Technology for the Remote Workplace Part I – Systems
This is Part I of a three part series of articles designed for finance leaders permanently implementing work from home or remote workplace options for their teams. NPI Technology Management, a company that specializes in delivering the best fit information technology for their clients, prepared these articles that cover key technology challenges leaders are facing when implementing a remote work environment; Systems, Security and Collaboration Tools.
Most organizations already have means of providing remote access when needed. But, as you move toward most or all of your people working from away, the systems in place can be strained. Here are your key options for keeping things running smoothly:
Using an on-premise server
There are three ways you can make an on-premise server into a remote-access hub:
1. Virtual private network (VPN)
With a VPN, each user connects a computer at home to the office server via the Internet. Files are saved and retrieved the same as in the office. For protection and security, we strongly recommend that people use only company-owned-and-managed computers on a VPN.
A VPN works well with office applications such as Word and Excel that don’t require constant interaction with the server.
Constraints: When bandwidth gets overloaded, performance suffers. We’re seeing this when clients shift a large number of users to a VPN, and when an office Internet link, such as cable, has limited “upload” bandwidth. Users also need decent bandwidth at home.
If you’re running into slow file-storage and retrieval speeds with a VPN, we can help you sign up or upgrade for a faster link.
2. Remote control software (LogMeIn, GotoMyPC, Join.Me, etc.)
These applications let you use a computer at home to control a second computer at work. Remote control works well for applications that require constant interaction with the server, such as database, accounting, and ERP systems. Home/personal computers can safely be used to control office machines.
Constraint: Each user needs two computers, one at home and another that is left on at the office.
3. Remote Desktop Service (RDS) Server
RDS uses an office server to provide a virtualized session for each user. This is similar to remote control software, but without the requirement that each user have a machine dedicated to them at the office.
Constraint: As clients increase the number of concurrent RDS users, they are finding they need to allocate more resources (memory, CPU cores) to their RDS server(s). In some cases, they need to add one more additional RDS server as well; as a rule of thumb, an RDS can generally support about 25-30 home users. If your environment is constrained, we can help you add resources to meet the need.
Clients who have already moved significant resources to the Cloud have a head start in creating an efficient remote-user workplace, since they are already accessing services remotely. In the current environment, some clients are working to rapidly move resources to the Cloud to make them more remotely accessible. Options include:
1. File-hosting services (SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.)
Users operate their computers normally, and files are stored and shared elsewhere. A relatively easy change to make quickly.
2. Hosted data centers (Canopy Cloud, Azure, AWS, etc.)
These are servers that are hosted remotely but dedicated for your use. Best for organizations of 25+ users. Requires planning and pre-migration testing.
3. Cloud-based software (Salesforce, QuickBooks Online, etc.)
You sign up for software that’s based on a remote server. Hosting, hardware, software and support are all provided, typically for a monthly per-user fee. Because new software requires business process changes, this migration typically requires planning and training.
4. Hosted email (Exchange Online, G Suite, etc.)
Hosted email services work well and are the first Cloud migration for many clients. This is a relatively easy migration because users can normally continue to use the same email provider they currently use. We are seeing some short-term performance issues with email hosting services as work-from-away policies are increasing email flow.
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