Teleworkers or mobile workers are employees who work from a home office or from remote office centers. These workers typically have a broadband Internet connection which allows them to connect to the corporate network via VPN. The number of mobile workers has increased dramatically in recent years. This introduces new challenges for corporations who must allow these workers access to the corporate network, sometimes using personal computing devices, such as laptops, while still ensuring that network security standards are adhered to. There are several factors that should be taken into consideration when implementing Teleworker or mobile worker solutions. These factors include the following:
- Bandwidth Requirements
- Security Considerations
- Simplified User Experience
- Quality of Service
- Troubleshooting and Support
Teleworkers typically use the same applications as users in the enterprise network. However, unlike users in the enterprise network, bandwidth is not unlimited. For example, bandwidth-intensive applications may work well for users connected to the enterprise LAN due to the availability of high-speed links, e.g. GigabitEthernet link, between hosts and servers. Teleworkers, however, use remote access technologies such as cable, DSL and wireless service which do not have the same bandwidth capacity as that found in the enterprise LAN. It is therefore important to understand the bandwidth requirements of the applications that the mobile workers will need to access when considering mobile worker implementations.
As previously stated, mobile workers introduce new security risks. While it is common practice to issue mobile workers company-sanctioned and provided laptops, some technologies, such as SSL VPN allow are device independent and allow connections from personal machines. In addition to adding security to remote devices in order to comply with certain regulations and requirements, organizations typically also need to implement additional security mechanisms, such as Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) and URL Filtering to protect the corporate network from remote users while still allowing these users access to the enterprise network.
In addition to protecting the corporate network from Teleworkers, additional challenges that should be taken into consideration include ensuring that host machines used by these employees have up-to-date software patches. While it is fairly easy to ‘push’ updates to the machines that are connected to the corporate network, the same is not as easy for Teleworkers.
Simplified User Experience
One of the primary advantages of remote or mobile working is that it provides employees with flexible working locations. In other words, employees can work from almost anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection that allows them to VPN into the enterprise network. Despite this additional flexibility, mobile workers still expect the same user experience as the employees who work from within the office. For example, mobile workers might want to connect to devices in remote offices without performing additional administrative tasks, which may include multiple logins, etc. Increasing the administrative burden of mobile workers may lead to decreased satisfaction and workers may prefer to work in the office instead of remotely simply because the user experience is much better.
Quality of Service
One of the main challenges of mobile working is ensuring an acceptable Quality of Service level for user applications. While applications such as email may tolerate some delay, real-time data such as voice and video is very intolerant of delay. Consideration should therefore be given to the various prioritization and queuing mechanisms as well as how to address QoS for different broadband access technologies, such as cable and DSL. The ultimate objective is to reduce the impact of data applications on voice services for the mobile workers.
Troubleshooting and Support
One of the most challenging aspects about mobile workers is the management and support of these users. Within the enterprise network, it is easy enough for support personnel to both assist and troubleshoot issues for those users that are connected to the network. However, the same visibility is lost when it comes to mobile workers as corporate has no control over their home networks. Troubleshooting complexity is increased because most mobile users are not trained to troubleshoot and resolve technical issues arising on their home network. This may significantly increase the amount of time and monetary cost of supporting such users.