Brick-and-mortar companies are finding virtual offices to be more handy these days. Apart from eliminating the distance factor, the internet is a powerful weapon that allows small and medium sized enterprises (SME) to compele with multi-million dollar corporations.
At this juncture, the limitations that most SMEs encounter are the exorbitant fees involved in purchasing, installing, maintaining and upgrading virtual office site. There is also the concern of IT resources and time. Above all, security is the most difficult to implement and control.
AfterOffice.com Sdn Bhd (AfterOffice), is a company that specializes in Internet application services with emphasis on interactive business communication and collaboration technologies. The application called AfterOffice virtual Office (AVO) was conceived, researched and developed in-house by group local techies headed by Pojen Ng, founder and CEO of AfterOffice. “AVO targets SMEs and companies with multi offices, mobile workers and telecommuters. We hope to enable the business community to enjoy effective and efficient communication and collaboration, and at the same time reduce cost of ownership of these services” says Ng.
AVO migrates an office’s key tasks onto the internet by integrating application services and programs, private home pages, essential portal functions and Website storage under the auspices of a virtual office.
The main features of AVO include home page hosting, e-mail, calendar, discussion board, meeting room, instant messages, storage center and contact manager. Soon to come are database implementation for online inventory control and administrative workflow, trade matching and wireless application protocol (WAP) that allows access AVO via mobile phones.
Trade matching allows a user to key in products or services that are for sale of one intends to purchase. If not match is available, the system will take note and send the user an e-email once a match is found.
According to Christie Loy, marketing communications officer for AfterOffice.com, the online inventory management facility is currently under beta testing while the trade matching is under alpha testing. The company will port their service onto WAP once the infrastructure and demand is matured.
AfterOffice offers a choice between a private subscription AVO and a free ad-supported version. The paid option enables subscribers to host their virtual office under their own domain page.
This means the e-mail address will be email@example.com. The free ad-supported version will have their e-mail address as firstname.lastname@example.org.
The subscribed AVO Calendar and Meeting Room features provides up 25 share options, whereas the free AVO Calendar is limited to five share options and a meeting room of three topics.
As for security, Ng says that the paid version will have their file transfer encrypted using SSL technology although the free version does not have this privilege. However, both versions incur additional free for encryption of storage files.
There are several benefits of using AVO. Firstly, operational efficiency is improved. This includes low cost presence on the net with a 24x7 office environment, online business from one central location, access information anywhere and anytime, plus share calendar, schedule and contact information with members.
Secondly, a company will have market efficiency with low cost to expand business opportunities. As AVO takes care of the information systems operations, companies can stay focused on their core business. Loy reveals that some of their customers are University Utara Malaysia, DXN Marketing, Steinmorgan, KYE System, Techware, Walsin Technology, Laser, Golf Select, Ayamewa, and ACCCIM (TheAssociated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia).
The price of the subscribed facility is US$180 (RM684) per annum for a package of five users. Every additional user will be charged US$18 each.
AVO is now available in English, Chinese and Japanese. Companies which are interested may get more details at www.afteroffice.com.