Flexible Working: The Technology

The idea of flexible working plans isn’t new, but it is certainly a lot more common than eighteen months ago. With many people working from home during the pandemic, the practice of working solely in the office is not as popular as it once was. In fact, one company found that less than 7% of their employees wanted to return to the office full time after restrictions lifted. So, what does this mean for the future of office working?

Time for Change

Often, when you ask if something can be done, technology responds “YES!”. Remote working is more than just possible, it’s easy. There are so many ways it can be achieved, too, through both Cloud and Physical solutions. For Cloud solutions, Microsoft 365 and Azure are the most recommended methods, while for physical solutions, VPN, VDI, and RDS are the most commonly used. Which one you should opt for depends largely on how your business operates and how many employees you have.

Head in the Cloud

If flexibility, scalability, and affordability are your focus, then the Cloud is for you! Through cloud computing, you are not limited by geographical locations, you have seamless accessibility to information when needed from any device, which not only improves productivity but also reduces downtime, and have access to a wide variety of tools for collaborations, coordination, and communication. So long as you have an Internet connection, you can work from anywhere at any time.

 

There are various ways to move to cloud computing; most notably Microsoft 365. Through Microsoft 365, you get access to collaboration tools, such as those listed below.

 

SharePoint is a customisable cloud-based collaboration and management platform, with features that allow your team to work together remotely. Through this, you have more mobility and flexibility with your working arrangement, save costs related to the maintenance and replacement of physical servers, and gain a single point of management for your work environments. 

 

Microsoft Teams allows you to meet, collaborate with, and share documents with both colleagues and external resources. Teams allows for real-time file sharing, voice and video calls, scheduled meetings, notes, and more. The chat function means you can cut down on emails, as conversations can be held in real-time either one-to-one or with a group. Using the integration with Microsoft 365, you can create Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents in Teams, allowing immediate sharing and editing with your colleagues.

 

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service that stores all your files securely in one place, which you can then access from anywhere. This also means you free up storage space on your device and have a secure location for file storage in the event your device fails or breaks. You can also share content through OneDrive, allowing for your team to work together from anywhere.

 

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft’s enterprise cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) solution. This enables users to sign in and manages the data they are able to access. This security measure ensures that only the appropriate people are able to access restricted data.

Data security is, as always, a priority in business. It’s only natural that you would question how safe your data is when stored in the cloud. The simple answer is that the data you save with cloud service providers may actually be safer than the information you store on your computer’s hard drive! Hackers can use malware and phishing emails to get the information stored on your own devices, or encrypt your computer, demanding ransoms before they will release the files and data. Cloud services tend to be more robust and protected against cyber-attacks, though it is recommended that you still undertake separate IT Security measures alongside whichever platform you choose.

Down to the Wire

Of course, if you would prefer a physical option, there are still many options for you. The main three have been listed below, with a breakdown of the features of each in comparison to the others.

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an application that provides a secure remote connection to a business network.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) provides a secure remote connection to an individual, personalised Windows-based system.
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) allows for a secure remote connection to a centralised server, sharing resources between all users.

*It is still recommended that users have up to date hardware and all users will require an internet connection capable of appropriate processing speeds.

Which is right for my business?

Businesses are like snowflakes, in that no two are the same. What works for one will not necessarily work for the other. The best idea is to speak with an IT expert and go through what your current IT environment looks like, and what you hope to get out of your remote setup.

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