous reasons bolstering the trend: the self-employed and freelancers often point to the cost effectiveness of home office working, while more and more businesses are turning to home office opportunities to promote a more flexible working environment for their employees.
And yet, home office working is still not a standard for all companies. There are differing explanations as to why. Once aspect of the problem is undoubtedly the employers trust towards employees as to whether they remain productive or not. Some managers are of the opinion that when an employee is working within the confines of the office, it is easier to keep an eye on them. On the other hand, if there exists an employer employee relationship that is not based on mutual trust, and the employer is of the assumption that his or her employees only work effectively when in the office, the relationship is fundamentally flawed anyway and this perspective should be addressed.
Then there is another aspect of home working, the home office setup. Without the right setup, working from home becomes almost impossible anyway.
Essential Hardware Components
Setting up a professional home office only really requires a few hardware components with which it is possible to replicate almost two thirds of the equipment found in a conventional office. Although a laptop and smartphone is often sufficient for every day tasks, in an optimally equipped home office a few additional components should also be to hand: alongside a router / switch and desktop telephone, it is also recommended to incorporate a good office chair and an external monitor, particularly for laptop users. Depending on home office worker’s field and daily activities, additional hardware may be required such as headsets, external microphones, a power bank, scanner, printer, tablet or even an E-reader can complete the home office setup.
Fast Information Sharing is Paramount
The fact is: without a stable Internet connection, working in home office these days is almost impossible. Why is the case? Simply put, quick and dynamic information sharing is probably the most important success factor for almost every business regardless of which industry. If service quality is a top priority for a company, this will apply to both internal and external corporate communications and as such is undoubtedly a core process.
Similar to the requirements regarding information sharing, the demands of modern business communication solutions have also increased. In a modern business, e-mails are synchronized on mobile devices, phone calls are made using personal computers and videoconferences are held on smart devices. An innovative, productivity enhancing communications solution almost certainly will be based on VoIP technology at its core. Voice over IP relates to the usage of an IP network for the sharing of data and for telephony purposes – in other words modern collaboration.
IP Telephony is on the Rise
Self-employed, freelancers or companies who are looking to setup a home office today, should do so using VoIP from the start. By the end of this year (2018), neither new analogue nor ISDN connections will be available in many European markets, as the providers including Deutsche Telekom and Swisscom convert the public telecoms network to ALL IP connections i.e. VoIP. In the UK, the switch over will be done by 1st January 2025. As a result, it is therefore necessary to convert existing systems to the modern technology, which obviously should be a consideration when setting up any new home offices. To save expenditure, energy and time, it makes sense to for a new home office setup to be done using the new standards of IP telephony.
IP Network as a Stable Starting Point
An IP network is a form of communication technology that can handle complex requirements. If telephone calls are to be made over an IP network, then the telephone should not be connected via the TAE socket, an ISDN box or via a splitter. Rather, the telephone should be connected via a DSL router or a VoIP enabled cable modem. These will then convert the acoustic signals received from the telephone. In other words, the router or the modem will digitalize the analogue sound waves from the telephone into electronic pulse formats, compresses them if necessary and then transmits them packaged as data packets to the corresponding telephony server and further to the VoIP provider. The data exchange will take place at the providers end. If the other party in the call does not yet have IP technology in use or is using a different provider, then the data is fed to the conventional telephone network using a gateway i.e. a transfer point.
VoIP Delivers More Innovative Options
Alongside classic PBX functionality, faxing over IP and video telephony, VoIP software solution offer an almost endless amount of innovative digital communication tools. Those whose opt to deploy a VoIP solution such as pascom’s will be in a position to take their office number with them when on the road, be reachable on multiple devices for the same extension or elevate a call from their desktop phone to their smartphone with the minimum of fuss. There are already a large number of voice providers offering VoIP services in the market today. Those carriers who have not already begun offering VoIP or SIP services will no doubt shortly begin to do so. However, the VoIP features on offer can vary from provider to provider. Therefore, it is recommended to arm yourself with some market knowledge and inform yourself about the options available.
