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Data Access

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It is important to determine the extent to which teleworkers will use any sort of technology to do their jobs. Will they need a phone or cell phone to do their work? A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)? Hand-held device? A computer? What about a printer, fax, scanner or copier?

If a computer is required, will teleworkers need to access the Internet to do their work? Internet access is required for something as basic as sending and receiving email and conducting research on the Web, to using communication tools, such as Instant Messaging, accessing Web-based applications or connecting to the corporate Network. If a teleworker has very minimal needs for accessing the Internet, dial-up access may be sufficient. This may be the case for a teleworker that only needs to send and receive text-based emails - not large attachments. For teleworkers that need to send/receive emails with attachments, conduct heavy Web-based research, or access Web-based applications, some sort of broadband connection (DSL, cable, satellite) is essential. Be sure to include this as a checkpoint in the teleworker evaluation process. Don't assume that everyone has broadband access.

If a computer is required, determine what software is needed by each teleworker. Software requirements can range from standard business applications, such as Microsoft Office, to business process or industry-specific applications that require the installation and maintenance of a client application on the desktop or laptop. The operating system software, along with anti-virus and/or firewall software, must also be installed and maintained on an ongoing basis.

When planning IT requirements, remember that teleworkers may have different needs depending upon the kind of work they will do remotely, and how often they will telework. Take this into account when planning how IT will support telework. Larger organizations may want to consider providing general guidelines and/or requirements on some IT support elements while allowing different departments to make some decisions to meet their unique telework needs and goals.

Who Provides and Maintains Teleworker Technology?

One of the most important decisions to make when building a telework program is whether the organization will provide teleworkers with the equipment, technology and tools needed to work remotely, or if teleworkers will be allowed to use their equipment. There are pros and cons to each approach, and options in-between to be considered depending upon the types of positions that will be teleworking, the kind of work that will be done remotely, and the frequency with which telework takes place.

While there may be a greater up front cost and lead-time to provide your teleworkers with all the tools and technology needed to do their job remotely, these costs may be off-set in the long run in terms of ease of maintaining and upgrading software, providing help desk support, and ensuring compliance with corporate and regulatory requirements for data access. This approach is particularly suited for organizations that have a large number of teleworkers requiring the use of technology and common applications to do their jobs, or that have teleworkers that work with sensitive, particularly regulated, data.

Allowing employees to use their own equipment may mean less capital outlay and less time required to launch a telework program, but it raises a number of other questions:

  • Standards: Can or should the IT department mandate the type of equipment (e.g., PC or Mac) and/or software a teleworker can use? Are there any file compatibility issues that arise from using non-standard equipment?
  • Support: Who provides support? Is the teleworker fully responsible for maintaining, upgrading and troubleshooting their own equipment? What, if any, liability may be involved if IT does work on the equipment? If they do, will there be an impact on help desk productivity due to the wide range of systems and software that may be on employee owned equipment?
  • Backups & Version Control: Is it important for the organization to maintain control over their documents and versions? Are there written backup and version control guidelines? How are these monitored? What if a file system is corrupted or an employee-owned PC is lost or stolen? Think about the recovery effort, and whether or not there are any liability or regulatory considerations.
  • Security: How can the organization ensure protection of sensitive data on an employee owned PC or PDA? Who else might have access to it? Are firewalls and antivirus measures in place and up to date? Can IT veto the use of tools they consider insecure?

Allowing teleworkers to use their own equipment may be suitable when pilot testing a telework program, if teleworkers have limited technology requirements, or if the organization primarily plans to implement telework on an infrequent, ad hoc or emergency basis (such as for disaster recovery or continuity of operations).

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This page was last updated on May 6, 2009