Indepth: An Introduction to Remote Working

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Working from home"Remote working" can mean a variety of things, including;

  • Allowing staff to work from home, either on a regular basis or occasionally.
  • Providing the ability to access office-based functions whilst elsewhere, e.g. documents and databases.
  • Using technology which would traditionally be thought of as office-based, e.g. emails and internet access.

If you use any of these facilities, or would like to, we would consider you as either having, or wanting, remote working facilities. The actual facilities you need will depend on what you would like to do, but here are the main ones;

Remote Connection. This allows you to access your office-based facilities whilst out of the office. There are different methods depending on whether you want to access the office from home, from your laptop anywhere in the world, or any computer.

For a secure connection at home, your broadband can call the office network via a "Virtual Private Network" (VPN) and securely connect you. You can then access anything connected to the office network, e.g. email, shared directories, databases and printers as if you were actually sitting at your desk in the office.

The principle is the same if you're not at home in that you'll need to find a broadband connection to make it work, but the method is different depending on whether you want to use your own laptop or any computer.

Broadband Anywhere. A broadband connection allows you to access the internet. So if you're away from home and want to access the internet, you need to find a broadband connection. There are several sources;

  • The office or hotel you're in at the time may provide a broadband service.
  • WiFi hotspots are areas with broadband connections that operate wirelessly rather than with more traditional telephone cables. They can often be found in coffee shops or in some town centre streets. Think of hotspots as a payphone for broadband, except you don't always have to pay for calls.
  • Mobile phones, laptops and PDAs with a 3G connection facility.

Communications. Mobile telephones are now capable of a multitude of tasks, including acting as satnavs, MP3 players and mini-computers. Those which do all of these things are known as smartphones, with the most famous example being Apple's iPhone.

A Blackberry device or PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) allows you to receive emails on the move. For a monthly fee, and providing your server has the right technology, you can receive emails wherever you are rather than having to wait until you return to the office or connect your laptop to a broadband connection.

To save money on the cost of telephone calls, use a VoIP system (Voice over Internet Protocol). A service like Skype can be used wherever you have a broadband connection and a headset. As the calls are transmitted over the internet rather than traditional telephone lines, they can cost much less. So rather than using a mobile phone, you could connect your laptop to a broadband connection, log on to your VoIP account, put your headset on and make calls at a fraction of the price, even internationally.

So that's the basics of remote working. These services can be assembled in whichever way is most appropriate to you, but you'll need to make sure you have the right technology in place. Read Remote Working Technology for a guide on what you'll need.