The rise of cloud computing, combined with improvements in mobile technology, gives more and more employees the ability to use remote infrastructure to work from home – or indeed, anywhere with internet access. A 2016 survey of 8000 employers and employees worldwide showed that about 75% of businesses were encouraging flexible working policies and the majority of those were positive about the effect on productivity and profits. Here, we explore a number of ways in which cloud computing is going to help this trend continue and increase.
Outsourced IT infrastructure
IT infrastructure is a vital part of almost any 21st century enterprise and outsourcing some or all of your IT to the cloud is an increasingly valid option. This is especially true for small to medium sized businesses which require a flexible way to keep up with the latest technology.
If you choose to have, for example, virtual servers in the cloud, not only are you saving on hardware space and enhancing scalability, but you’re creating something that’s accessible to all staff, regardless as to their location. Home workers can log on in exactly the same way as office-based employees without anyone having to worry about remote access to an office-based network.
An extension to this is hosted desktops. One deterrent to flexible or full-time home working has often been the difficulty of getting to programs that are installed on a desktop PC in the office. In this scenario, a hosted desktop service gives everyone in the company a standard desktop with all the required applications installed – but it’s running in the cloud. All team members use a hosted desktop to get their work done, whether they’re in their usual office, a different office, at home or somewhere else entirely.
The rise of collaboration tools
If you’re working from home these days, not only are you reliant on email and the phone to keep in touch with colleagues, but you can attend meetings without going into the office. More organisations are implementing secure, cloud-based business collaboration tools that provide a unified platform for the distribution of tasks, real-time chat and virtual meeting facilities, file sharing and document storage. The result is a central location that makes everything accessible, regardless as to where your employees are located, as well as a streamlined workflow and greatly improved productivity.
Home workers now find it much easier to stay in the loop with their colleagues thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Since they use the Internet for data transmission, VoIP systems aren’t just restricted to audio: employees can also exchange videos, files, and images. A cloud-based VoIP system, hosted and maintained by a third-party provider, simplifies access for remote workers and gives them a reliable and effective method of connecting over the phone or face-to-face.
In addition, VoIP systems usually include the option for a VPN connection. This means that remote workers can communicate and share data securely, even if they’re working somewhere like a coffee shop with a public WiFi network.
For rapidly growing businesses looking to increase their remote workforce, especially those that routinely use freelance staff at busy times of the year, cloud computing offers a quick and easy way to take on those resources without a substantial hardware outlay. All that’s required is access credentials and remote workers can get to the information and services they need from anywhere, using their own devices. This is also useful for companies with limited office space. Indeed, this flexibility has even encouraged some companies to dispense with the traditional office environment altogether.
Disadvantages of home working
However, there are a few disadvantages in the trend towards home workers. For example, there is a still a concern among managers that remote employees are disconnected from office-based teams, particularly if the remote workers are in the minority. Performance management can also be a challenge when it’s more difficult for managers to see what their team members are doing.
Having access to cloud-based tools can give some remote staff the impression that they need to be available round the clock. It’s important that this is monitored and discouraged by management, as this attitude does not increase productivity – quite the opposite, in fact.
Security is another potential issue. While established third-party cloud providers have the latest and greatest security in their data centres, businesses need to ensure that their remote workers are adhering to company security policies. Your data could be compromised by someone being careless with their login credentials, or not taking sufficient security measures with their own devices or on a public Wi-Fi network.
Because of the advances in cloud-based technologies, home working has become an accepted practice in many organisations throughout the world. With so many options available, there’s never been a better time to consider a move towards flexibility that will benefit both your business and your team.