A decade or two ago, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that nothing could end the tyranny of the nine-to-five office job. Not so any more – there’s a revolution underway in the where, when and how of our working lives, and we’re all a part of it.
According to a PwC study from 2014, just 14% of Britons would like to work in a traditional office environment in the future. One in five of us, meanwhile, think technology has rendered this utterly unnecessary – we want to swap our desks for virtual workspaces, logging in from home and the coffee shop rather than within the same four walls as our bosses.
Then there’s the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. Now that pretty much everybody has a powerful smartphone in their pocket at all times, there’s little reason for us to use our company-issue laptops any more. We want to access work resources not only from any location, but on any device.
The rise of remote working and BYOD is all well and good. It does, however, put certain pressures on the IT departments called on to provision secure access to enterprise resources. We live in an age of real-time communication and collaboration, so it’s not really enough simply to let mobile employees save documents to local storage and work on them later – they need direct access to the same fileshares and applications they’d have in the office, and by whatever means necessary.
Here are three of the ways you can let your BYOD workers connect remotely:
1. Through a VPN
One of the oldest and most commonly used methods to allow remote connectivity into a business IT environment is the virtual private network (VPN). As the name suggests, a VPN allows two or more devices to share data across a public network – such as the internet – but otherwise behaves in the same way as a private one, like your office LAN. So, no matter where your users are in the world, they can access work resources just as if they were on your premises.
VPNs are an attractive option because they’re very simple to set up with minimal change to your infrastructure, but be aware of the security implications: while they typically use encryption for data in transit, you’ll want to step up your authentication techniques so that passwords stolen from remote workers don’t give hackers carte blanche access to your network.
2. Using RDP
Another way to let your BYOD workers connect to work resources remotely is via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), a Microsoft technology available on most major platforms. RDP’s premise is desktop-sharing – users connect directly to another machine rather than simply hook into a private network. This is useful because it means they can use any licensed software installed on that computer.
The most recent version of the Remote Desktop app will work both on PCs and mobile devices. Remember, though – the remote computer will need to be switched on, hooked up to the internet, and configured to accept RDP connections.
3. Adopting a cloud environment
Finally, don’t forget that your remote connectivity problems can also be solved by migrating to a fully-fledged cloud environment. If you build your IT from the ground up to support connections from any location and any device, you won’t need a bolt-on solution to meet the demands of your BYOD workers.
Switch to Office 365, for example, and your employees will be able to use the productivity apps they’re already familiar with – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – without having to worry about whether they’re installed on their devices or not, or where their files are stored and shared.
Moreover, Office 2016 has gone to new lengths to make Microsoft’s flagship software suite mobile-first and cloud-first. With apps available for Apple, Android, and Windows 10 devices of all screen sizes, as well as on the web, it’s optimised for a wider range of machines than ever. It also allows real-time collaboration in native apps, so two or more people can work on the same document regardless of their location.