It's official: There are absolutely no more excuses for not working all of the time, wherever you happen to be, no matter how small or insignificant your employer — even if you've left your computer at home. Several new Internet-based services give users instant access to their software programs and data by storing them all remotely, or by giving access from one computer to another through server-based or peer-to-peer networks.
Of course most large companies these days already have virtual networks that allow employees online access to their e-mails and other documents 24/7, but such networks must be maintained by an IT department — or, in the downsized world, at least one knowledgeable IT guy or gal. That's no longer necessarily the case, however. A startup company in Minneapolis called Aerus Systems is trying to bring such anytime/anywhere computing capability to the little guy.
An online IT department
Virtual Network 9 is Aerus Systems' solution, and it's essentially an online IT department. The company's flagship technology is a server-based suite of networking tools that store and maintain a company's files, data, applications and programs — through an Internet connection — making it possible for clients to log on from anywhere in the world to get access. Besides this anytime/anywhere access, the chief benefit of the Aerus system is that it will do all of the little things the IT department does — security maintenance, daily backup of data, software upgrades, server maintenance — for you. The cost of the service is a monthly fee of $99 per user, which includes access to 50 off-the-shelf software programs, including the entire Microsoft Office Suite and all future upgrade costs.
Contact: Aerus Systems, 952.746.5015, www.aerussystems.com.
Virtual offices abound
Another Web-based service, ContactOffice offers Professional Virtual Office, which lets you manage e-mail, contacts, meetings, files, documents and tasks — and makes it all available anytime on the Web or from your PDA. Up to 15MB of storage is free, and 150MB costs about $30 per year. The difference is that ContactOffice doesn't store your actual software programs online — just your data.
Contact: ContactOffice Group, +32.2.647.92.35, www.contactoffice.com.
Not to be outdone, Webconferencing biggie WebEx is offering PC Now, a $14.95-per-month service that allows you to access your computer from any other Internet-connected computer in the world. So if you're stranded in Bali and can make your way to an Internet cafe, you can now dial up your work computer and use your own software to get going on that PowerPoint presentation you've been putting off. Or not.
Contact: WebEx Communications Inc., 877.509.3239, www.webex.com.