Telecommuting is not a passing fad. Twenty percent of workers around the world telecommute occasionally. Within that group, 10 percent work at home on a daily basis, according to MySammy, a company that makes productivity-measurement software. These statistics—published on Mashable last month—indicate the growing acceptance of a telecommuting workforce.
With this in mind, we want to examine a number of steps that small businesses can do to better support telecommuting workers.
Setup VPN Access
Due to the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots, it's not uncommon for mobile or telecommuting employees to access the Internet at airports, hotels and coffee shops. However, using unsecured wireless access leaves your employees wide open to wireless sniffing, and they also risk being tricked into connecting to a Trojan access point run by hackers.
One easy way to protect telecommuting workers from un-secured Internet connectivity is to setup remote VPN access for their laptops back to the office. The use of digital certificates via VPN helps defend against man-in-the-middle attacks, while encryption protects against data interception. On the server side, VPN hardware appliances have fallen in prices and complexity, and should be reasonable easy to setup.
Build a Reliable Wi-Fi Network
While a well-built Wi-Fi network does not contribute directly to telecommunication, it does promote employee laptop use. Laptop portability makes it easy for employees to take work home, if needed. This flexibility lowers barriers to telecommuting, and ensures that everyone has the tools they need to get their work done at home or on the road.
Fortunately, building a Wi-Fi network is hardly rocket science, though putting up a reliable wireless infrastructure requires some effort. You may want to read an earlier blog that outlines some important tips to know prior to deploying Wi-Fi in your small business office.
Embrace Cloud Storage
Finally, of cloud storage is another major tool for supporting small business telecommuting. In the past, remote workers had to jump through arcane procedures to access file servers located behind corporate firewalls.
Today cloud storage services such as MozyPro, Dropbox for Business or Carbonite Business, to name but a few, makes it much easier to access files no matter where you're located.
Of course, cloud storage is not a replacement for a good data backup strategy. This is a crucial point to note, especially given the reputation for slow online recovery that cloud storage has (justifiably) earned. Moreover, having an offline copy of data just makes sense, as it offers protection against accidental file changes, as well as more ominous threats such as malware and hackers.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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