Welcome!

AJAX & REA Authors: David H Deans, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, ChandraShekar Dattatreya, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, XML, Wireless, Virtualization, Cloud Expo

SOA & WOA: Article

Telecommuting – The Invisible Employee

The biggest advantages to having remote workers & virtual offices are in-house facility costs, expansion, & talent acquisition

One of the truisms in information technology is that everything old is new again - well, except maybe for punched cards. We went from big corporate data centers to regional/division corporate data centers back to big corporate data centers and now to even bigger cloud data centers. We have gone from dumb terminals were everything was done on the mainframe, to PCs, and now to virtualized desktops - where everything is run on the central servers. And now, we are back to talking about the IT advantages of telecommuting.

Telecommuting is certainly nothing new. But what is changing is how people are telecommuting and the IT processes and procedures that support them. Gone are the days of modem banks and analog days. Gone are the days when IT departments handed out PCs so people could work from home. And gone are the days when connecting remote employees meant connecting them directly into the corporate network.

When most people think of telecommuting, we hark back to the model that JetBlue made famous: the company supplied the personal computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Internet connection (there is no need to go back to the caveman days with terminals and modems or acoustic couplers!). The PC was company property so that the policies, anti-virus, patches, etc., could all be controlled and managed by the corporate IT department. After all, a lot of employees still didn't even own their own computer.

These PCs had the necessary software pre-loaded on them, be it a thick client or a terminal emulator. When the remote staff connected in - their computers were placed onto the corporate network and became part of the companies extended network. When the PCs needed to be updated, patched, or upgraded - the employee had to bring everything back to the in-house IT department.

What changed? Well... EVERYTHING! There were four basic changes made for teleworking - and each of these changes required the IT department to adapt in different ways. As the ability to provide a realistic work environment kept increasing, we have gone from teleworkers to virtual offices.

One of the first big changes was that users no longer wanted to take a company PC home with them. They had their own perfectly good computer, and wanted to be able to connect using their machines. These machines/users wanted to connect to the company over the Internet instead of through dial-up modems. So IT departments started to increase their network connectivity, add Virtual Private Network (VPN) devices, and put in place intrusion detection/prevention appliances. Many a sleepless night was had by the IT administrator waiting for some remote user to spread a worm or Trojan through the entire organization.

The next big change was also Internet related - the death of thick clients. As browser technologies involved we were finally able to produce thick-client like look-and-feel inside a browser window. Most companies ported their internal applications to use browser-based web interfaces. These browser-based applications were exactly what were needed to allow better remote workers.

Ironically the Internet contributed the necessary technology to the next big change in our march to the virtual office: the move from IPSec-based VPN connections to browser-based SSL connections. IPSec, while a good protocol, proved problematic. Many travelers found out that their VPN connections were either blocked, or that the ISP or hotel lacked the technology to allow IPSec to pass through their networks. Just about every company's helpdesk received a call from some executive complaining about being unable to connect, and the helpdesk would have to try to work with the hotel or ISP to resolve the problem (and usual not be able to).

SSL VPNs resolve that issue because they work through the browser - an application that every PC already had loaded and that every user was already familiar with using. No longer would users have to be given CDs of the VPN software along with installation instructions (and the sure to follow helpdesk call). Most SSL VPN systems function as a proxy to allow dynamic access rights to the user. Instead of connecting them to the network (along with every virus, Trojan, and worm and the person's computer), we can now limit them to accessing the company's Intranet server, or to allow only access to specific company web pages.

Now that we have people using their own computers, over their own Internet connection, to securely access browser based applications - we must be done, right? What could be left? What is left is giving the user the necessary tools to have a virtual office instead of a remote connection.

Remote phone are required. The person needs to have a phone at his desk - even if that desk is 1000 miles away (or more). Here again new technology was required. We needed the new modern voice systems that allow Voice over IP (VoIP) so that we could have corporate phones remotely become part of the corporate telephone system. Even here, this is starting to give way to soft phones - software running on somebody's computer that provides that phone interface.

