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The No-Office Virtual Office

When is a virtual office not an office? When it has no server on site.

David J. Drucker, 02/16/2006

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Is the concept of a no-office virtual office confusing? Or maybe it seems redundant? Here's the idea. Suppose the computers in your office were merely workstations. That is, suppose they had little, if any, executable programs installed on them because all the software you needed was on someone else's server and all the data you created were there, as well.

That's what Chris Cooper does. If his name sounds familiar, it's because you might know Cooper, not as a visionary technology user, but as an elder-care specialist. "I began a health-care career well over 20 years ago with paramedic training and a degree in nursing, working in nursing homes and hospitals, which gave me the specialized knowledge I draw on now to serve my particular niche: persons preparing to retire and the very elderly."

Aside from his specialties, though, Cooper is a financial advisor just like the rest of us. Actually, he has two firms--his financial advisory firm, Chris Cooper & Company, Inc., and the firm he calls ElderCare Advocates, Inc., both located in Toledo, Ohio.

Within the context of these two companies, Cooper's operated under various configurations, but perhaps the best indicator of the changes he's made is the fact that he's down from the eight employees he maintained at his inefficiency peak to only two employees now: him and his wife. "Although some of the drop was related to my conversion from a commission to a fee-only business, most of it was technology-related," says Cooper.

What he's done that's so unique is he's moved his server and primary computer software, including his document management system, offsite. He works strictly from other companies' servers now.

"We started going to a paperless office via file imaging about eight years ago," says Cooper, whose idea at the time was to get rid of paper and file cabinets to save space. "But the conversion didn't really save any money," he says. "All we accomplished was to replace file clerks with scanning clerks."

One day, Cooper found himself sitting in a conference session in which I and Joel Bruckenstein, who is MorningstarAdvisor's technology editor, were speaking. After that, Cooper made the decision to take the process a step further. He was ready to get rid of not only paper, but people and office space, too. "Now that makes more sense," he thought to himself, "because it saves money."

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