Remote and mobile working tech 'essential'

Silicon.com puts a mobile work force on trial with its jury of CIOs. With 12 percent of the U.K.s workforce online, the question isn't difficult.
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
Remote and mobile working is becoming an essential part of any organization's tech strategy--not only for flexibility and the work/life balance of employees but also for business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

More than 3.4 million people--12 per cent of the working populationin the U.K.--regularly or permanently work from home, according to the latest labor force survey from the Office for National Statistics, and Friday May 18 was designated 'national work from home day' to encourage millions more to ditch the daily commute and stay connected without having to physically go into the office.

Ten of silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said their IT infrastructure now enables a significant proportion of their employees to either work from home or remotely.

Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at marketing and advertising agency Creston, said: "Remote and mobile working are essential components of any service-based organization. Being able to access corporate resources regardless of geography, time or situation increases efficiency, assists in flexible working policies, and is a key element of business continuity planning."

Richard Rundle, IT director at airport operator BAA, added: "Our infrastructure and our applications--both legacy and new--have been re-engineered to ensure all employees can work from home whilst ensuring our environment remains secure."

Organizations are taking a variety of approaches to accommodate remote and mobile working. Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director at Voca, said: "We are augmenting laptop and BlackBerry technology with highly secure access to desktops from anywhere with an internet connection via Citrix sessions. We find that accessing email from home PCs is particularly popular."

Midlands law firm Browne Jacobson has implemented remote working technology to enable its lawyers to respond more easily to clients. Peter Birley, IT director at Browne Jacobson, said: "We have invested in what has now become the Microsoft Intelligent Application Gateway (IAG 2007) that gives secure access from any Internet Explorer PC, whether at home or in an internet cafe. It is also a great work/life balance tool."

The university environment is one where demand to be able to work from on-campus and off-campus locations is high and Newcastle University uses thin-client technologies to ensure students and academic staff can do so.

Paul Hopkins, IT director at Newcastle University, said: "Our challenge is currently to open our infrastructures so that all visitors to our campus, such as academics and students from other institutions, or people from industry, can rapidly connect their laptops to our networks when they come on campus."

Responding to silicon.com by e-mail--while on the train from Paddington to Bath--Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO at Sodexho UK, said: "One of the crucial items is a culture that understands and accepts the concept of virtual teams, audio, video and Web conferencing."

But the remote working culture isn't always appropriate for every organization. Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at ITN, said those who need remote access can do so but added: "Because of the technology needed for real-time video manipulation, most of our workforce need to come to the office to carry out their normal duties."

Security is also still an issue. Matthew McGrory, head of technology at MotorSport Vision Brands Hatch, said: "There are still the same old hurdles of security and enabling secure policies on nodes connecting into the network."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at ITN
Neil Bath, IT director, Brewin Dolphin Securities
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
Rorie Devine, CTO, Betfair
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO, Sodexho UK
Neil Harvey, head of IT and accommodation at the Food Standards Agency
Paul Hopkins, IT director, Newcastle University
Christopher Linfoot, IT director, LDV Group
Matthew McGrory, head of technology, MotorSport Vision Brands Hatch
Nick Masterson-Jones, IT director at Voca
Richard Rundle, IT director, BAA
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston

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