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The IT management impact of home working

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Workshop We’re pretty familiar with the kinds of issues that cause hassle for help, support and service desks the world over. Indeed, few requests for Reg reader feedback have engendered such a response as desktop support.

User support is never easy, but at least in the old days when most IT equipment was contained in the same set of buildings it was possible to make desk-side visits. Today it’s a different scene, as people are being actively encouraged – indeed, incentivised in some cases with ‘grants’ for furniture, kit and so on – to work from home.

While we have no statistical evidence for this (feel free to help with that), based on our conversations we do have the feeling that such gung-ho teleworking initiatives sometimes take place with scant regard for the impact on IT operations. It’s not just the computer and phone equipment: little things, such as inkjet cartridge availability, can often make the difference between user happiness and strife.

Just as in the office environment, there’s plenty that could go wrong. Contrary to the ads, many users are blessed with less-than-adequate broadband communications, through which they are expected to run all manner of stuff – not just accessing remote files and applications, but also somehow squeezing collaboration tools and voice-based services down the pipe as well. And that’s without even looking at users trying to set up a VPN connection from scratch or work out the application license impacts of home workers using their own machines on company business.

Meanwhile, certain things that are already difficult when attempted within the organisational boundary can become downright impossible when attempted remotely. Backups and more general data protection, asset and configuration management, patching, service level monitoring and so on all have their foibles – but just how practical is it to extend the tendrils of IT management into the home office?

The alternative, of course, is to expect end-users to look after their own equipment, to patch, update their antivirus signatures, keep tabs on personal backups and so on. Perhaps they should all just be issued with fire-proof backup drives and be left to get on with it – but this does suggest an expectation of IT literacy that is beyond the ken of most users.

Today’s teleworkers are no brighter than their office-bound counterparts, but they are just as demanding – if not more so, given that home and remote environments can be harder to lock down than centralised desktop configurations. We’ve heard your feedback about the tribulations of users expecting their own devices to be supported, or at least understood, by IT staff. It’s difficult to see this getting better any time soon, given the gadget-hungry nature of the human race, and the increasing number of shiny things out there.

I don’t want to be too downhearted – perhaps in your experience things are relatively straightforward, and you’ve got everything organised in operational terms for your home workers. If so, please do tell, as we imagine you are not in the majority. ®

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