Feature

Telecommuting beating the credit crunch

Despite the economic downturn, businesses cannot afford to stop investing in technology, in particular in IT security. Such investments are of strategic importance for companies in order that they stay competitive and innovative. But more than ever, choosing IT security investments wisely, and ensuring quick ROI, is vital.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, technology products which allow companies to operate more efficiently, and increase productivity will survive the economic slowdown. A key component in ensuring success is the clever use of flexible communications tools that support remote working and can allow organisations to meet economic challenges head on, ensuring a productive, efficient and secure working environment.

We believe that there are ten social trends and technology advancements which are spurring companies to implement ‘telecommuting’ strategies. These factors demonstrate that the technology, and timing, is now right to make telecommuting a viable option for business.

Considering these elements will allow firms to assess how, and when, they capitalise on the trends and technologies available in order to increase productivity, and make efficiencies across their business.

Technology #1: Broadband connectivity tops 50%

As the number of homes with broadband Internet access grows, working from home becomes more viable than ever before. Teleworkers can work more effectively with broadband connections. Enterprise applications run closer to real-time when accessed over a fast connection instead of dial-up - making accessing and working on company documents more speedy than ever. Broadband also makes VoIP (voice over IP or Internet phone) and other bandwidth-hungry new applications more viable.

Technology #2: Collaborative applications emerge: Web 2.0, Web meetings, VoIP

Today, web meetings have become commonplace within companies that have distributed workforces, whether in remote offices or home offices. Applications such as wikis and VoIP are key enablers of online collaboration. For telecommuters, remote collaboration can lead to huge productivity gains.

In terms of office culture, outsourcing and extended supply chains have given many organisations new lessons in real-time collaboration—online or by phone—with suppliers, partners and outsourcers. Now employees can apply those skills to collaborate with each other remotely.

Technology #3: Smartphones and PDAs abound

The proliferation of smartphones and PDAs, together with laptop and mobile computers, has given millions or workers the tools to work while commuting or otherwise work remotely or from home.

But mobility also challenges corporate IT departments in terms of the security of the devices and wireless networks they utilise. If looking at enterprise mobility, companies must ensure adequate security and device management policies are in place.

Trend #4: Put money back in employees’ pockets to keep them loyal and productive

Economic conditions are affecting many workers. Working from home can trim commute costs in a family budget and allow for greater flexibility. Telecommuting is such a prized job perk that recent research from Sonic Wall carried out by the FactPoint group shows that just over a third (37%) of IT workers say they’d accept up to a 10 per cent lower salary to work full-time from home.

Trend #5: Save on operations and real estate

In the big picture, telecommuters also help companies lower their operating costs. When telecommuters use their own space, power and cooling to work from home, savvy employers adjust their facilities practices to pocket that savings.

Trend #6: Carbon footprint

A company’s carbon footprint has become a key indicator of its environmental record, so companies keen to be “green” do measure their carbon footprints.

The growing use of web meetings and other virtual events makes cutting travel less painful and more cost-effective.

Trend #7: Boost business continuity and bounce back from disasters

Telecommuting dovetails nicely with another key corporate objective—Continuity of Operations, also called disaster recovery or business continuity. Telecommuting by definition distributes employees away from central offices that may be knocked out through power outages, weather, traffic jams or localised disturbances.

Trend #8: Regulatory compliance

The number of regulatory compliance issues has multiplied in recent years. Telecommuters are not excluded from these compliance mandates, so the viability of a telework program requires having technology in place that closely monitor teleworkers and onsite employee

Such technology must be able to:

    • Identify who requires access to the data
    • Enforce access to sensitive information
    • Segregate users, resources and communications between the two
    • Verify the processes are being followed, and audit processes for compliance

 

Trend #9: Bad guys are getting better

SSL VPNs, the basic security requirement for secure telecommuting, address the growing sophistication of hacker attacks and the organisations behind them. Telecommuting, which on the surface might seem to open new security vulnerabilities, should not if enterprises insist on effective remote access technology security.

Technology #10: Telework prerequisite: Secure remote access technology

Secure remote access and virtual private networks (VPNs) are essential for sending critical information over the Internet. VPNs essentially drill a “secure tunnel” through the Internet from the corporate data center to a remote location or mobile worker so sensitive data can pass over the Internet safely. With telecommuting and transit-based Wi-Fi, VPNs are no longer a “nice to have” but a key requirement. Modern VPNs, meaning those called SSL VPNs after the SSL protocol they utilise, can detect the identity of remote users, their network, location, and endpoint device and its security state.

Conclusion:

These trends and technologies put telecommuting on the cusp of a period of rapid growth. Two general categories are stronger today than they have been anytime in the last five years: financial drivers and enabling technologies.

The technology enablers of telecommuting work include reliable secure remote access, wider access to broadband Internet, new collaborative applications, and the popularity of PDAs and smartphones. Add to this a heightened public awareness of global warming and the original push from employees seeking better balance between their work and family lives. This time, teleworking will actually work.


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This was first published in November 2008

 

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