There are certainly benefits to be had by allowing employees to work remotely. Weston, for example, has folks working in Bend, Anchorage, Spokane, Portland and Eugene, and we work together as one team. If you’re considering allowing folks to work remotely, you’ll want to make sure a few things are ready to go.
VPNs and Secure Remote Access: Step number one is being able to provide secure access to your office’s information. If the person working remotely is going to be permanently working remotely, and your office files and applications are primarily stored on your servers in your office, a permanent point-to-point VPN setup might be the best solution. This is accomplished by purchasing firewall hardware for the remote site that can create a point-to-point secure link (VPN) to your main office firewall. Then you can configure the firewall so that requests to main office-based resources are automatically routed over that secure connection, making it seamless from an end-user perspective. We’ve installed dozens of Sonicwalls for field/remote workers that are built to do just that and they work quite well.
However, you can also get remote access to your office servers using the server’s built-in remote access tools. This might include Windows Anywhere Access or standard PPTP VPN configurations, which work quite well but aren’t quite as seamless as a point-to-point hardware-based VPN (they are cheaper, however).
Phones and Video Conferencing: Getting access to the files and apps on the server is one thing, being able to talk to your colleagues directly about those files is something that is a bit more difficult. That kind of interaction is important when you have a team of folks spread out all over the place, and there are two things that you should have in-place:
- Seamless Phone System: For your office and your clients, you want your office to seem as one cohesive unit, even if you are spread out all over. Your phone system should be able to seamlessly communicate with remote users, either via virtual-extensions on your current PBX or phone system, or a cloud-based phone system like RingCentral. We use RingCentral (and are a dealer for RingCentral) and we basically ship our remote users a phone, they plug it into the internet, and they are now on our phone system. We’re able to transfer calls to them, just like they were in the office, and the person calling in doesn’t know that the transfer or their call is going somewhere else.
- Video Conferencing: We use Skype for Business for all our daily meetings, bringing in people from thousands of miles apart. We also use for its instant chat features, allowing remote workers to feel more a part of the team.
Cloud-based Apps: Obviously the more you have running in the cloud, the easier it is to justify remote workers. While the cloud isn’t for everybody, it does help remote workers if the apps and data they’re accessing is cloud-based and built to be accessible from everywhere. Because our team is spread all over the place, we make great use of Sharepoint Online as our centralized file repository for a lot of our shared files, and run some of our mission-critical apps in the cloud and on cloud-based servers to allow access from anywhere.
Weston has helped many companies enable their remote workforce to work from anywhere in a secure and productive manner. Give us a call at 541-383-2340 to see how we can help you.