More than just convenience Featured

12:11pm EDT August 30, 2005
Teleworking is more than just another fringe benefit to offer employees. It’s becoming a competitive advantage. Many companies are rethinking their benefits and compensation packages at the demand of workers, offering flexible work styles as an important means of retaining high-value employees. As of 2004, more than half of the nation’s work force of 110 million was categorized as remote and mobile. Nearly 20 percent of these telecommuters live in California, which has five of the top ten most traffic-gridlocked cities in the nation. CIO’s must be able to deliver information access to workers wherever they are, across any network, through any connection, to any type of computing device — and at the same time, they must guarantee the security of that information wherever it goes.

Why? Because increased mobility is probably the single most important factor leading to better customer-relationship management. Even if you don’t have employees telecommuting, supporting mobile network access has benefits. For example, mobility allows health care providers to access patient information from the bedside to ensure more accurate record keeping and improved overall health care. By making information more instantly, easily and securely available to mobile workers, companies improve both the lifestyle of workers and the immediacy of services they provide to customers.

But how can an organization’s IT staff quickly, securely and reliably deliver business information to a diverse and distributed work force? Thin-client technology is one IT solution strategy that has been embraced by organizations across all markets. Thin-client technology refers to IT solutions that operate on centralized or network-based resources. Specific products, such as the Citrix Access Suite, will unify key access points, capabilities and technologies into a single solution, allowing teleworkers to get vital information from anywhere, with any device, over any network.

Some organizations are particularly interested in bringing the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market the ability to support a mobile work force. In fact, many small businesses start with a thin-client design. They cannot afford to expend precious capital on brick and mortar - with zero return. But they also do not have the IT expertise on staff to implement mobile worker/thin-client technology themselves. So applications, data backups and even IP phone communications can be supported from a series of geographically dispersed data centers. Amortizing the cost of the solution across multiple companies makes this outsourcing model very attractive and offers another SMB capital preservation strategy.

Ease of Internet access across various platforms (laptops, PDAs and now cell phones) further supports the teleworker model. While some factors make Internet access more challenging (screen size, for example), over time these issues will be addressed.

Security becomes more of an issue as wireless access proliferates over more platforms. The thin-client delivery model supports 128 bit encryption and SSL certification in an inherently secure delivery model.

Thin-client computing has long delivered value in centralizing the application management and administration effort. The added benefit of easily supporting a teleworker business model furthers the argument for such a strategy. And companies will continue to develop outsourcing models to give SMBs access to the benefits of a mobile work force. This trend will continue, like quality and service before, and develop into an expectation of both employees and customers alike.

Mark Lewis is vice president of small business solutions for Indianapolis-based Lantech of America, which was named Microsoft’s Small Business Partner of the Year in 2004 for its hosted SMB solution. Data and voice solutions are delivered under the brand name enChord. Contact Lewis at (317) 872-8844 or http://www.enChord.net