The remote person needs to know if his/her co-worker is available. After all, she can't simply look over the cubicle wall anymore to see if the coworker is there or not - and she can't see/hear if the co-worker is on the phone. But presence software, tied into the phone and using software on the person's computer, can tell the remote person if that co-worker is on the phone, in a meeting, or even at their desk working on their computer. Such presence software is normally built into an instant messaging client. These clients provide an easy way to communicate with somebody. Instant messaging is the new way to ask: Do you have a second?

The final piece of the puzzle to finally become feasible is video conferencing. IT departments no longer have to purchase expensive cameras, video conferencing servers, and large data connections everywhere. Point-to-point ad-hoc video conferences are easily done today with commercial "webcams" sitting on people's monitors and attached to their computers. In fact, most modern laptops have webcams built into them. Video conferencing allows the visual interfacing that is critical in modern communications. If you think that video is not important, remember that 70% of all our communication information comes from visual "clues". Without providing video conferencing, you are removing 70% of the person's comprehension.

Now that we know how to create a modern telecommuter environment, the question becomes whether we should allow telecommuting. Why are companies, both big and small, investing in this technology? Is this a technology that you should to be implementing?

The biggest advantages to having remote workers and virtual offices are in-house facility costs, expansion, and talent acquisition. Companies that have increased their use of remote workers have benefited from reduced building overhead expenses. One company that I frequently visit has been so successful with their remote worker program that they had to close the on-site cafeteria because there simply wasn't enough staff present to make use of it.

JetBlue used remote employees to staff their reservation lines. These were primarily part-time college educated women who only wanted to work 3-4 hours while their kids were in school. Using remote employees allowed JetBlue to staff across the country - thereby moving calls across the country as people's shifts changed. This is something that could not have been done with a traditional on-site call center.

Sometimes the perfect employee that you need to succeed isn't willing to relocate to where your office is. This leaves employers with the choice of either doing without a key resource, or figuring out how to allow that employee to work from home. Remote employees and virtual offices empower an employer to find the employee that will best contribute to the company - even if that person lives in a mountain cabin.

Those people who wonder if I really mean what I say about the advantages of virtual offices should know that it is what I use. I have a company phone that connects directly over the Internet to the company's phone system. I have an SSL VPN connection to gain access to the internal system. I use Cisco's Jabber service to provide presence information and instant messaging capabilities. And I use Cisco's WebEx Telepresence video conferencing service for when I need "face-to-face" time. The most important lesson I have learned about using a virtual office is to treat it like it is your real office - because the day you decide to wear your fuzzy slippers to the office is the day your boss will have a surprise video conference call with you.

More Stories By Dean Nedelman

Dean Nedelman is Director of Professional Services at ASi Networks, a network and voice services firm in City of Industry, Calif. In this role, he supports our major accounts, and oversees the implementation of advanced Cisco solutions and services. He has over 25 years of experience in technical and executive level technology roles, primarily in secure high performance computer environments across multiple industries and sectors. Dean's background includes security, high availability, telephony, advanced network, wide area application services, and storage area networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big D...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
The term culture has had a polarizing effect among DevOps supporters. Some propose that culture change is critical for success with DevOps, but are remiss to define culture. Some talk about a DevOps culture but then reference activities that could lead to culture change and there are those that talk about culture change as a set of behaviors that need to be adopted by those in IT. There is no question that businesses successful in adopting a DevOps mindset have seen departmental culture change, ...
SYS-CON Media announced today that Skytap blog on "DevOps Journal" exceeded 84,000 story reads. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Noel Wurst is the managing content editor at Skytap. Skytap provides SaaS-based dev/test environments to the enterprise. Skytap solution removes the inefficiencies and constraints that comp...
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
SYS-CON Events announced today Isomorphic Software, the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, a...
Fundamentally, SDN is still mostly about network plumbing. While plumbing may be useful to tinker with, what you can do with your plumbing is far more intriguing. A rigid interpretation of SDN confines it to Layers 2 and 3, and that's reasonable. But SDN opens opportunities for novel constructions in Layers 4 to 7 that solve real operational problems in data centers. "Data center," in fact, might become anachronistic - data is everywhere, constantly on the move, seemingly always overflowing. Net...
"ElasticBox is an enterprise company that makes it very easy for developers and IT ops to collaborate to develop, build and deploy applications on any cloud - private, public or hybrid," stated Monish Sharma, VP of Customer Success at ElasticBox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrateg...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happe...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...