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12/7/2010
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10 Steps To Mobile Worker Support

Today, millions of workers never set foot in offices, and the ability to work from anywhere is a powerful recruiting tool. Fortunately, supporting roving employees is easier than ever. Here's how.

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The permanently mobile workforce is a powerful tool for reducing costs--from real estate and utilities to travel and equipment--while simultaneously boosting productivity and morale. Put in place a strong telework program, and even the smallest company has access to a multinational talent pool. Blizzards, flu pandemics, traffic gridlock, general pestilence? No problem.

But a productivity win for the business can be quite the opposite for IT teams suddenly facing increased security risks from employee use of uncontrolled public networks and the need to accelerate deployment of collaboration and social networking technologies to geographically dispersed workgroups. Planning for remote access and mobility requires a focus on network security, client management, and Internet-centric communications as well as policies that regulate a new work paradigm.

One CPA firm that supports the federal government makes it clear to employees that mobility and security come with a convenience trade-off. "We use full-disk encryption at the BIOS level for all laptops, standard," a principal with the firm says. On customer sites, auditors employ Seagate BlackArmor NAS devices that provide advanced security capabilities. IT must approve any application installations on company gear. "We try to be flexible, but if IT thinks an application might pose a risk, the employee will need to justify why it's needed."

Setting ground rules up front is smart business, and not just around security. There are many elements to a successful remote worker program, not all of them technology related. We broke our 10 best practices down into hard and soft requirements--those focused on enabling technologies and those dealing with policies, management, and administration.

1 | Build a robust remote network.

Michael Peachey, VP of product management and marketing at cloud provider Pareto Networks, says not to conceptualize a remote office as some one-off work environment, but rather as "a branch office of one," with the same need for IT applications, infrastructure, and services as headquarters. The obvious basis for any such environment is reliable broadband, which used to mean a wired DSL or cable-modem circuit but now includes fiber to the home, such as Verizon's FiOS and fixed 4G wireless like Clearwire's WiMax.

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