If you’ve been playing around with Windows IT or, really, any other network app lately, then a phrase you’ve been reading a lot is “virtual gateway.”
If you’re not a techie, the phrase is sort of self-explanatory and confusing all at once.
It sounds like a way of accessing a network or data through your phone or computer or other devices, but beyond that, what exactly is it?
Because that describes every single app on your computer.
So what exactly is a virtual gateway, do you need one, and how do you get it installed if you do?
What Is A Virtual Gateway?
Virtual gateway is kind of a broad term. On the one hand, it means exactly what it says: It’s a gateway that you access through a computer or device. But check three different apps and you’ll find three different gateways. On many government sites, it’s a handy way to access a full library of forms and so on that, you need to fill out. In, say, a business app, it may be used to access all of your analytics and other data so that it’s easier to do the books for your company, keeping all of the relevant information at your fingertips.
Of course, the virtual gateway is not the database itself, it’s just an access point to the database. You can keep a database on your desktop in a PDF file or something and just email people the info they need when they ask for it, but that’s not very efficient. A virtual gateway is a way for people to access that information when they need it, right away. They can update it, download it, read it and alter it at a moment’s notice, given the appropriate permissions.
Generally, you’re going to have different access levels through a virtual gateway. Your customers and staff may even have access to completely different versions of the virtual gateway software, while you have a third version that gives you total access. You might offer another key to your accountant, one that gives them everything they need to know while keeping certain data PCI complaint or what have you. The virtual gateway is like a library card in that all it really does is give access to the data. But unlike a library card, you can customize each one to only give people the information that they need, or that you want to share with them.
How About Some Examples?
One example of a virtual gateway is the Massachusetts Immunization Information System gateway. The Massachusetts Immunization Information System, or MIIS, is a resource for those working in the medical field and related fields in the state of Massachusetts. The MIIS functions as a resource and database helping, primarily, health care providers who need to know who’s been immunized for what and so on. The database helps to track a number of things that are very difficult to manage on paper or with a more conventional data system.
There are a lot of examples of virtual gateways in the medical field, such as the Executive Office of Health and Human Services gateway system. The health industry was one of the first fields where virtual gateways really caught on. Back in the old days, a patient who was having a seizure and needed a shot was at serious risk while the medical staff was trying to figure out how best to respond.
Do they have any allergies?
Will this shot only make things worse?
You could call to the front desk, but what if the patient’s records were at another hospital?
With a virtual gateway, the nurse can check the patient’s records on their phone or a nearby computer and get the information right away.
Virtual gateways have, of course, caught on in government because it’s a shortcut through the layers and layers of bureaucracy that need to be navigated in order to get anything done through city, county, state or federal offices. It’s still a headache to get all of the forms you need to be filled out, but by being able to do some of the work through a laptop or your phone, the process is a little less time-consuming. You don’t need to spend all day at the government building, you can just get the papers you need, and get the whole thing done in one trip.
And obviously, virtual gateways have caught on in business because business knows a good idea when it sees one. Show a restaurant owner how to save a penny on every packet of mustard, and they’ll take you up on it.
What Can It Do For A Business Owner?
The larger your business, the more you’re going to need a virtual gateway solution. But even a small business can benefit tremendously by moving their data and info into a virtual gateway system. Technically speaking, anything you can do with a virtual gateway, you can do with a ledger and a notepad and a calculator. But, with a virtual gateway, it’s going to take a fraction of the time it would do something manually or with some basic spreadsheeting software or something.
The main thing that a virtual gateway offers is that it puts everything all in one place. If you have fifty locations for your restaurant, they all work from the same database, meaning that if you’re running low on French fries in the Albuquerque location, then your distributors in Santa Fe are going to know it right away. Think of it like an internet that’s just for your company. Customers can hop on and order from your eShop or input their information for their new credit card, and you’ll have access to it immediately no matter where you’re at.
Do I Need A Virtual Gateway?
Truthfully, for some businesses, installing a virtual gateway into your set up can be a little more hassle than it’s worth. If you run a small, local shop, and you’re used to doing things the old-fashioned way, then you can just keep using whatever solution you’re comfortable with. A virtual gateway is there to make things a little easier for you as you grow as a business. Of course, not every business owner is interested in doing all that much growing. If you’re happy to keep serving the locals and you don’t have any interest in a second location or moving to a bigger store, if you’re happy with the customers you have now, then there’s not much reason to worry about using a virtual gateway.
A virtual gateway, however, is a must for any brand that is looking to deal in volume. If you own multiple locations if you serve thousands of customers a month, then working without a virtual gateway is like trying to haul a shipment of frozen vegetables by packing your backpack and carrying fifty pounds at a time on foot across town. Once you start hitting that medium-sized business range, or even at the upper ends of the small business range, trying to work without a virtual gateway can be nearly impossible, depending on your industry and business size.
Even if you only serve a handful of clients in a B2B field, you may find that your customers are a lot happier once you set up your virtual gateway. Allowing your clients to access data and adjust their information at a moment’s notice will not only give them more power to customize the service that they are getting, it will also save you a lot of time and money when it comes to things like customer service and your workforce.
The traditional way to do things is, for instance, your client emails you about an issue they have or something they need to be changed. You then relay that to your team, and they see what they can do, and then you email your client back and tell them it’s been handled… or that it hasn’t because you need more information. A virtual gateway puts the power in their hands. They can just hop on and do what they need to do right away, in a matter of minutes, and the database will update and let you know what’s up. All instantaneous, all hassle-free, without so much as a single email needing to be sent.
Ultimately that’s all it really does: it saves time. But everything else it can do for you flows out from there. That time you save, for yourself, for your clients, for your customers, for your staff, can be better spent elsewhere. You need to be thinking about new product launches and which graphic designer to hire for the website redesign. Your staff needs to be thinking about how to do their jobs better.
The pointless busywork of manually moving data around isn’t what you pay someone seventy grand a year to do, and it’s not what you got into this industry to spend your time with.
How Do I Set A Virtual Gateway Up?
Some point of sale systems will have a virtual gateway solution built in. If this is the case, then you might not need to do much more than going into settings and enable it, or see if the POS’s tech support can talk you through it if it’s a little more complicated than that. Your mileage may vary, of course, and every POS brand really has their own way of doing it.
If you’re using a system like Microsoft IT, there is a lot of documentation on how to build a virtual gateway available to you. Microsoft is known for creating in-depth how-tos on all of their programs. Sometimes those how-to’s are a little dense and tech-heavy, but if that’s the case, there are also plenty of tutorials available on Youtube, and you ask people in the help forums at various websites and on Reddit to help get you through some of the trickier parts of setting up your virtual gateway.
Of course, if you need a really in-depth solution or a custom job, then your best bet might be to let your tech team handle it. If you’re not a techie, you might create more problems than you solve trying to build a virtual gateway by yourself. You’ll save a few bucks not hiring a programmer to handle it for you, but you’ll probably wind up losing a lot of customers who find the system confusing, or you’ll just wind up with a system that just plain doesn’t work for your staff and partners.
In any event, there are a hundred options available to you for setting up virtual gateways. There are apps you can download, tutorials you can watch and POS systems with the virtual gateway options built right in. It depends on what kind of set up you’re working with and what kind of virtual gateway you need to set up.