Managing your VR while away from home
Most of us travel at some point - squeezing in that vacation or for our regular employment! What do you do to ensure that you have everything you need to continue responding to inquiries, taking bookings and marketing your VR?
In the beginning
Originally, I used simple email templates to respond to inquiries in MS Outlook and a simple Microsoft Access database to record reservations. This meant that I needed to ensure that my own computer with all of this information was always with me.
It became a little more awkward when my wife and I both wanted to process the inquiries and do any reservation maintenance at the same time (it took a long time to get everything done each day). We ended up using Microsoft Exchange so that we could use 2 separate computers on the same email account (avoiding duplicating emails). Also, by this time I'd automated email responses within the Access database itself so this database became quite critical for us. We shared the database at home on our network and needed to take it with us when traveling (using a portable USB drive for convenience). We also had to be sure that it was backed up often enough and when traveling we needed to also make backups in case something happened then too.
Even if you only have one computer to take with you with all of your reservations and emails on it then you need to prepare for the time that your computer is stolen or broken, so make sure you have your data backed up regularly and have a means to do this when traveling too.
This became quite a chore so we looked at better alternatives.
I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my data. I didn't like the thought of handing my data over to an online system for a number of reasons:
- It is my data and wanted to keep it from being stolen
- What if I wasn't online - how would I get my data and deal with inquiries
- I didn't want to pay for a service when I had all the hardware I needed already
It didn't take too long to realize:
- Even if someone did steal my data, there's not a lot of gain to be made from it. Online security is also quite good these days.
- If I wasn't able to get online then I couldn't get email inquiries in any case. Handling other things is not as time-critical so could wait if needed.
- I had lost and replaced so many disk drives already that a small service fee would actually be cheaper over time and at the same time more reliable (online disks are of higher quality and usually have some redundancy to disk errors - using RAID).
In addition to these issues, I was having pain keeping my online calendar up to date and wanted this linked to my reservations directly.
I soon was converting my Access Database to on online system (now called myvrzone.com) and have never looked back on this transition. I now have full integration with my websites, emails and reservations (including online payments).
Traveling is now so easy:
- All I need is access to a computer with internet access (I usually bring my own laptop)
- No data to take with me and back up
In addition to that:
- Multiple people can work on my inquiries/reservations at the same time from anywhere in the world
- No backups to worry about at all (the online system does it for me). I can print out reports for paper records
- Bookings can be completed online at any time and a new reservation recorded - I get notified by email
- Payments can be made online (Credit Card/PayPal) and entered into the reservation automatically - I get notified by email
We have a free Google Voice number to enable us to deal with telephone calls that forward to a few phones and then goes to voicemail and send us an email (even with a transscription). We can do everything while away without having to poll our own answering machine (which we always forgot to do).
Let me know how you are dealing with traveling - is there anything else that you need to deal with that is not covered here?
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