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What is a Virtual Office?

A Virtual Office is a business location which, in theory, exists primarily (if not exclusively) in Cyberspace. On a more practical level, however, a Virtual Office is a pared-down or limited-overhead-services version of an actual-physical-location office.

The primary reason for a Virtual Office is overhead-costs savings. This is especially important for business or nonprofit shoestring-budget startups; it is also useful for businesses needing to downsize, reduce expenses/debt, or simplify operations.

Having a Virtual Office, however, is not just about cost-reduction. New technologies—most notably, the Internet—are pushing for more cost-effective ways to manage productivity, communication, marketing, sales, and IT; they have also provided the need for unparalleled efficiency.

Like electronic documents/publications (threatening to replace paper versions), virtual offices will change how businesses operate; in essence, they are eliminating many of the burdens of physical locations.

Virtual Offices for Expanding Businesses

Virtual offices are a blessing for yet another reason: they make it possible to expand without over-extending oneself financially. In fact, for the price of one office in any-major-city downtown, one can obtain several virtual offices in different states—sometimes, in different countries.

Having multiple locations increases a company’s presence, opens up additional markets, and is likely to impress potential clients. In the business world size matters, especially when it comes to capacity—i.e., the bigger an operation, the more likely it can handle large-volume orders.

What Services Come with Virtual Offices?

Depending on the unique needs of each business and the provider, a Virtual Office may feature:

  • Answering services (possibly including live receptionists)
  • Physical offices (including conference rooms) on an as-needed basis
  • Call forwarding
  • Voicemail boxes
  • A prestigious physical mailing address
  • Business fax number
  • Business phone number
  • Mail forwarding

What Other Benefits Come with a Virtual Office?

The concept of a Virtual Office is doing well in spite of a bad global economy. The many benefits pushing this trend include:

  1. Staff being able to work from home, staying in touch by teleconferencing. This reduces payroll/benefits costs.
  2. Ability to have multiple Virtual Office locations nationally and internationally.
  3. Appearing to occupy/own expensive facilities, hopefully impressing potential clients.
  4. Access to state-of-the-art telephone systems with visual and Internet-connectivity advantages.
  5. Ability to process incoming customer contacts 24/7, despite not having administrative staff.
  6. The avoidance of operational expenses (e.g., inventory taxes) accompanying physical locations.
  7. Chance to use Skype and Oovoo’s video chat technology for face-to-face communication (a supposed advantage of physical locations).
  8. Use of software that allows staff collaboration (e.g., Central DesktopBasecampWrike, etc.).
  9. Ability to monitor staff’s work performance/productivity with software like Time Doctor.
  10. The chance to capitalize on other related/emerging new technologies: social networking, mobile devices, cloud computing, etc.