Remote Working with QuoteWerks
We have had a flurry of emails recently regarding how Users might best work remotely with QuoteWerks. This blog post covers the main methods we’ve successfully implemented working with various clients and briefly discusses some of the relative pros and cons of each. First, we’ll start with the “out of the box” methods designed into the software and then we’ll look at some of the other alternatives if those are not suitable for your business.
Please note that the non-“out of the box” methods can be used for “any” desktop software, including Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.), ConnectIt and other applications that you use in your business. Not only could your remote workers be using QuoteWerks from outside the office network, but also any other desktop applications that they’d typically use in their day-to-day work life.
QuoteWerks Remote User / Remote PC License
This is the traditional designed-in way to facilitate remote working: the standard scenario is that you have a (of number of) Sales Rep(s) who are on the road or normally work from home; they need to be able to work autonomously most of the time and sync up whenever they come into the office or perhaps over a VPN connection to the company network each night. The User has a stand-alone copy of QuoteWerks installed on their PC and they are able to do what they need to without a connection to the Master office version. As and when they are able, they connect to the Master office version to send their document updates in and receive other Users’ document updates, configuration or template changes, etc. when they sync.
Pros: tried, tested and reliable working both online and offline.
Cons: requires a separate User license; the Users updates are not real-time.
This is the much newer designed-in way to facilitate remote working. In the spirit of openness and honesty, and taking my rose-tinted QuoteWerks evangelist glasses off for a moment: when the Web version first came out, it was a bit flaky and felt incredibly restrictive as compared to the Desktop version. Wind forward several years and putting those glasses back on, but still being completely open and honest: QuoteWerks Web is sooo much better now! It’s not suitable for power-Users or an Administrator who edit Layouts, setup Users, import/export data and use some of the more advanced features as they are simply not available, but for your average day-to-day User it’s perfectly good for creating and maintaining documents. You are reliant on an internet connection (unlike the Remote User option) but then these days there aren’t many places where you can’t get some sort of wi-fi or mobile data connection.
Pros: User updates are real-time.
Cons: cost – requires the Corporate Edition re-hosted to a web facing database server plus an additional subscription for the Web module; not suitable if you’re running QuoteWerks scripts or other add-ons.
Before moving on to some of the indirect ways to get QuoteWerks working for Users “anywhere”, I must just state that we are not IT infrastructure specialists, BUT we do have some experience with these things and we also have numerous customers who use a variety of tools to facilitate remote working. Your IT support will be able to help advise which is the most appropriate technology – there are so many factors to this (particularly cost, security and what other systems you may have running in your overall IT environment) that this is where our knowledge runs out and we involve someone better qualified and knowledgeable of our clients’ overall infrastructure to help with the decision-making process.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPN is best used alongside the Remote User / PC option outlined above – it just makes it so much easier for your remote worker to send and receive updates, so they’ll be encouraged to do them more often. VPN is not supported to run the full application over the connection – some of our clients have tried, most have failed as Users lose work and get frustrated. Officially QuoteWerks is not supported to run over a VPN connection; the Remote User / PC Sync option most definitely is though.
Pros: relatively cheap and easy to set up (so I am told!)
Cons: same as the Remote User / PC License option.
Remote Access Technology
Technologies such as GotoMyPC, LogMeIn, RemotePC and many, many others allow a User on one PC to log into another PC and control it like they were sitting in front of it. So your remote worker can be sat at home, in a customer’s offices or in a coffee shop at their own PC/laptop and be able to log into their PC in the office to use QuoteWerks (and any other applications they use day-to-day) as if they were there.
Pros: very easy to set up (I know because I have used this one myself!); if the connection fails then the User does not lose work.
Cons: requires a subscription to an appropriate Remote Access provider; uses resources of 2 PCs.
Remote Desktop Technology
Pros: a tried, tested and reliable business solution; if the connection fails then the User does not lose work.
Cons: cost for hosting, remote desktop licensing and setup.
File Sync-ing Technology
File sync-ing with a centralised web-facing database is actually how we run our QuoteWerks: we have the QuoteWerks SQL Server database on a cloud server, the files on OneDrive (but this could equally be Dropbox, Google Drive or other similar technology) with each User sync-ing to this account and having copies of the files locally on their PC. There can occasionally be issues around multiple Users changing the same file at the same time causing conflicts, but it depends how many Users and how much their changes overlap as to how much of an issue this might be. Also this solution might not completely eliminate problems if internet connectivity is an underlying issue, but it should reduce the amount of network traffic and so hopefully reduce the amount of information lost.
Pros: relatively easy to set up (we can provide the web-facing database service for you, details here).
Cons: probably not an option for very large companies with many Users.
As you can see, there are a variety of options available and there’s no single answer – it really depends on how you use QuoteWerks now, how you want to use QuoteWerks in the future, what you already have in place and what budget you’re prepared to assign to setting up remote working.
I would be more than happy to discuss any of the above with you and/or your IT infrastructure support team; please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with a date and time when it would be convenient to give you a call along with the best number to reach you for us to discuss how I can help you to implement a suitable solution.
I would be very interested in your thoughts on this article:
- How do you facilitate remote working in your business?
- Are there any options you’ve considered or implemented that I’ve missed?
- Do you agree (or not!) with the relative pros and cons?
- Is there anything that you would like to add?
I look forward to hearing from you! Regards, Steve.