What can a virtual private network accomplish for your business? Featured

10:10am EDT December 1, 2010
What can a virtual private network accomplish for your business?

As businesses evolve, the capabilities of reliable and secure communications network systems evolve along with it. Since businesses are turning to the Internet to extend their networks, significant advantages emerge as a result of the real-time connectivity created by virtual private networks (VPN).

A VPN is a method of hiding such connections from the outside world while giving employees 24-7 worldwide access to internal business network resources. Users are set up on a server and connected to a router. An established host assigns a recyclable security identifier. Each PC then becomes a remote extension connected through the Internet. Data, once encrypted and tunneled, is verified and decoded so only the intended recipient can access the authorized information.

Smart Business spoke to Ray Hernandez, president of ATW Management Inc., about how a VPN can transform a business’s communications, operations, customer service and productivity.

Once a VPN is established to connect remote employees and offices, what can it accomplish for businesses?

Typical email usage, access to pertinent records and phone call capabilities are always ‘on’ anytime and anywhere, deploying employees to the front lines. Here they are armed with vital information to quickly respond to and address the specific needs of their clients across all sectors of the economy.

In the service industry, real-time connectivity through a VPN can convert a field technician into a front-line sales and customer service representative. When a service order is entered into a dispatch application, the technician instantly has access to it as well as customer information such as site contact, materials required and other specific customer requests. Customer pay history, or past due invoices requiring collection prior to providing service, may also be accessed.

A GPS application may be integrated to not only assist the field technician in finding the customer location but also to report that tech’s location back to the home office. Once an authorized signature is obtained it is instantly submitted to the billing department, and that signature also verifies that the customer agrees all work has been completed to his or her satisfaction.

When a customer requests additional services, the field technician can update customer data and create new service orders as well as access pre-determined price schedules to instantly provide a quote to the customer. Better communication between the customer and the service industry leads to future business.

How can a VPN streamline the supply chain?

As for manufacturers and suppliers, a VPN, when utilized in cooperation between the two businesses, can create a unique streamlined system. Just-in-time manufacturing reduces costs all along the supply chain. Both businesses work in consensus to eliminate the costs involved in expediting, excessive stock inventory and material waste to optimize order scheduling. Shortages can be avoided by both businesses sharing

market information all via the VPN. Suppliers can place an order and have it shipped directly from the manufacturer to their customers, reducing the costs of storage, transportation, handling, etc. Instant communication between the supplier’s customers and manufacturer provides feedback the manufacturer can respond to resulting in a better product.

What are some industry-specific examples of the benefits of a VPN?

For the professional service provider, the VPN has created the stability a client expects of that professional being constantly ‘in the office.’ They can improve services to clients by offering concise solutions accurately and expeditiously.

Physicians require many sorts of accurate up-to-the-minute research data in order to correctly diagnose and respond to situations regarding their patients. Utilizing tablet PCs, physicians can instantaneously obtain patient medical records from multiple offices or hospitals, lab results,

prescription orders, note dictations and x-ray interpretations in mere seconds. Armed with this information, a physician is able to make more accurate decisions. Consent for treatment documents, authorization to submit insurance claims and authorization for specialist referrals can be submitted through a dedicated VPN, ensuring patient privacy and security of data.

Attorneys require access to network resources for various documents, precedents and references regarding cases pending or actively in session. Should a judge change a court date or newly discovered evidence be submitted to the court, changes can be accessed and addressed immediately. Voice wave files recorded via the attorney’s laptop can be downloaded and saved in the network as legal depositions. Signature recognition laptops now replace settlement or court documents.

The insurance industry benefits from its agents having access to network resources for front-line sales support. Again, voicemail wave files can be saved as legal documentation when a customer purchases a policy, processes a claim or makes coverage change requests. Accident forms are completed and submitted at the scene, which allows adjusters to instantly begin the claims process.

Manufacturers and suppliers reduce costs utilizing just-in-time manufacturing, and the cost reductions create a leaner competitive market to the service companies purchasing the material. The service companies can then be more competitive in their marketplace. Across the sectors, internal operations staff assists the accounting staff with accurate documentation of orders for accurate billing. The accounting staff creates a productive cash flow resulting in an overall profitable return on investment.

The ability to create a front-line customer service advantage is conceivable when a virtual private network is fully deployed. That advantage lies in every business tactic that drives the outcome of the endeavor.

Ray Hernandez is the president of ATW Management Inc. Reach him at (281) 931-8400 or info@atwonline.net.