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Remote working and pc's
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roz


Posts: 1,793
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #1
06-05-2008 02:26 PM

I hope some of you technically astute readers can help me with this ,particularly those of you who work from home occasionally but use your laptops to access your company's internal systems and programmes.

How difficult is it to do the above, ie work from home on a part time basis but during that time, have access to all emails, intranet, and financial reporting systems that you would normally use when in the office. Do you need to have a dedicated server in the remote location?

My employer is saying its not possible for staff to work from home for reasons of technical impossibility. At present staff can only access emails remotely but not the archive email files. If I am working on a spreadsheet I need to email it to me at home and then open it and work from that. It is very limiting although manageable in the short term.

Do you think that its technically impossible, expensive or difficult to put into practice, or is it simply that its a good excuse to avoid any requests for home working? I think there are already some small offices within my organisation with pcs which are linked up to the server in the HQ only ie in another location, which seems to make a nonsense of their argument per se.

Any advice or information on other people's experiences appreciated , and thanks in advance.

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michael


Posts: 3,217
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #2
06-05-2008 02:39 PM

What your company need is a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Using such a system I can access everything within my company whether I am at home, in a hotel, or office abroad. It is a little slower to move emails to the archive, but I tend to store items in local folders on a temporary basis. Opening emails from archives or documents from the network is not significantly slower than working from the office.

You certainly do not need a dedicated server. Some companies will only allow VPN access from their own machines (which they know have anti-virus software) as access from other machines could spread viruses. However, I also use a web-based access method which is not proper VPN and this works faster than VPN, but has limited access to resources.

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roz


Posts: 1,793
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #3
06-05-2008 02:49 PM

Thanks for this, Michael, this is very useful information.

I will certainly drop a VPN or two into the conversation if and when it next comes up for discussion. I suspect that either they just don't want to let the workers out of their sight, (despite most people being out of the office for more than 50% of the time anyway on legitimate business) and/or have concerns about the security of their systems, or just simply that the hard pressed IT department can't be bothered trying to sort it all out.

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Londondrz


Posts: 1,538
Joined: Apr 2006
Post: #4
06-05-2008 02:54 PM

Very easy to use and set up. I work from home every now and again and log on via the internet. As Michael said it is a little slower but then you are at home so relax and have a coffeeSmile

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Elizabeth25


Posts: 212
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #5
06-05-2008 03:49 PM

Yes a VPN is the way. I worked for a Dutch company last year from home. By logging on to the VPN, I had access to all the shared folders, by email, and the company-wide IM system to have instant messages with people I was working with in Amsterdam, other parts of London and New York.

It wasn't technically difficult from my end--but then again the VPN had already been set up at the company before I joined. The firm also set me up with a Blackberry they paid for so I had all my work phone calls in a mobile device as well.

(no longer with them BTW--the company had some financial problems, oh well--back to commuting)

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Sherwood


Posts: 1,355
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #6
06-05-2008 09:19 PM

I work from home occasionally. When the system is working it is as if I am in the office, but a little slower. For security we use a dedicated telephone line for broadband. Often the system does not work.

It is also possible to work from home without this system. But obviously you cannot receive or send emails until you get back in the office. You can set your work email to automatically forward to your personal email, but this is unlikely to be as secure as your work email.

I think your employer may be legally obliged to make such provision for you.

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BarCar


Posts: 294
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #7
07-05-2008 08:17 AM

Sherwood Wrote:
I think your employer may be legally obliged to make such provision for you.

The legal obligation to provide flexible working (including home working) only applies in limited circumstances where you are the carer of a young or disabled child: http://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/asp/fa...exwork.asp

Beyond that it's up to your powers of persuasion and your employer's open-mindedness.

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davidl


Posts: 180
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #8
07-05-2008 09:16 AM

A lot to discuss here.

Certainly it's not technically impossible to give someone access remotely to the things they use in the office, but it's often not cheap.

There 3 broad types of remote access:

  1. Accessing Outlook email on an Exchange server via the internet.
  2. Using a VPN to connect a computer at home to an office network
  3. Using something like Citrix to get a virtual desktop on your home PC

Option 1 is fairly easy and can be set up in an afternoon with an internet connected web server and the right bits and pieces - this is what I am guessing you have at present. Then you just go to a web address, put in your username and password and you have a webpage which looks a lot like your Outlook inbox in the office. Home PC can be used with little risk.

Option 2 is a little bit more expensive - you need to have some sort of secure authentication (most people use a key fob with a 6-digit number on it changing every minute or so, from a company called RSA) and someone needs to make a decision to allow computers not under direct physical control to join the network. Once these machines are in the network they can be given access to applications/fileshares as freely as policy dictates. You can even have a direct connection to a remote desktop in this sort of scenario. Prevalent probably 5 or 6 years ago, this is increasingly being superceded by option 3. Home PC can be used, but it's more likely that you would only be allowed to do this with a laptop from work which is locked down.

Option 3 is more expensive again - you need licences for Citrix at the server side, and you also need to pay for the secure authentication from option 2. There are a lot of benefits, though. People can be given (controlled and audited) access to specific applications, or even to a whole virtual desktop just like their office PC, with access to applications and file shares. Using this sort of solution I can get a session on my own office PC. Marginally slower than being there, but on the plus side I get a comfy chair, decent coffee and I can listen to the radio. Again, home PC can be used. Or indeed, a Mac.

None of these solutions is without hassle, and while all *can* be done, there are security issues for the employer to think about (as well as productivity, presenteeism issues - if you make it too convenient to work from home you can wind up with an empty office, which might not be a good thing). A lot of firms have realised that if they make these facilities available, they can get more time and effort out of the workforce, though.

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Londondrz


Posts: 1,538
Joined: Apr 2006
Post: #9
07-05-2008 09:30 AM

We have a VPN and a proxy server set up on the company server and we downloaded it from the internet for next to nothing.

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roz


Posts: 1,793
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #10
11-05-2008 08:31 PM

This has been very interesting, thanks for all the advice.

Unfortunately my employer has turned down my request largely on the basis that it would be detrimental to customer care and business performance. And of course they just don't like it.

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Sherwood


Posts: 1,355
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #11
11-05-2008 08:47 PM

If working from home suits you, I suggest you look for another job.

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michael


Posts: 3,217
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #12
11-05-2008 09:09 PM

I find that I can better assist customers and perform better for the company since I am always connected to my company email. I rarely 'work from home' but I actually do most evenings and weekends. But every job is different and some are more suitable for remote working than others.

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