It’s no secret the era of the 9-to-5 office is over. Today’s employees expect to be able to work whenever and wherever they want, and on whatever device they choose. Enabling remote work helps midmarket companies attract and retain the best employees.
That remote capability also helps today’s “distributed enterprise” get the job done more efficiently, whether it’s in a client’s office, at a job site or inside a coffee shop.
The growing need to work and collaborate outside the office is being enabled by emerging technologies that make remote workers more productive—and secure—than ever. But to win and retain top talent, businesses need to rethink their hardware strategy and make it as flexible as their workforce.
The office has left the building
The office was once a secure container for a business’s hardware. Now, as workplace walls have become less well-defined, that hardware is out in the world and at risk of being damaged, lost, or stolen, along with the precious data it contains.
Many companies could be devastated by the loss of trade secrets or regulated data, says Patrick Knight, senior director of cyber strategy at Veriato, which helps companies monitor user behavior to enhance productivity and security. So any company that allows remote work must first develop policies determining who may work remotely, the devices they may use and the data they can access.
“Your HR, legal team and senior leadership must assess the risks and decide which you are willing to take,” Knight says. “If you have a proper security framework, it makes allowing remote work so much easier.”
People are working everywhere, on a wider range of hardware and with a greater diversity of internal and external partners. That makes sense, as the cutting-edge skills businesses need are distributed across the globe. “You’re going to need to access new people,” says Todd Krautkremer, chief marketing officer of networking firm Cradlepoint. “Chances are, they don’t live where your business is headquartered.”
But companies need to know what is being shared and with whom. Enterprise Digital Rights Management can protect and control access to data even down to the file level. The goal is to ensure that only the right people use that file under the right circumstances—all without hindering productivity.
Security is not the only challenge facing remote work. Some remote workers may be more easily distracted—and therefore less productive—than their office counterparts. Others may find it difficult to collaborate without meeting face-to-face. These challenges are being addressed with advances in connectivity and cloud technology that allow even smaller organizations to support remote work that is seamless and secure.
That includes having a powerful All-in-One desktop that enables everything from accessing and sharing secure files to web meetings. Dell EMC Mid-Market Solutions provides full IT support for workstations at home, ensuring remote workers have fast, secure and problem-free access to the same capabilities they’d enjoy in the office.
Navigating the cloud
Many mid-market businesses moved to the cloud to save on IT infrastructure and personnel costs. But by liberating apps and data from on-site storage, the cloud has also done a lot to facilitate remote work. Here are just a few examples:
- The most popular cloud-based productivity apps can automatically sync files generated on a laptop or mobile device back to the cloud. The data is preserved even if the hardware is lost, stolen or destroyed.
- Many popular remote collaboration tools, including group messaging and videoconferencing, are cloud-based.
- Cloud technology enables mobile device management that can lock down or wipe data from lost or stolen hardware.
Is BYOD the right move?
When most people think about enabling remote work, they think about apps and networks. But having the right hardware is important, too.
In fact, while “bring your own device” is all the rage, it often makes sense for employers to supply the device, Knight says. That’s especially true when the worker is handling sensitive information.
“In my opinion, hardware and software that is required for employees’ jobs should be provided by the employer, so it can be secured and monitored according to the organization’s needs,” Knight says. Smartphones for business use should be equipped with a mobile device manager to ensure protection of company data.
Company-supplied hardware also can increase remote workers’ productivity. The right headset, camera and screen can transform the videoconferencing experience. A second monitor improves the efficiency of many kinds of work. And telecommuters with a serious “need for speed” might even be given a server for home use.
Workers who spend a lot of time on the road, in the field or on the job require the toughest and most dependable equipment. When Lifting Gear Hire—which rents hoisting and rigging equipment to construction firms—decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure, it turned to Dell EMC for equipment its sales reps could use on the road.
“Laptops are critical tools our sales reps need to do their jobs every day, and the Dell Latitude 5000 Series laptops are reliable and rugged, so our reps can better serve our customers,” says Mike Kott, a system administrator at Lifting Gear Hire. “That means our employees can do their jobs more easily, whether it’s contacting customers or entering sales orders. And they have the flexibility to do their work from anywhere—sitting in a hotel or in our offices.”
Connectivity: beyond Wi-Fi
If you tried remote work several years ago, you probably remember struggling with spotty wireless connections and cumbersome virtual private networks. Today, Wi-Fi is easier to find and connectivity has taken a great leap forward thanks to the 4G LTE cellular network, Krautkremer says.
That’s because a “hotspot” internet connection through 4G LTE is more secure than Wi-Fi accessed through a router. It’s not vulnerable to hackers within a router’s range, and it’s enhanced by cellular carriers’ own security measures. It’s also more accessible than Wi-Fi, because a hotspot can be established anywhere there’s cellular network coverage.
Businesses can now set up their own private networks that take advantage of the enhanced security and easy accessibility of 4G LTE (and soon 5G) connections, Krautkremer says. They can deploy an LTE-powered router at an employee’s home that eliminates the need for a VPN login. And with the widespread adoption of unlimited data plans, many remote workers can leave Wi-Fi behind entirely.
Thanks to advances in cloud computing, connectivity, security and hardware, almost any midmarket business should be able to offer remote workers the same range of amenities the big guys do. Now there’s no excuse for not getting the best talent you can find—wherever you can find it.