Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: David Bermingham, Dana Gardner, Scott Allen, Anders Wallgren, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Industrial IoT, Mobile IoT, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Microservices Expo: Article

Telecommuting – The Invisible Employee

The biggest advantages to having remote workers & virtual offices are in-house facility costs, expansion, & talent acquisition

One of the truisms in information technology is that everything old is new again - well, except maybe for punched cards. We went from big corporate data centers to regional/division corporate data centers back to big corporate data centers and now to even bigger cloud data centers. We have gone from dumb terminals were everything was done on the mainframe, to PCs, and now to virtualized desktops - where everything is run on the central servers. And now, we are back to talking about the IT advantages of telecommuting.

Telecommuting is certainly nothing new. But what is changing is how people are telecommuting and the IT processes and procedures that support them. Gone are the days of modem banks and analog days. Gone are the days when IT departments handed out PCs so people could work from home. And gone are the days when connecting remote employees meant connecting them directly into the corporate network.

When most people think of telecommuting, we hark back to the model that JetBlue made famous: the company supplied the personal computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Internet connection (there is no need to go back to the caveman days with terminals and modems or acoustic couplers!). The PC was company property so that the policies, anti-virus, patches, etc., could all be controlled and managed by the corporate IT department. After all, a lot of employees still didn't even own their own computer.

These PCs had the necessary software pre-loaded on them, be it a thick client or a terminal emulator. When the remote staff connected in - their computers were placed onto the corporate network and became part of the companies extended network. When the PCs needed to be updated, patched, or upgraded - the employee had to bring everything back to the in-house IT department.

What changed? Well... EVERYTHING! There were four basic changes made for teleworking - and each of these changes required the IT department to adapt in different ways. As the ability to provide a realistic work environment kept increasing, we have gone from teleworkers to virtual offices.

One of the first big changes was that users no longer wanted to take a company PC home with them. They had their own perfectly good computer, and wanted to be able to connect using their machines. These machines/users wanted to connect to the company over the Internet instead of through dial-up modems. So IT departments started to increase their network connectivity, add Virtual Private Network (VPN) devices, and put in place intrusion detection/prevention appliances. Many a sleepless night was had by the IT administrator waiting for some remote user to spread a worm or Trojan through the entire organization.

The next big change was also Internet related - the death of thick clients. As browser technologies involved we were finally able to produce thick-client like look-and-feel inside a browser window. Most companies ported their internal applications to use browser-based web interfaces. These browser-based applications were exactly what were needed to allow better remote workers.

Ironically the Internet contributed the necessary technology to the next big change in our march to the virtual office: the move from IPSec-based VPN connections to browser-based SSL connections. IPSec, while a good protocol, proved problematic. Many travelers found out that their VPN connections were either blocked, or that the ISP or hotel lacked the technology to allow IPSec to pass through their networks. Just about every company's helpdesk received a call from some executive complaining about being unable to connect, and the helpdesk would have to try to work with the hotel or ISP to resolve the problem (and usual not be able to).

SSL VPNs resolve that issue because they work through the browser - an application that every PC already had loaded and that every user was already familiar with using. No longer would users have to be given CDs of the VPN software along with installation instructions (and the sure to follow helpdesk call). Most SSL VPN systems function as a proxy to allow dynamic access rights to the user. Instead of connecting them to the network (along with every virus, Trojan, and worm and the person's computer), we can now limit them to accessing the company's Intranet server, or to allow only access to specific company web pages.

Now that we have people using their own computers, over their own Internet connection, to securely access browser based applications - we must be done, right? What could be left? What is left is giving the user the necessary tools to have a virtual office instead of a remote connection.

Remote phone are required. The person needs to have a phone at his desk - even if that desk is 1000 miles away (or more). Here again new technology was required. We needed the new modern voice systems that allow Voice over IP (VoIP) so that we could have corporate phones remotely become part of the corporate telephone system. Even here, this is starting to give way to soft phones - software running on somebody's computer that provides that phone interface.