As previously mentioned, when setting up a professional home office environment, it is advisable to do so utilising VoIP technologies from the get go. Doing so will ensure that neither an analogue nor an ISDN connection will be required. When using VoIP connectivity options it is even possible to integrate legacy telephones via a router or ATA adapter – although depending on the VoIP software vendor this may require an additional license, so find out which option is more cost effective (new phone vs. additional license).
A further positive is that top of the range UC phone systems offer integrated softphones which deliver all the required telephony functions and is controlled via a user’s laptop or desktop PC. A prerequisite here is a good headset from a supported vendor. Coincidently, the quickest and simplest option for setting up a home office is also the option that offers the most flexibility, namely when connecting the home office setup to a cloud phone system. Using this option, the home office does not require a VPN connection back to the head office and will not require any physical PBX server hardware on-site. The user in this case undoubtedly benefits from unparalleled mobility and flexibility whilst saving IT admins time, money and hassle.
Plethora of VoIP Phone Systems Benefits
As already mentioned, thanks to VoIP it is possible to make calls via the Internet whilst enjoying a consistently high level of service quality. In the past, proprietary phone system vendors would install a hardware server on-site to achieve this. These days however, things have moved on. The hardware is still available, but the phone system itself will likely be software based. Meaning the VoIP phone system can be run on-site either as a dedicated hardware solution or as a virtual IP PBX or alternatively as a cloud solution.
Depending on the vendor’s business model, such VoIP phone systems are available directly from the PBX vendor, such as pascom, as well as via a channel partner. Once provided, the VoIP solution server can then be accessed via an Internet browser. Thanks to such virtual PBX systems, making calls over an IP network such as the Internet has become a very cost effective business tool, regardless of whether these calls are internal, external, national or international and even to fixed line or mobile networks.
Once a company has decided on a phone system vendor and voice provider, it is then possible to set up extensions in addition to the main number. These extensions can then be assigned to employees and if required mapped to a number from a number block as made available by the voice provider. Mapping number block extensions to internal extensions ensures that an employee can be reached directly via their extension when calling from outside the organisation. Doing so also has the benefit of ensuring that no matter where an employee is, in home office or on a business trip, or which device they are using, they will always be reachable from anywhere, at anytime, thus ensuring maximum flexibility. In addition to this, managing a virtual or cloud PBX is relatively straightforward and configuring switchboard and employee extensions can be done with relative ease without requiring an IT technician.
A particular advantage of a VoIP phone system is the ability route internal calls over the internal network, ensuring internal communication is free of charge, which is particularly beneficial for large organisations with a high volume of internal employee communication. Moreover, as external communication is routed via the Internet, the cost of making calls to external phone numbers of all varieties is significantly reduced and therefore making a VoIP phone system considerably more cost effective compared to traditional legacy phone systems.
VoIP Delivers Greater Collaboration Even in Home Office
That both internal and external business communication will be based on IP in the future is no longer just foreseeable, but a certainty. Companies that until now have not yet made the switch are either in the deployment or planning phase. An increasingly important VoIP phone system component is Unified Communications and Collaboration that IP technologies enable. Tools such as video communication and instant messaging are no longer nice to have but rather must haves. Using such collaboration tools saves both time and also costs, promotes productivity and for home office or remote employees provides valuable contact to the team.
However, as far as video telephony is concerned, a number of challenges exist. Firstly, video telephony is different from other communication applications in that it is a form of real-time communication and therefore requires greater network / Internet resources to ensure consistent high quality, as video telephony generates significantly more data compared to a telephone call.
As such “Quality of Service” (QoS) is de facto one of the most essential setup aspects to consider. In general, all data packets within an IP network are handled equally. Although, utilising streaming services or Internet surfing has a barely noticeable, negligible impact in terms of slower speeds or individual packet loss, the same cannot be said of video telephony. For this reason, before utilising a video telephony service such as that provided by pascom, it is essential to modify the Quality of Service classes as well as the corresponding bandwidth allocation.
Once the IP network has been configured as described, the usage of video telephony and video conferencing services along with all other VoIP services should be possible without issues and of a consistently high quality.