Five Ways To Arm Your Mobile Workforce

New technologies allow road warriors to spend more time on work and less on workarounds.

Randy George, Director, IT Operations, Boston Red Sox

December 4, 2008

4 Min Read

Full disk encryption is sure to help IT breathe easier in the event of theft, but it offers little help to the traveling sales executive who just lost his laptop and needs to get some work done. The wonders of desktop virtualization and advancements in flash memory are bringing new options to on-the-go employees who've experienced digital disaster.

When corporate applications are difficult to deploy via Terminal Services or application virtualization, complete virtual desktop environments can be the answer for off-site workers who need quick access to custom computing environments from a public PC. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platforms are bleeding-edge technology in the eyes of many, but they're evolving quickly and are based on proven server virtualization technology.

VMware VDI and Citrix XenDesktop both offer remote access to virtual desktops via the Internet, but Internet access can be severed at a moment's notice--and depending on your locale, don't count on your cellular data service, either. With VMware Pocket Assured Computing Environment, or ACE, a feature of VMware ACE 2.5 Enterprise, IT can deploy an ACE-enabled virtual desktop that can be used offline and deployed on removable media. You can now buy a low-cost 32-GB thumb flash drive and equip employees with a VMware virtual desktop that can be plugged into any hotel computer for quick access to a full suite of files and applications.

Enterprise IP telephony has gone from fad to necessity in a relatively short period of time. Voice over IP is one of the few areas in IT where the up-front capital expenditure can be quickly paid back with savings over traditional telecom operating expenses. These potential savings are much greater if you have a large contingent of workers overseas who need to stay connected or home-based office staff.

Cisco and Avaya are vying to be top dog in the unified communications and VoIP space, and both have impressive arrays of products designed for the road and the home office. On the home front, Cisco's Unified IP Phone 7985G should satisfy even your most discerning executive. For videoconferencing, the 7985G sports an 8-inch LCD and built-in camera capable of pumping out 768 Kbps of IP video yielding 30 frames per second using H.263. The built-in two-port, 802.1Q-capable, 10/100-Mb switch allows for seamless quality of service and provides for convenient connectivity to a networked printer at the home office.

Avaya is preparing to release the IP 9670G Executive Touch Screen phone, which provides full touch-screen access to all standard voice-mail system functions, as well as a standard suite of applications, such as calculators and stock and weather tickers. The capabilities of the 9670G also can be extended through the ability to create custom applications via the Wireless Markup Language.

For a more portable form factor, the Avaya 3641 IP Wireless Phone resembles a traditional cordless telephone but connects to 802.11a/b/g wireless networks. If you're traveling with an Aruba wireless gateway and an Avaya 3641, then you have a highly functional roaming cubicle.

As a result, you might spot veteran road warriors armed with a printer like the 5-pound Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet H470wbt Mobile Printer. With its built-in Bluetooth and WLAN capability, coupled with its ability to print directly from a memory card, PDA, or digital camera, and powered by an optional cigarette-lighter AC adapter, you can now print at a blazing 18 pages per minute in color, or 22 ppm in black and white, while stopped at a traffic light (though we recommend parking the car before booting up). The printer lists for $350; depending on your budget and need, it might be cheaper to buy one than to trust that a copy center will be nearby and open when someone needs to print on the road.

Finally, it takes power to keep your superstars productive and happy, so take a look at some of the developments in battery technology. HP appears to be leading the pack with its EliteBook 6930p laptop, which has an optional expansion battery that can provide up to 24 hours of uninterrupted usage.

Out Of The Office -- But Working




Remote office

Creates a transparent IPsec tunnel for off-site workers and extends corporate WLAN to hotel or home office

Aruba Networks, Cisco

IP telephony

Cordless IP handsets and PC-based IP dialers give travelers quick access to corporate voice mail or phone while saving on phone company charges

Avaya, Cisco

Virtual desktop

Improves performance of band-infrastructure width-intensive apps; can serve as a backup if PC is lost or stolen

Citrix, VMware

Small form factor printer

Allows off-site workers to print whenever they need to


Extended-life batteries

Boost productivity during international flights, power outages, and other long stints between wired power sources

Dell, HP, Lenovo

Photo by Getty Images

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About the Author(s)

Randy George

Director, IT Operations, Boston Red Sox

Randy George has covered a wide range of network infrastructure and information security topics in his 4 years as a regular InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor. He has 13 years of experience in enterprise IT, and has spent the last 8 years working as a senior-level systems analyst and network engineer in the professional sports industry. Randy holds various professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Check Point, a BS in computer engineering from Wentworth Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management.

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