The remote person needs to know if his/her co-worker is available. After all, she can't simply look over the cubicle wall anymore to see if the coworker is there or not - and she can't see/hear if the co-worker is on the phone. But presence software, tied into the phone and using software on the person's computer, can tell the remote person if that co-worker is on the phone, in a meeting, or even at their desk working on their computer. Such presence software is normally built into an instant messaging client. These clients provide an easy way to communicate with somebody. Instant messaging is the new way to ask: Do you have a second?

The final piece of the puzzle to finally become feasible is video conferencing. IT departments no longer have to purchase expensive cameras, video conferencing servers, and large data connections everywhere. Point-to-point ad-hoc video conferences are easily done today with commercial "webcams" sitting on people's monitors and attached to their computers. In fact, most modern laptops have webcams built into them. Video conferencing allows the visual interfacing that is critical in modern communications. If you think that video is not important, remember that 70% of all our communication information comes from visual "clues". Without providing video conferencing, you are removing 70% of the person's comprehension.

Now that we know how to create a modern telecommuter environment, the question becomes whether we should allow telecommuting. Why are companies, both big and small, investing in this technology? Is this a technology that you should to be implementing?

The biggest advantages to having remote workers and virtual offices are in-house facility costs, expansion, and talent acquisition. Companies that have increased their use of remote workers have benefited from reduced building overhead expenses. One company that I frequently visit has been so successful with their remote worker program that they had to close the on-site cafeteria because there simply wasn't enough staff present to make use of it.

JetBlue used remote employees to staff their reservation lines. These were primarily part-time college educated women who only wanted to work 3-4 hours while their kids were in school. Using remote employees allowed JetBlue to staff across the country - thereby moving calls across the country as people's shifts changed. This is something that could not have been done with a traditional on-site call center.

Sometimes the perfect employee that you need to succeed isn't willing to relocate to where your office is. This leaves employers with the choice of either doing without a key resource, or figuring out how to allow that employee to work from home. Remote employees and virtual offices empower an employer to find the employee that will best contribute to the company - even if that person lives in a mountain cabin.

Those people who wonder if I really mean what I say about the advantages of virtual offices should know that it is what I use. I have a company phone that connects directly over the Internet to the company's phone system. I have an SSL VPN connection to gain access to the internal system. I use Cisco's Jabber service to provide presence information and instant messaging capabilities. And I use Cisco's WebEx Telepresence video conferencing service for when I need "face-to-face" time. The most important lesson I have learned about using a virtual office is to treat it like it is your real office - because the day you decide to wear your fuzzy slippers to the office is the day your boss will have a surprise video conference call with you.

More Stories By Dean Nedelman

Dean Nedelman is Director of Professional Services at ASi Networks, a network and voice services firm in City of Industry, Calif. In this role, he supports our major accounts, and oversees the implementation of advanced Cisco solutions and services. He has over 25 years of experience in technical and executive level technology roles, primarily in secure high performance computer environments across multiple industries and sectors. Dean's background includes security, high availability, telephony, advanced network, wide area application services, and storage area networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, showed how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He used a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors...
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, will discuss how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved effi...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Predictive analytics tools monitor, report, and troubleshoot in order to make proactive decisions about the health, performance, and utilization of storage. Most enterprises combine cloud and on-premise storage, resulting in blended environments of physical, virtual, cloud, and other platforms, which justifies more sophisticated storage analytics. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Peter McCallum, Vice President of Datacenter Solutions at FalconStor, will discuss using predictive analytics to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Father business cycles and digital consumers are forcing enterprises to respond faster to customer needs and competitive demands. Successful integration of DevOps and Agile development will be key for business success in today’s digital economy. In his session at DevOps Summit, Pradeep Prabhu, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloudmunch, covered the critical practices that enterprises should consider to seamlessly integrate Agile and DevOps processes, barriers to implementing this in the enterprise, and pr...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Advances in technology and ubiquitous connectivity have made the utilization of a dispersed workforce more common. Whether that remote team is located across the street or country, management styles/ approaches will have to be adjusted to accommodate this new dynamic. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., focused on the challenges of managing remote teams, providing real-world examples that demonstrate what works and what do...