Running your own solo practice carries lots of responsibility, along with some nice advantages—like the ability to work from a variety of locations.
With the right combination of services and applications, you should be able to run your solo practice from your smartphone.
Ditch the landline
Google Voice and Skype are both cheap and good services. Google Voice does not cost anything to use, but it does piggyback your cellphone’s minutes, so you could end up with a higher wireless bill. A year’s subscription to Skype can be purchased for less than $30.
If your business phone number is either a Google Voice number or a Skype number, you can take those calls directly on your cellphone. With Skype, there is an application that runs on both Wi-Fi and 3G signals. Because Google Voice piggybacks your existing numbers, the calls just come straight to your phone.
I use both. Calls come into my Skype number and then forward to my Google Voice number after a couple of rings. When I am out of my office, I can make and take calls without anybody knowing the difference. On top of that, it is much cheaper than paying for a landline, which runs about $60 a month.
Access client files from your smartphone
I use Dropbox. Like any other file storage system (cloud or otherwise), it carries security risks. Compared to the alternatives, however, I am comfortable using Dropbox.
There has been more than one occasion where I am out of the office and need to quickly view part of a client’s file. The Dropbox app makes that happen—and quickly.
Be aware, however, that Dropbox’s mobile application has a security risk—a data snooper can potentially view the Metadata for any file that you access on your smartphone. Metadata is the name of the file, file type, size, and modify time. For the most part, this is not critical data—unless you name your files “Incriminating conversation with witness X” or something along those lines. In other words, you need to be aware of the risk, but if you take the appropriate precautions, using the mobile app is ok.
Take appropriate security precautions
Smartphones are awesome because of their utility relative to their size and convenience. But if you are carrying around client files in your pocket, you need to take appropriate security precautions. Your smartphone should have a password and the auto-lock function should be turned on. Most phones will also automatically erase all data after a certain number of failed attempts to enter the password.
I would avoid using any client-specific apps that do not have their own specific password function (Dropbox has one). Lastly, both Android and iOS have applications that allow for a remote wipe. Make sure you know how to use that program in the event you lose your phone.
Smartphones can do much more than make phonecalls—so make the most of it!