Networkers 08: Virtual office to meet cloud computing

Cloud-based virtual offices to allow workers to be "at their desk" anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

Today's "virtual office" solutions generally require customer-premises equipment (CPE), but the rise of cloud computing-based services will allow people to be "at the office" from any location with an Internet connection, according to Cisco.

This week the networking giant announced the availability of its Cisco Virtual Office service for Australia and New Zealand, which requires an 881w ISR (Integrated Services Router) as the CPE and a Cisco 7200 series router at the headquarters site, but this requirement will soon change.

Cisco Australia and New Zealand unified communications manager Peter Hughes said in future the virtual office experience will be provided in a "cloud computing" fashion where all a remote needs is an Internet connection.

Internally, Cisco has some 12,000 people working in virtual office environments, and the company is aiming to have that number up to 30,000 by 2010.

"A VPN can be provisioned over a standard DSL Internet connection to enable the Virtual Office as a cloud computing service," Hughes said Wednesday at this year's Cisco Networkers event in Brisbane.

The Cisco Virtual Office solution packages networking, security and IP telephony in a centrally managed office extension to allow staff to work from home or branch offices.

This may extend the reach of the office to dedicated end-points, but a cloud-based Virtual Office would go a step further to allow a worker to be "at their desk" anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Hughes said the CPE Virtual Office is "zero-touch" so it isn't a management burden for network administration staff. The CPE router supports DSL which is how most homes and small businesses in Australia connect to the Internet.

Cisco's Virtual Office costs a one-off $US700 per seat. This includes the ISR and a 7970G IP phone.

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