Home working – IT’s not easy

Clive Taylor, Operations Director at Midlands based IT outsourcing specialist, Quiss Technology, explains why businesses trying to minimise disruption this winter, must think carefully about allowing home working.
“We have IT support contracts with a wide variety of businesses, from small SMEs to multi-national organisations and all are facing the prospect of another winter of disruption. Following last year’s problems, when many employees couldn’t make it into work for a number of reasons, we were tasked with helping employees work from home.
“It sounds simple to grant workers unrestricted access to their work computers, but access usually has to include a number of security protocols because home systems are rarely as well protected as we would like. Often we find employees have downloaded files to their local computer and therefore require access to both their PC at work and the server.
“We even have to consider the home Wi-Fi networks of many users, which might not conform to the strict security standards required by many of the businesses we work with. We still come across many unsecured networks, which is unacceptable when granting access to business IT environments.
“Information security is a big issue. Organisations must ensure their data policies allow workers to access systems from home, with the attendant risk they can download and store files and client data to their home PC, compromising the integrity of the system.
Problems like this can always be surmounted, but better to sort out a solution early and ensure there is a policy in place rather than worrying once the snow starts falling. 
“Many organisations use bespoke applications and few if any staff will have them installed at home, so full access to their work computer is essential, if meaningful work is expected. Of course cloud computing is hoping to cash in on these recent experiences with everything needed from files and documents to application software and emails held virtually, with access possible from any PC – ideal for home working, but not without its security issues.
“Of course one major problem we cannot overcome is that still many homes do not have a broadband connection speed capable of effective home working, especially if it is being shared with other family members stuck at home. Connection speeds are likely to drop too for home networks. Last year some internet service providers reported a 40 per cent hike in internet traffic levels as more workers stayed home to work, rather than risk the freezing conditions.
“I would urge businesses to implement policies that allow for home working and ensure the IT systems are robust enough to cope and are set up in such a way that will not hinder productivity. In fact a dry run to prove how effective the measures are for each member of staff likely to be affected and vital to an organisation’s operation is a good idea. It often highlights weaknesses that can be addressed at leisure, rather than when the pressure’s on.”