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Manage Telecommuting Easily and Securely

Manage Telecommuting Easily and SecurelyIf you could roll out of bed, commute just 40 feet, work in your robe and fuzzy slippers, and save thousands of dollars on travel expenses, would you do it? And, as a business owner or manager, would you offer the same benefit to your employees?, according to a survey commissioned by the Computing Technology Industry Association, 67 percent of respondents said their organization has seen greater productivity as a result of allowing employees to telecommute, either full or part-time, the main reason for the increase in output less commute time.

No doubt telecommuting benefits employees and employers alike, but with the distractions of home beckoning children to drop off, a kitchen to clean, and laundry to wash can a telecommuter be as productive as employees in the office more important, can technology keep your data secure, your teams connected, and your staff accountable? It can, if you plan well.

Plan First
Whether you allow employees to work from home one day a week or all five, the key to implementing telecommuting successfully lies in developing a plan; home-based customer service representatives provide technical support to clients. But with an entirely work-at-home customer care group, the company needed to set up a foolproof telecommuting plan.

Understanding the Software and tools that your employees’ use, how often they use them and any security risks that letting company data go off-site entails will inform your plan. After a review, you may decide that accounting or human resources information should stay in-office only, while sales data could be viewable outside your headquarters, for example. Assess such things prior to permitting employees to work off-site, to avoid glitches and data leaks.

Don’t do it by the seat of your pants, don’t let some sales guy sell you some product that will solve all your problems. Vendors will say device X is compatible with that VPN, but that isn’t always the case. You don’t always get a straight story.

Know the Technology
The first technology layer of a secure telecommuting plan is the VPN (virtual private network) that provides encryption between the employee working on their home connection and your office’s network. VIP desk uses two-factor authentication for added security. (One-factor authentication requires only a user name and password.)

Another important piece to consider is a NAC (network access control) de vice. A NAC will query each PC before granting it network access to check whether certain software, such as an antivirus tool, is installed. When users log in, the NAC can even ensure that they have a firewall and current patches. Consider installing an app on company PCs that can disable external USB devices, like thumb drives, when a user is logged in to your network via VPN is arrangement prevents a remote employee from downloading sensitive data. (VIP desk uses Secure It Easy.)

Keep a Watchful Eye
While you don’t need to watch an employee’s every mouse click, you should set ground rules and advise managers to be transparent, most telecommuting packages have auditing. Citrix XenDesktop, for example, allows a manager to see a log of an employee’s chats, e-mail, and IP telephony calls. State laws vary, however, and some require employers to inform employees that they may be monitored. Drafts monitoring policy, and have each employee sign it. Send reminders monthly. If employees know they may be watched, it can be good motivation not to slack off, if you don’t watch what remote employees are doing, you see a drop-off in work productivity over time.

One simple approach is to require remote employees to use instant messaging so that you can see their online status and contact them. Watch out for programs that automatically create IMs and send replies based on user-set rules. If you suspect an employee is using such a tool, send a specific message and see what kind of answer you receive.

Manage Meetings and Projects
For remote teams, Web conferencing can work well. Gmail and Skype offer free, secure options, and many IM apps now support conferencing. But while the grainy video of most Webcams leaves much to be desired, high-resolution video available in a few of the latest conferencing products is the next best thing to an in-person meeting. Finally, project-management software ware such as Basecamp or Microsoft Project makes tracking tasks simple. Project management software ware not only lets you see tasks, deadlines, statuses, and expected completion dates but also allows your group to share documents online.

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