Feeds

Supporting the teleworkers: Redux

‘At Home, No One Can Tell If You Have Your Pants On’

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Workshop The issue of providing IT support to home-based users always attracts a lot of responses from the IT pro readership on El Reg, as illustrated by Jon Collins’ recent article.

The bottom line is that most of you who expressed an opinion think that supporting teleworkers is not actually that big of a deal, as long as some sensible precautions are taken.

The first issue that always comes up whenever teleworkers are mentioned is the fact that they may or may not actually spend all their ‘office’ time working. It’s quite clear that those tasked with supporting them place less trust in them than the management which lets them do it in the first place. However, whether or not teleworkers do spend their days hard at it or watching daytime TV doesn’t change the number of obvious differences between them and their office based brethren to overcome, when providing IT support. The good news is, however, according to Reg readers, the issues are not insurmountable.

Providing effective support boils down to taking advantage of a few similarities between home and office workers, and minimising the risks between the differences. Similarities that can, or should be exploited include using common hardware and software configurations so that IT knows everyone is looking at the same thing on a support call. This principle can be extended to printers and routers too. The downside, as Simon points out is that people ignore policies and go off-piste from the standard configurations.

However, it is important to establish and maintain a limit to the amount of additional ‘work’ a teleworker creates. It could be argued that the least a teleworker can do is keep to standard kit configurations, so as to remain supportable by IT. It shouldn’t be down to IT to act as enforcer however: that’s a line management issue, which could be brought sharply into focus if IT made management aware of the additional financial burden the less co-operative teleworkers could have on their departmental budget. Adding a section on ‘compliance’ to a teleworker’s annual appraisal goals could be an effective measure indeed.

It’s not just about getting the users to behave either. There are some tricks that can be used in the IT department too. Sending a tech round to oversee a home worker's set-up and rotating help desk staff where possible between in-house and phone-based support are common sense undertakings.

The latter is to make sure that everyone in the department has some relevant experience, as well as helping to avoid burn out. The biggie, however, according to The Other Steve is:

‘And most important of all, never, ever, farm someone out for home working if their ADSL connection is like a wet piece of string, check their connectivity first, because this is the one thing that a) you cannot fix or even control, and b) will give you the most headaches’

Needless to say, beyond insisting on a standard set of devices, having the right kit in place in the IT department can help too: the appropriate remote support tools, OS X screen sharing, Windows Remote Desktop/Assistance, VNC etc – the list of alternatives for gaining access to remote users PC’s is endless. Assuming they’re online, that is.

Ultimately there may be little value in expecting much from end users. That sentiment doesn’t have to be negative, more a case of making life as easy as possible for both the user, and IT. The more devices, options, ways of storing, transporting and manipulating data there are, the higher the risk of a user getting themselves/IT/the company into a situation they didn’t intend. The answer to all this is nicely summed up by the aforementioned Steve:

‘Who in their right mind is going to let a remote worker use their machine as anything other than a dumb terminal? That way there is no data/backup issue, and precious little security issue’

OK, we all know it’s not quite that simple across the board, but as a starting point, why not? All requests for non-standard kit, access to different services and so on, should be taken on merit within the constraints of a Common Sense Agreement made between the employee, their line manager and IT. It’s a Happy Days recipe for IT and the teleworker. At least until they get home and plug their Mac in.

Thanks to everyone for the constructive feedback. If anyone else would like to offer up practical advice or tales of comedy/woe, you know what to do. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Will.i.am gets CUFFED as he announces his new wristjob, the PULS
It's got four KILOWATTS of something, apparently
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Is living with Dolby Atmos worth the faff?
Subtle, naturalistic ambiance – perfect for Transformers 4
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.