Remote working is an increasingly popular choice for millions of people in the UK . It makes sense for increasing business productivity, boosting employee motivation, as well as the added bonus of helping to save the planet. Point Topic research found 5.5 million people were spending some of their week working remotely, with 3.8 million full-time teleworkers in the UK.
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Remote working is greener and saves energy too: the average UK commuter travels 2,906 miles a year, and spends 8 hours a week – 47 working days a year - on commuting and business journeys (Source: National Travel Survey 2005). Also a survey by NOP on behalf of the Business Software Alliance found that 74 per cent of bosses believe that allowing remote working improves staff motivation.
The growth of remote working is of course linked to the adoption of fast broadband coverage but, importantly, for it to be successful and productive users need secure and reliable access to files and applications hosted on corporate networks often many miles away.
IPSec VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have been the traditional method of securely accessing the corporate network for remote users. However they can be complicated to set up, expensive to manage and are often plagued by incompatibility problems. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) VPNs are a proven alternative to IPSec VPNs, creating a secure ‘tunnel’ over the Internet via a simple browser based login, but until recently were only available to large corporates due to the prohibitive implementation cost.
Low-cost SSL VPN
With the new wave of low cost and easy to configure SSL VPN boxes in the market, even the smallest business and SOHO workers can take advantage of this technology - and for under £200 access their own network securely from wherever they are in the world, e.g. on the road, at a wireless hot spot, or at a client site.
As awareness of SSL VPNs grow, IT resellers are being increasingly asked for advice on secure remote access solutions, particularly by SME customers, and as such are a big factor in introducing the technology to the channel. Individual resellers are also beginning to see a significant increase in sales opportunities as the benefits of SSL VPN are realised by channel partners.
Remote workers can work as if they are physically plugged into the network in the office – just using their laptop or PDA over an Internet connection. This is ideal for: travelling salesmen accessing the CRM/contact management/order processing systems; directors dialling in from abroad or at weekends for sales figures; business partners who are allowed to access small sections of the network; and branch office workers sharing key systems.
SSL VPNs can now be used with one time passwords to deliver an extra layer of security for the login authentication process. The strong two-factor authentication tokens allow users to create strong authentication by using a dynamically generated six-digit PIN, and combine this with their existing static password. Not only does this mean easier management for network administrators, but it is much safer for staff - even if the token is lost or stolen, it’s useless to anyone but its owner and the company’s system administrator.
Julian de Selincourt is sales and marketing director at ADSL router maker Billion