It’s 11:00 PM – Do you know who your Remote Workers are and how they connect to the your network?

In a recent survey done by Gartner of 260 enterprises, 90% of enterprises worldwide have remote workers, but 25% of those organizations don’t know exactly who those remote workers are. Again, according to the survey, the IT departments often have no idea who they’re providing remote access to. Are they executives, sales, engineering, etc. ? How do they primarily connect to the network? Are they teleworking full time or only a few days a week? Better yet, are they roaming nomads that connect from regional branch offices, or maybe from more ghastly places like the airport, the hotel, or the local coffee shop where open WI-FI runs amok.

Here are some more interesting numbers (from Nemertes Research) about what’s happening in the enterprise space as it relates to remote workers:

  • 90% of employees work in locations other than headquarters.
  • Between 40% and 70% of employees work in different locations from their supervisors.
  • Number of “virtual workers” (individuals who work in offices that are geographically separated from their supervisors) has increased by 800% in the past 5 years.
  • Companies continue to increase bandwidth in effort to resolve performance problems: 48% of companies plan to increase bandwidth by 100% to 500% annually!

The interesting take on all of this is that a good percentage of enterprises are aware of these issues, but are seriously grappling with the ramifications of an ever changing virtual workspace. Gone are the days where users rely on a single laptop or PC to remotely connect to the corporate network from their home. Has anybody noticed that your laptop, smartphone, PDA, MP3 player, digital camera, etc., has merged into a seamless functioning device where there is longer a distinction between the individual components themselves? And the changing trend in the remote worker virtual workspace has shifted from a mind set of only productivity and effectiveness in the workplace, to more of an emphasis on increasing staff effectiveness. The expectations for connectivity from a mobile workforce has become an anytime, anywhere, any device war zone and IT departments are searching for the solutions to fit this new paradigm.

With the so-called emergence of such solutions as Converged Communications andor Unified Communications, the big boys like Microsoft, Cisco, Nortel, and the likes are touting such solutions that bring together a one-stop shopping approach to unifying connectivity issues that IT shops are being faced with during this virtual workspace explosion. I think these technologies are fascinating, but does one size fit all?

Needless to say and as I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest hurdles that enterprises face with remote workers is knowing who is connected “How, When, & Why”. For example, than new wam bam Windows Mobile Smartphone PDA Laptop gizmo that the sales guy just got. It has WI-FI! He can sync with the corporate email system and check his mail! He can even VPN into the corporate network. But, what about security, asset, and patch management on this device? These things are probably well-managed on his laptop, but chances are the IT department has no way of effectively enforcing security policies on this device.

Fortunately, I think the big guys are starting to understand this and it will be interesting to see what the future will hold. For example, in a recent article done by counterpart (Jon Connery), Microsoft has introduced SCMDM 2008 (System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008) for Windows Mobile devices – that has great promise in filling in the security gap that is desperately needed for these devices.

So stay tuned, as it will be interesting to see how these technologies will impact the remote worker explosion.

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