Working from home now has its own acronym (WFH). The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly done its share to increase interest in WFH, but frankly, job seekers are asking for it more often and employers are seriously considering WFH as a strategy for expansion and cost savings. So, if interested in employing such a strategy, where does one start. What are the right questions?
The first question is – Why? Why begin or continue WFH? Is the goal to provide a safer workplace for employees during the pandemic? Do you need to expand your local workforce but lack adequate office space? Does WFH offer an opportunity to hire new employees without relocating them to your local office? Does remote working offer the opportunity to expand your geographic footprint in order to grow?
Each of these goals present a unique set of technology challenges. Imagine you have implemented WFH – what might be some of your concerns? Maybe some of these?
- Loss of productivity and efficiency due to limited access to data or applications
- Unable to share inbound phone call workload among staff
- Unable to make outbound phone calls showing company caller ID
- Unable to send faxes efficiently
- Concern of data security, control, or loss via breach, employee theft, or device failure
Solutions to mitigate these concerns are available and differ depending on whether your business applications are running on a local server or if they are cloud-based. Here are questions to ask your technology advisor:
- If your business applications run on a local server
- Will my server support Remote Desktop Services? If the answer is yes, this may be your best option as it allows your remote users to access the applications on the server and work simultaneously. If the answer is no, then,
- Your technology advisor will need to help you implement a method of allowing users to remotely access their workstations at the office. One of the downsides of this solution is the computer at the office could go offline or require a re-boot for some reason. Ask for a plan as to how this issue will be resolved.
- A third option in this scenario is to implement cloud based computing, where the server(s) and workstations are re-located to a data center and remotely accessed by users. This is typically something that must be adopted company-wide and requires a significant mind-shift in IT strategy. Before considering this solution, ask for a complete study of alternatives, a break-even analysis, a detailed implementation and support plan and most importantly references that can verify successful outcomes.
- If your business applications are cloud-based
- Your users should be able to access them remotely over the internet as before WFH.
- You and your technology advisor will need to decide if your employees will remotely access their computers at the office or be moving them to home.
- In either case, make sure you get satisfactory answers to questions as to why one method is recommended over the other.
In order to simplify the remote working experience for your users and to enhance productivity under any of these scenarios, you should ask for a technology plan that considers these cloud-based services,
- Cloud-based email hosting, file storage and backup, and device/directory management (Microsoft 365)
- On-line accounting software
- Backup and data recovery services for online applications
- VoIP – telephone services over Internet
Whether your IT strategy employs local servers, cloud-based applications and services, or a hybrid environment, make sure you ask your technology advisor questions about continuity of operation and security of your devices and information.
- What happens when our server fails? What is the backup plan so we can keep operating and recover any lost data? How long does that take?
- What if we lose Internet connectivity? Is there an alternative connection? Is it immediately available?
- What security protection do I have and how does it work?
The flexibility of WFH offers great new opportunities but with these come new challenges. If by asking the right questions you get answers that make good business sense and help you to sleep better at night, WFH might be a good long term strategy to help you grow your bottom line.
You can also read part one of this series.
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About Davis Merrey
Davis, is Owner/CEO of TeamLogic IT of Oklahoma City, part of an international network of franchisees providing IT support for businesses. He brings many years of experience in a variety of technology related industries, leading teams in providing technical solutions that respond to critical customer needs. The company culture is defined by its Mission Statement: “To help our fellow employees and clients be successful”.
Davis earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute and an MBA in Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He serves on several business related and non-profit boards of directors.