The Rise of the Virtual WorkplaceApril 26, 2011 1 Comment
By Klaus Brandstätter
At an increasing frequency, today’s enterprises are motivated to shed operational costs and improve employee productivity as a result of the current economic situation. The concept of a virtual workplace, or telecommuting, has increasingly been implemented by enterprises as a way to boost employee satisfaction and productivity as well as reduce their carbon footprint and energy expenses, in an effort to be more environmentally friendly.
According to a recent survey conducted by Microsoft, 62 percent of employees believed they could perform their job duties at a remote location. The 2010 U.S. Remote Working Research survey also showed that more than half of the respondents stated that their company does not have a formal policy enabling employees to work remotely.
The following are key trends associated with the rise of virtual workplace/telecommuting:
Green computing is another important factor for enterprises wanting to deploy a virtual workplace program. Green computing is the environmentally-friendly and resource-sparing application of information technology. The main focus here is on reducing operational energy costs.
In most cases, telecommuters are reducing their companies’ carbon footprint by shifting energy consumption to their own homes. Secure remote access solutions utilizing SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) offer access to individual PCs, whether at the company office, home or on the road. With these types of solutions, employees can remotely boot and access his or her PC or laptop over the Internet at any time. In addition to providing employees with the flexibility to work inside and outside of business hours, remote access offers significant energy savings.
In today’s business world, the term mobility has been firmly established and, due to globalization and our high-tech society, is gaining in importance. Mobile employees and field service personnel are constantly working from remote locations, carrying out their companies’ business. Typical scenarios include visiting customers and business partners, in trains, hotels, etc. The trend towards increasingly smaller, more powerful client devices combined with ubiquitous connectivity has made telecommuting possible almost anywhere. Many mobile devices and PDAs are now powerful enough to harness the potential of telecommuting. Enterprises often issue these devices, or end points, to employees for remote access to corporate data.
The worldwide availability of economical, reliable and technically well adapted Internet connections has encouraged enterprises to use the Web as a network infrastructure for corporate communications. Unfortunately, the Internet brings not only advantages, but also risks. The biggest risk for enterprises is the insufficient security as well as the integrity and confidentiality of the data.
Enterprises should consider vendors who offer mobility solutions that emphasize security. In addition, enterprises should explore solutions that leverage SSL VPN technology due to its security advantages and scalability. Strong encryption of the communication data protects all data transferred between the client and the gateway to the enterprise network. This enables enterprises to have high security even when communicating over insecure networks.
According to Gartner, “IPsec VPNs are still popular for remote access, but the most interesting and visible market innovations continue to center on using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPNs as replacements or augmentations for legacy VPNs.”
With secure remote access solutions, employees can access applications and data from anywhere in the world, eliminating the need to bring files home or on the road. Thus, sensitive data is no longer subject to loss or theft.
Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery
To guarantee business continuity for the successful operation of remote workplaces, enterprises should deploy remote access solutions before a crisis or disaster strikes. To ensure business continuity, enterprises must follow these two goals:
- The systems must be able to be remotely operated and administered
- Employees must be able to work from home or other remote locations
Enterprises that want to ensure business continuity need to implement a readily available and easy to use secure remote access solution. A welcome side effect is that this increases the attractiveness of the workplace and the entire enterprise. In many cases, the use of home offices can also lead to cost reductions for enterprises.
Many vendors offer software- and hardware-based remote access solutions designed so enterprises can quickly and easily deploy a telecommuting environment for employees. Enterprises should consider vendors who offer solutions that do not need to be installed on client machines.
The following should be considered before starting a secure remote access deployment:
- Should remote access be enabled only in the event of a crisis or implemented as an on-going business plan?
- Secondly, decide which employees should be equipped with secure remote access functionality. Depending on the specific employee’s duties, the type and range of secure remote access can be determined — from access to only their own desktop to comprehensive remote access to an entire enterprise network.
- Finally, there is the question of which technology to use. Decisive factors are availability, performance, cost and, of course, security. The Internet can make workstation PCs and systems available from all over the world, but this brings with it security risks.
Virtual Workplace Outlook
As virtual workplace programs grow in popularity within enterprises, there continues to be no shortage of studies and surveys indicating its bright future. In a analyst report by Forrester Research, it is predicted that the U.S. telecommuting ranks will swell from 34 million in 2009 to 63 million by 2016 — fueled by broadband adoption, better collaboration tools and growing management experience.
With remote access solutions at the backbone of virtual workplaces, employees are always connected to their corporate networks while visiting customers, business partners, at home or while in the field. The ability to securely, economically and reliably access enterprise resources from diverse platforms and terminals is, now and in the future, a not-to-be underestimated competitive advantage.
Klaus Brandstätter is CEO of HOB, Inc. Headquartered in Hawthorne, NY, HOB is a developer of innovative remote access solutions. The company’s flagship solution, HOB Remote Desktop VPN, provides secure remote access to internal company applications and data.DATA and ANALYTICS , Inside the Briefcase, SECURITY