Not long ago when I imagined working remotely I had visions of being leaned back into a comfy leather recliner at some hip coffee shop with indie music playing in the background and surrounded by a wonderfully complicated dark aroma of roasting coffee beans. Laptop on my knees and free wifi at my beck and call, I could dispatch emails, answers to chat requests, and quick text to folks on my team with wild abandon, all while enjoying my freedom to roam and a tasty beverage and snack at my side.
Now in the post-pandemic era the remote worker needs far more than a vacant chair at the coffee shop… like you can even find one any more. Am I right? Ok, yes, it’s getting better, but still working remotely these days demands a workspace that resembles a real office more than it ever has before.
Furthermore, from an owner, manager, or team leader’s perspective, the options for working remotely need more flexibility than ever before while simultaneously being secure, cost effective, and scalable.
To make matters worse, you can’t even plan for these things ahead of time. Suddenly ‘Bob’ tests positive for Covid and now everyone exposed or even possibly exposed, abruptly has to work remotely.
So how can you be proactively prepared for such an eventuality? Well, with a bit of preplanning and some shifting of resources, it’s not difficult. Now obviously if your business is lawn mowing or involves workers on an assembly line, these tools aren’t going to be as effective. But most businesses out there have a good portion of their workers using a computer and a phone. Here’s a list of tools we can help you put in place quickly and painlessly, so you can rest easy and have your remote workers up and running in no time.
Ok, I know, this one’s painfully obvious. So let’s just list the quick and dirty top five and be done with it. You already know how to use them and their pricing is available online. They’re quick and easy to get setup and simple to scale.
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
Cell phones work well for some businesses, but wind up creating major headaches for others. Our customers reported a couple of things they didn’t like when allowing remote workers to use their cell phones. Whose paying the bill? If they don’t already have a company cell phone, employees generally don’t like using their personal cell phone for work. On top of that, each phone call they make leaves a caller id with their personal phone number. Worse than that, your employee is conducting business with a personal device, over which you have no control. There is no way to verify they are making or taking the calls they say they are. And if they are called back, messages get left on their personal voicemail.
Remote Desk Phone
This is a job for VOIP – Voice over Internet Protocol. A business VOIP phone system or hosted VOIP services allows for your calls to literally be taken from anywhere you have high speed internet. Now your business desk phones can be plugged in at home where your remote employee is working and it’s just like they are sitting at work. Answer calls, place them on hold, transfer them, all the features of the office are now right there in their remote work space.
But it doesn’t stop there! Oh no! Now you can download a remote voip phone app…on your mobile phone! That’s right, this app is a remote VOIP phone that connects back to your business VOIP telephone system or hosted VOIP cloud phone system. Now, I don’t even need my desk phone. I launch the app on my mobile device and bingo I’m up and running. I can make calls just like I do from my desk phone and it’s like I’m calling from the office. My outgoing calls come from the office number, voicemails go to my office voicemail, which by the way, I can check from my app. Transfer, hold, park, all the stuff I can do at the office I can do from my mobile device.
That’s not all! Remember when I mentioned the solutions needed to be cost effective? VOIP service is 30-40% cheaper than traditional phone service. So most of the time your savings pay for the upgrade to VOIP within a very short time.
Working remotely can have many challenges, especially when you may have standards you need to meet such as security and compliance. Other challenges may simply be employee productivity and connectivity.
We’ve developed a great series of questions that help our clients navigate through the myriad of choices to select the best solution for their remote workforce. Some of those questions begin by exploring what sort of resources remote workers need access to. Do they need access to a specific software? How do they normally get to that software? Is there private information contained in that software?
All of these questions are aimed at helping our clients lower their risk, increase productivity, while keeping costs as low as possible. Understanding the need for flexibility can also impact the selection of the right solution. If workers are traveling often vs always working from the same remote location can change the way solutions are implemented.
Answers to technical problems are what we do here at Diverse CTI! So let me rattle off the highlights when it comes to remotely connecting.
Remote desktop solutions come in many different flavors and platforms. Each is a bit different in what they offer. Having workers remote into their work PC from an outside computer or device can be a security nightmare, so choosing the right method is crucial. For a straight through connection utilizing Remote Desktop in Windows you’ll need a VPN connection which requires a firewall at your business. We only recommend this method for very specific needs due to the security issues it can sometimes create.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and your company firewall. That way, any data shared between you and your company can’t be seen. It’s basically hopelessly scrambled for anyone who might be listening in.
A firewall is paramount in not only keeping your company secure, but also in facilitating secure connections for your remote workers. It is the separating barrier between your internal network and the internet. It handles all of the communication between the inside and outside of your network. It’s also the central foundation of any cyber security solution.
Screen Sharing Applications
Remote screen sharing applications like TeamViewer and GoToMyPC are examples of screen sharing remote desktop applications. They use a different method of connecting remote users to their desktop pcs as compared to a VPN direct remote desktop connection. While sometimes more costly because there are monthly fees, there are definite benefits when set up correctly. Users are more simple to manage, security settings for preventing data loss are easier to implement, and the system as a whole is easy to scale. We use a proprietary screen sharing solution that is highly secure and extremely cost effective.
Virtual desktops are another technology that has seen widespread adoption during the new age of the pandemic. Both Citrix and VMWare are some of the most popular. Virtual desktops allow not only a uniform experience for users but also one of the most secure. Additionally it can be accessed remotely from anywhere. Essentially, users log into a virtual computer which has all of the software applications they normally use. The computer or device they use to remote in doesn’t need to be secured since no data passes through to the device being used to remote in. It is only displaying the remote desktop on the screen. All of their work is being done on the company servers hosting the virtual desktop.
Mobile devices are getting more powerful by the day and now many are able to be used with an external monitor along with a keyboard and mouse. Combined with virtual desktop technology, all you may need is your mobile device! Even more exciting, by launching an app on your mobile device or tablet, you can run apps which normally don’t run on a mobile device. Virtual desktop technology can be used to display and run applications remotely through your phone or tablet.