Indepth: Remote Working Technology


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Email on the moveIf you've read An Introduction to Remote Working, you'll have a good idea of what you can do remotely. Here we discuss the different types of technology needed.

Remote connections. There are three ways you can set up a remote connection;

  • A permanent connection from another computer, e.g. a home office. This will need a router and appropriate software on the home computer together with a broadband connection and what's known as a static IP address.
  • From a laptop or mobile device with VPN software installed on it. This means you can access the office network from anywhere with a broadband connection.
  • Using a third party like www.logmein.com or www.gotomypc.com. After registering with the service, you can access your office-based computer from any computer in the world, so long as it's connected to the internet.

Broadband connections. Most modern laptops and PDAs have a built-in 3G connection facility. 3G provides broadband access via mobile phone networks. You'll need to register with a provider before you can use it, but once you've done that you will have broadband access directly from your laptop, providing there is a mobile phone signal from your mobile operator.

Mobile phones will also provide broadband access if they are 3G compatible. If your laptop doesn't have 3G but your mobile does, you can get a device known as a dongle which enables your laptop to have broadband access via your mobile phone connection.

Dongles generally use Bluetooth technology, which is a wireless system enabling two devices to talk to each other. The most familiar Bluetooth use is a mobile phone and a headset for hands-free calls whilst driving.

VoIP. Voice over Internet Protocol comes in two main forms; individual accounts using a company like Skype, or a company-wide system. Both types of system need a broadband account. With an individual account, you'll use the internet to sign on to your provider.

A company-wide system will have a server through which all calls are routed so you'd need to connect to the server first. The advantage of using a company-wide system is the low price of calls. Calling someone else in the same system will be free, so you could sit in a hotel room in Sydney or New York and call your head office in Cheshire at no cost. Even calls to a number outside the system are likely to cost substantially less than your mobile provider or the hotel telephone, although the exact amount will obviously depend on individual tariffs and locations.

Email on the move. PDAs and Blackberrys allow you to receive emails even though you're not connected to the internet or sat in front of a PC. It's like a mobile phone - you can make and receive calls any time it's switched on.

An individual subscriber can pay a regular subscription and receive emails as a result. A company-wide solution allowing everyone to also access diary and email systems is more complex. First of all, everyone in the company will need to be on the same type of system, e.g. all Blackberrys or all windows-based PDAs. Secondly, the company will need a server specifically for the purpose. The type of server needed will depend on whether a Blackberry or PDA solution is needed. Thirdly, the settings need to be created to make sure everything is synchronised with everything else.

Pulling it all together

All this technology might sound complex, but imagine this scenario.

A company has a number of employees, some of whom work from home occasionally whereas others are on the road visiting clients. Those working from home can access all their documents and emails as if they were in the office. Telephone calls can be made via the company VoIP server at low cost rather than being charged BT or mobile call rates and claiming the cost back as expenses.

Staff "on-the-road" receive their next day's schedules via their PDA together with a job specification. They write up their reports at the end of the day on their laptops before saving it to the server and downloading the next day's jobs. Any changes to schedules are emailed to them in real time and they can check colleagues' locations by viewing the shared diaries.

That makes for extremely efficient working and is what can be delivered by embracing remote working technologies.

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