Running Your Business Remotely


What you should know before going on a business trip to China

I’ve just returned from my 2 weeks trip to Shanghai, China and thought I’d write a post about how I operated DeepSky from half-way-around-the-world. Before setting foot on this trip, I was anxious to know if all the technology we boast as being remote can really live up to this test – I mean, after all, I couldn’t physically get any further than China to run my business. After 2 weeks, I’ve discovered many things that worked and many things that didn’t – so here it goes.


There are a few hurdles that I ran into immediately after I landed in China. First, the internet is spotty and slow not because of the lack of technology but because of the Chinese government censors every package of data going in and out of its network. The great Chinese firewall has bricked several crucial application that I rely on to operate my business.


Broken. Not sure what the reason for this one is here; but apparently, Dropbox had made it onto the internet blacklist of China and is completely banned from the country. No more access to Dropbox means our file-sharing methods are broken. Back to the stone age method of sharing files via emails or ftp.


Broken. This is obvious as most social media sites of the world are blocked in China. Not that this is crucial to my business operations, it is definitely crucial for me to stay connected to my peers, clients and up-to-date on industry news. Bummer.

DeepSky’s own website

Broken. Unfortunately for me, we happened to use a shared server with an IP that is blocked from the great firewall of China. This means no blog posts for me while overseas – hence the long lag between this and the last post. My apologies. This one is more of an annoyance than anything else. To fix this, I’d have to shell out money for a dedicated IP. Not going to happen at this time.

PS. If all you other CPAs are wondering if your sites are blocked as well – they are not. At least not the ones I’ve checked like @JasonMBlumer @JodyPadarCPA @cfarmand @whe97007 or @TaxMan45 – I just happened to be the unlucky one here. :)


In comes VPN (or RDC) to the rescue. If I have to say the one piece of technology you absolutely need to run your business from anywhere in the world – it’d be a stable / direct tunnel connecting your laptop to a server located in a place you trust. While I was abroad, my RDC allowed me to have access to all my client files utilizing all the applications that I am familiar with. What is that you say? You are years ahead of VPN and solely utilize online SaaS? Well, in the case where your online SaaS (ie. Dropbox) is blocked by something mysterious like, say, the great firewall of China, VPN and RDC is still your savior – allowing you to access these online SaaS that you take for granted at home.

The speed of internet

On the other hand, speed is of most importance here. Running a VPN or RDC on an already spotty internet connection can cause grief when you try to do anything productive. So, before you travel, secure a reliable source of internet connection and several backups in case they fail – yes, the Starbucks I was at for the first week of my travel eventually killed their internet connection for several days – I had to borrow an office from our client just to stay connected.


It allowed me to make and receive important international calls wherever there is internet on the cheap. The temporary cell phone that I got in China didn’t. On top of that, I was able to hold 2 conference call meetings halfway around the world with my staffs face to face. Absolutely impressed with how Skype held up its promises. If you utilize a fancy phone system in the office instead, I’d suggest you find ways to route your calls to Skype before your travels.

Google Apps

About two weeks before my travel we’ve decided to move our mail servers over to Google Apps and boy was I happy that I made the choice. Take away all the awesome features (threaded messages, shortcuts and the new priority inbox) and interface that Google Mail has – the biggest thing Google Apps has insured me is that I can gain access to my email anywhere I get Google. And, let’s face it, you can get Google pretty much anywhere nowadays. If you are still on the fence about jumping ship to Google Apps, my vote on it is an absolute yes. In fact, I’d write a bit more about Google Apps in another post. That’s pretty much it.

Aside from the technology factors, I’d say the time difference will be an issue to overcome – slimming down the available “reasonable” time slots to only a few hours a day between you and a client can cause difficulties in scheduling conference calls and coordinating meetings. Let’s face it, no matter how advanced technology gets, sometimes it is still the face-to-face time that we have with each other that matters most.

So is running a business from half-way-around-the-world possible? Yes. Are there room for improvements? Definitely. So pack your bags, install Skype, VPN (RDC) and secure a solid internet connection and be on your way. Let me know how it works for you.