When you hear the phrase “virtual businesses,” it’s likely that the names of pioneers such as Amazon and eBay spring to mind. Hot on the heels of these two goliaths, you may also think of online retailers such as Dell, Zappos.com and ASOS. However, thanks to advances in high-speed connectivity and the rise of cloud computing, going virtual isn’t only for organizations selling physical goods online. Any business without a full-time physical office and a geographically dispersed workforce can be considered virtual.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many technology start-ups are virtual businesses. Using Software-as-a-Service tools, such as Highrise CRM, Zendesk and Shoeboxed, small companies can now deploy technology that was previously reserved for large organizations. As well as not breaking the bank on enterprise software, the team has the ability to work from anywhere and not waste large amounts of cash on renting office space. Whether it’s a shed at the end of the garden or a bedroom, an employee’s physical location is irrelevant. Take for example Nononina, the company behind Alltop. The team consists of (and I quote the site): “one guy in home office (Will Mayall), one gal on a kitchen table (Kathryn Henkens), and one Guy in United 2B (Guy Kawasaki).”

At the other end of the scale, we’re starting to see established organizations and more traditional industries venture into the realms of virtual business. Rimon Law Group, for example, is one of the first high-end virtual law firms in the U.S. The organization claims to be nearly paperless and, rather than having centralized offices, its attorneys operate “local work hubs.”  While the company opened a new San Francisco headquarters this month, the firm maintains that attorneys still have the option to work from “wherever they like, whenever they like.”

Note: This excerpt on virtual businesses is from a blog post that I originally wrote for GigaOm’s Web Worker Daily in January. To read the post in full, please go to Web Worker Daily. (http://bit.ly/fXMv4W)


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