Snow shows strengths and risks of remore working

With many employees still unable to get to work today, questions are being asked as to what effect it will have on British business?

With many employees still unable to get to work today, questions are being asked as to what effect it will have on British business?

With meetings cancelled and employees trying to access corporate networks from their own home, the damage could be high, warned some IT suppliers.

Security firm Symantec said, "With the biggest snowfall for 18 years hitting the UK today, many businesses have been forced to employ full remote working practices. Whilst trying to ensure productivity levels remain high, many are unwittingly putting their corporate networks at risk as employees work from home without adequate security."

Symantec said remote working is one of the biggest areas of exposure when connecting to corporate networks. Any remote devices that connect to organisations infrastructure carry a greater risk of infecting the network or becoming compromised.

John Turner, vice-president pre-sales EMEA at Symantec, said, "There are two ways to ensure network security while working from home. The first is to have a remote desktop that doesn't require VPN connectivity. This protects the user, while also allowing updates to be downloaded when connected to the internet.

"If a VPN is used, it should have network access control. This will allow your company to quarantine devices which are not up-to-date. It will allow access to systems such as e-mail, but withhold access to important or secure files and servers. If you do not need to allow remote access to everything, then don't. This alone minimises a large risk."

Research from Mitel suggests that 52% of Brits working in office environments will be able to work from home during the adverse weather. The survey, conducted among 1,000 UK employees, also revealed that forward thinking business are using a wider variety of communications tools to make the most of their working day whether inside or outside the office.

Communication tools such as phone and e-mail, which according to the study ranked as high as face to face meetings in communication terms, will enable the country to keep working in the face of the bad weather. Respondents ranked telephone calls at (86%), followed by e-mail at 85% as the most important tools.

Other electronic tools, including internet research (73%), instant messaging (39%) and text messaging (35%), are also now increasingly important to communications and make working from home a reality.

Paul Louden, vice-president sales UK and Ireland at video technology firm Polycom, said, "Today, England is getting a real feel for flexible working. However there will be winners and losers in terms of productivity. Companies which already employ a flexible working approach will find that it's business as usual, but without sufficient infrastructure, others will struggle."

He said, "With the weather set to continue for at least another day, meetings will be cancelled left right and centre. Video conferencing is one of the few technologies that can enable collaboration with colleagues to the same extent as if it was face to face - meaning there's no need to cancel important meetings."

Louden said video conferencing was not just something for freak weather conditions. Research by IDC for Polycom shows it can also increase business productivity by 30% and collaboration by 35%.

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