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  • Dan Cummins

The Casual Work-From-Home

Updated: May 25, 2022


In the past 18th months, there has been no greater paradigm shift to the business IT world than wide-scale adoption of remote work setups. Almost overnight, businesses of all sizes were forced to develop workflows and organizational structures that incorporated a variety of solutions, from the simple to the complex.


For companies that were already cloud-based in terms of their office resources, the shift was significantly less painful than those who regularly depend on in-house resources such as locally hosted file-servers or industry specific software. While there are clearly many industries that can't go completely remote (manufacturing, in-person retail, etc.), office managers across the world are discovering that a massive infrastructure of in-person employees may not be worth the cost.


The IT industry was already moving this way, as has been for years - a great example of this being email. As recently as ten years ago, it was a common sight to see small- to medium- sized businesses hosting their own Exchange server in their office, requiring maintenance and support from someone knowledgeable enough to do so. Since the introduction of easy-to-manage hosted email platforms like G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365, the necessity of such a wieldy and high-maintenance device quickly vanished in favor of the new 'cloud', made even more attractive by ever-increasing internet speeds.


Similarly, the requirement to host office files, documents, and other resources locally has also all but disappeared as the myriad of cloud drive services available all compete for market share by adding new and more features every year. Dropbox, Google Drive, Egnyte, OneDrive, Box.com, and many others are all great solutions with diverse user e


xperiences designed to appeal to different business sectors and price points. Further still, the introduction of IP-based phone systems in recent years allows offices to forward in-house calls to external extensions, allowing for even greater flexibility. Lastly, the pandemic brought about a nearly universal adoption and normalization of video-chatting. With users, clients, and managers all being more acclimated to the social and technical protocols, virtual collaboration with face-to-face interaction is easier than ever.


In short, the technical and logistical hurdles that once made working remotely a somewhere-between-difficult-and-impossible option are largely irrelevant now with the technology and services available today. If employees are to be primarily working via email, calls, and web-based applications, there's no IT-based reason why that can't be done from anywhere. As above, with large if not all portions of office digital resources being cloud-based, there isn't a large difference between the setup needs of an in-office PC vs a mobile one.


It then purely becomes a question of workflow and organizational structure. For employees who can or should work largely independent of one another, the impact is minimal. For those that need to be more closely managed, or that depend on in-person interaction and teamwork, perhaps not so much. The advantage is that, in many cases, a hybrid approach may be best. It is common to see offices with certain teams working primarily in-person for productivity reasons, with other departments such as accounting or marketing being remote.


Typical Remote Workplace Scenarios fall into one of three categories.


1. Cloud Only - This is the easiest to manage and configure, as it assumes there is no requirement for access to the office directly. All email, files, web-apps are accessed via the internet. As more and more businesses move their day to day files to collaborative spaces like MS Teams, this is becoming more and more viable as an option. The advantage is that it requires little alteration to the existing IT infrastructure at this office.


2. Direct Workstation Access - This presumes there are resources and files physically in the office can only (or should only) be accessed from within the office network. Usually this is either a proprietary system hosted on a server, or something like a local QuickBooks Company file that is so large it would perform poorly if hosted in the cloud. Remote access can be achieved a few ways.


A) In the case of Windows Remote Desktop, while the functionality is built in to all PC's, there are a few extras steps to configure a secure connection. The office router must be properly configured to allow incoming connections, AND a 3rd party multi-factor authenticator should be employed to secure this open connection from hacks and exploitation.


B) A 3rd-party software solution such as TeamViewer or Splashtop. These can work very well, and have a different set of features from typical RDP connections, with minimal extra cost and less technical knowledge to configure.


The primary downside to direct workstation access is that it requires a local PC in the office to be connected into, which can be an added cost. The scenarios where this is most efficient are usually where an office worker primarily works in the office, but occasionally uses their personal machine from home to access a work computer that is configured and set up for what they need. Many users find this to be comforting, as they can leave their windows and programs at work, and pick up where they left off by logging in remotely, without having to configure an entirely new environment.


3. VPN or network-only access. This approach is waning in popularity as cloud-based solutions become the norm. However there are still many scenarios where this may be employed - specifically, large networks such as hospitals or universities, where patient or student data can not or should not be hosted in a cloud-accessible location. Typically, this is achieved with any number of secure VPN connection apps that allow the remote machine to act as if it is physically connected to the local network.


In short, working remotely is not only becoming more accepted culturally, it is easier than ever technologically. Thus the flexibility to employ is within reach of all offices, and can be a valuable cost-saver.


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