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Also known as an e-office, an electronic office is a term that refers to any office environment that makes significant use of computer technology to operate. The term was first coined during the middle of the 20th century and began to come into common use during the decade of the 1980s as more office environments dispensed with manual methods and began to rely more heavily on a combination of desktop computers, mainframes, and servers to manage a number of job-related tasks. Today, an electronic office is more commonly equated with the virtual office, which involves the use of wireless technology to allow people to work from virtually anywhere with the right type of laptop or notebook and a reliable wireless connection.
One of the primary benefits of an electronic office is the ability to rely less on hard copy documents to manage different business tasks. For example, an accounting or billing professional would be able to significantly decrease the use of traditional hard copy accounting books by utilizing accounting software to bill orders, create invoices, and even to post payments received on outstanding invoices. In like manner, a salesperson can benefit from the use of an electronic office by utilizing a sales database rather than maintaining paper files on each prospect and customer. Even many clerical tasks such as writing letters or preparing presentations can now be done electronically, further reducing paper consumption while also making it easier to keep data organized and easy to retrieve.
Along with reducing the consumption of paper associated with performing various tasks, an electronic office environment also provides a higher level of security. Users can password protect various documents, limit access to databases with passcodes, and even lock access to files placed into some remote data storage solution by encrypting the access in some manner. While not foolproof, this level of security is usually considered an improvement over the use of locked filing cabinets, safes, and vaults that were commonly employed before the advent of the desktop computer.
While the electronic office has not eliminated the use of paper in a business environment, responsible use of software programs and company networks does greatly reduce the need of maintaining hard copy documents. Since the documents can be printed when and as necessary, the space required to set up an electronic office is significantly smaller, an advantage that is particularly important when space is at a premium. In some industries, use of the virtual office has made it possible to allow employees to work remotely rather than at a central location, a benefit that can greatly reduce operational costs.