Many businesses want to offer employees the flexibility of remote working. The potential benefits are well known and widely accepted: flexible work locations, productivity gains and cost savings. For example, businesses can allow employees to work from home, accommodate a travelling sales team, create a "hot-desking" environment at several different offices. This flexibility also helps attract talented employees. The challenge is providing the technology that ensures those workers are productive and feel part of their organisation. At the same time, the organization needs to ensure that the technology includes the right level of data security to protect critical information, private data and trade secrets.
When at home, the remote worker is going to be physically isolated from colleagues. This has a big impact on communication and directly affects the ability to convey ideas and interact with others. The right technology will help. The home worker must be able to interact with colleagues using all forms of collaboration technologies, including web conferencing, video chats, and shared desktops. In addition to communication technologies, it is vital the remote worker has a good computing experience, with secure access to the core applications they need to do their jobs. Their computing environment should be as robust at home or on the road as it is in the office.
Many organizations solve the security problem with solutions like virtual desktop interfaces (VDI), without meeting the human need for in-office performance levels. VDI requires an always-on, high-bandwidth online connection, one that is not always available for the mobile worker. At the same time, outfitting each employee with a laptop continues to be a significant expense. This need to combine security and performance with cost efficiency is why the "Windows To Go" solution is getting a close look by companies seeking to enable their remote and mobile workforces.
"Windows To Go", a new feature of Windows 8 Enterprise, is a PC on a Stick solution that is bringing this approach to mainstream enterprise and government organizations. Using "Windows To Go", organizations can adopt a "bring your own device" (BYOD) strategy – allowing employees to use their own laptops, while providing them instead provide them a secure, IT managed certified USB drive, such as the IronKey Workspace, that can boot the corporate Windows desktop from most any home PC. Employees can use their home computers, hot desks or tablets and have secure access to all applications they are used to having in the office.
Unlike a virtualised or online remote access solution, the portable workspace offers full host computer isolation, so that documents cannot be saved to the host machine but rather the USB drive.
At the same time, all of the hardware resources of the host computer are available, at performance levels comparable to or even higher than running the operating system from a hard disk drive. This means that the user will have access to the host machine's sound, microphone, and camera, so that teleconferencing is an option without relying on the availability or expense of the user's home phone. It means good native graphics performance, and that the employee will not have to wait for the screen to scroll as they are browsing or working on documents. They will be able to use applications at full resolution, and so be able to view two documents at once instead of one.
The remote worker can easily use graphics tools to sketch ideas and share them. Applications will be able to use all of the host computer's available screen power and memory which means more applications can be run and they will be faster than applications delivered online. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to install and run applications locally is key. This negates the reliance on the home Internet network to be 'always on' to be able to work.
The human side of remote working must be a key consideration in creating secure remote work environments for employees. While online solutions may deliver the control desired by IT, the key for workers to combine security with a system that helps them stay productive. Familiarity, ease of use with the knowledge that the environment is secure -- adds up to the optimal experience for the remote worker. Ultimately this contributes to the employee's happiness, motivation and productivity.
Nick Banks is VP EMEA at Imation Mobile Security.