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Living in a Virtual World? The Virtual Advantage

Stuart Crawford

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Where do you see this world in the next five to ten years? How did the last five or ten years play out for you? Like you expected? The world as we know it is constantly changing, new economic factors are affecting the way we do business, the price of energy is creating second thoughts in the minds of a lot of people, demand on an individual's time combined with many other factors are shaping the way we look at our lives and our business.

We do live in a virtual world today! The changing landscapes of life have forced many of us to change the way we do things today and those who immediately understand it are reaping the benefits. It is true; we are living in an always on and always connected world that keeps business rolling along and never really shuts down. In today's always on and connected world, thousands of IT professionals have trouble simply turning devices off and keeping our focus. However, does this new world of business provide us with a competitive edge?

With the virtual advantage, adopting a virtual practice can provide many IT Professionals with a competitive advantage over those businesses that elect to remain with the standard brick and mortar type of services. In the technology industry, being able to respond to client needs with lightening fast speed and pin point accuracy is separating the winners from those that struggle. Having a virtual strategy will free us from stresses of the Instant Gratification mindsets in existence today. However, how do you do this without being plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Virtually, is the only answer, with a combination of personal interactions to keep the relationship balanced. Many new services are now online that are leveraging the deep resource pools in the emerging markets that have the capacity to assist IT Professionals with the toughest technical challenges.

Today, IT Professionals have options to lean on remote help desks located on the other side of the planet to take care of those important services that many of us struggle to do keep up with during regular business hours or continue to do things ourselves, with options of certified engineers in Network Operations Centers across the globe who are able to assist us in the middle of the night while you are recharging your batteries getting your 7 - 8 hours of recommended sleep.

What about the cloud? Where does the cloud fit in? The Internet is no longer just a tool for business today; it is the toolbox that many companies now use to deliver services to the market without geographical, time zone or any other limitations. Are you embracing the cloud with your business? Many services can now be offloaded to the solutions available on the Internet such as spam filtering, CRM solutions with Microsoft CRM Online, web hosting and email have been in the cloud forever, combine this with the offerings in Microsoft's Online Services that include Live Meeting, SharePoint, Exchange and others. We can now move services once only thought for our offices into a virtual environment allowing clients to fully embrace technology only once thought of for the largest corporations.

Meeting new prospects is now being done virtually, business deals are being closed on the Internet without people meeting each other. Today's email services have become mission critical and business depends on these services being available at all times, even more important than the telephone. If the email goes down at a client's site you will know about it almost immediately that is the impact virtual communications has in today's flat world. Combine this with services online from services like Second Life which allow corporations to exist in a virtual world, virtual trade shows, meetings and many other transactions and even relationship building activities are happening in these virtual worlds are growing and expanding the economic landscape.

Is your business ready to go virtual? If you doubt that this virtual world will continue to grow beyond its current existence, it is time to accept the fact that this interaction is occurring and it is time to learn what it is all about or hire someone who understands this brave new world. The younger generations of today live on SMS, Messenger applications and on social networking sites, this is how they communicate and transact with everyone. The businesses of today that understand this world, can speak the language and have a presence in the virtual world and economy will have real dollars in their pockets.

Stuart Crawford is the Director of Business Development for IT Matters Inc. Calgary, Alberta's award winning Microsoft Small Business Specialist. He can be reached at or via their website Stuart just released his second book for the Small Business IT industry entitled “Do you have IT? Get it online today at


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