There are a number of reasons why employees need to work from home which are usually down to travel disruptions or the need to work flexible hours due to personal circumstances such as child care.
Allowing staff the option to work from home is a difficult decision but usually one that brings out the best in workers. Most employees find working from home brings less distractions while making them more productive and reduces stress levels.
Working from home efficiently and effectively requires a number of remote IT solutions. These IT solutions are tools that enable staff the ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues as if they were sitting in the same room. Regular home workers are referred to as ‘teleworkers’ and with teleworkers on the rise we’ve put together a list of 10 essential teleworking tools that ensure fast and secure working from anywhere, at any time:
Remote IT Solutions
1. Fibre Broadband
A teleworkers home internet connection is a workers life-line to clients, suppliers and colleagues so it’s super important the connection is fast and reliable. The company office should already have a fast and stable connection so it’s a good idea to upgrade home worker connections to business-class fibre. Fibre is much faster and more reliable than ADSL for a similar cost, for example: BT Infinity Fibre is 9X faster than its ADSL offering priced at the same £25 per month.
2. Online Exchange Email
The majority of business communication is made via Email and using a service such as Microsoft Office 365 that includes Online Exchange is the perfect solution for remote workers. Using Outlook 2013 or soon to be released Outlook 2016 to send and receive emails via Microsoft Online Exchange offers guaranteed availability to employees. It includes access to shared calendars and contacts to ensure all staff are reading from the same page whatever their location.
Office 365 Business Premium can be purchased at £7.80 user/month, this subscription plan includes the latest Full Office software, 50GB Mailboxes, unlimited online meetings with HD video conferencing and Skype for Business.
3. IP Telephony
Advances in broadband speeds have made IP based voice communications a standard for most businesses. Unified communication does away with location constraints and ensure remote workers are able to make and receive calls from home as if they were sitting in the main office. VoIP and UC allows home workers to be a part of departmental hunt groups and enables missed calls and voice mail messages to be notified via email which make it easier for employees to manage calls. Prices for unified communication services are typically subscription based that are paid monthly and cost less than ISDN contracts.
4. Skype for Business
Microsoft paid $8.5 Billion Dollars for Skype and with good reason. Skype for Business can be used from anywhere on any device including desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones and tablets. It’s one of the most secure, low cost ways to make audio and video calls and also offers communication via instant messaging, online meetings and video conferencing. It’s the essential tool for remote workers and can be subscribed to for as little as £3.10 user/month as part of a Microsoft Office 365 subscription.
5. Wireless Headset
When you’re working from home using Skype and taking calls via your companies hosted Voice over IP solution you need to be typing on a computer while making and receiving calls. This requires a comfortable wireless headset such as the Plantronics Savi 700 series. A lightweight wireless headset allows easy connectivity to your PC, mobile phone and desktop IP phone with one touch to answer calls. These can be sourced at around £200 plus vat from most online electrical retailers.
6. HD Webcam
The best webcam for home workers are ones that are affordable, easy to set-up and offer great HD video quality. Using video to stay in touch with colleagues and attend meetings using products like Skype for Business requires a web cam that either sits on top of your monitor or on a tripod on your desk. The Microsoft LifeCam Studio for Business is super sharp and stays in focus at long range, these can be purchased from most online retailers at around £50 plus vat
7. File and Data access
Most organisations use online services for contact management systems and line of business applications/databases. These online software solutions can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection which make them ideal for home workers. However there is usually always the need to access shared Word, Excel, PDF and picture files. There are a range of solutions to access these type of files when away from the office:
- VPN – Virtual Private Networks are direct secure tunnels connecting a teleworkers home internet router to the main office firewall. It’s still considered one of the most secure connections for remote working however it can be slow at times depending on internet speeds
- SharePoint – This can be set up like a secure intranet storing and sharing documents via the cloud allowing only staff in the office and at home instant access to documents
- File Sync Software – DropBox, OneDrive for Business, Box, Syncplicity; there are now many file synchronisation options on the market. These work by storing and syncing changes to documents in the cloud to office servers and teleworker home computers
- Remote Desktop Services – This is usually the most expensive solution as it requires a dedicated Windows server running the role of RDS formally Terminal Services. This solution is ideal for remote workers that need fast and secure access to a database or application that is hosted on a server at the main office such as Sage
8. Desktop Sharing
Desktop sharing can be an important requirement for the home worker. It’s easy to have everyone sit around your screen when you’re in the office to demonstrate an application or train the team on new software. This inst so easy when you’re working from home, fortunately remote desktop sharing is a feature within Skype for Business and provided within solutions such as LogMeIn’s Join.me which is a great free alternative.
9. Secure unified threat management router
A serious consideration for any company with regular home workers is a UTM router such as a Dell NSA device. When located at the the main office these ensure fast, secure and reliable connections for teleworkers. Teleworkers should ideally replace any ‘free’ routers that they receive from their ISP with decent business-class routers, these will provide the stability they need to work without connection disruptions. The Dell SonicWALL TZ or Draytek 2760n make ideal home office routers.
10. Hard drive encryption
Businesses that offer home workers should investigate data security. Home workers need highly encrypted passwords and should ideally be using Two-factor authentication. If home workers are going to store confidential or important data on their home computer then hard drive encryption should be enforced. Windows 10 includes Bitlocker which is easy to set up on computers that include a TPM security module. Staff home workers should use business-class machines that include a good specification to ensure they can keep productive, ideally an Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM and an SSD running Windows 10 Pro.
Combine these remote IT solutions with a trusted work force and both business and employees will benefit from a more flexible work/life balance. Fentons are constantly evaluating and trialling new technology to find the best solutions for our clients. If your business is interested in finding out how remote IT solutions can work for your organisation please get in contact with our friendly help desk team on 01903 786287