• United States
Contributing Writer

The challenges of supporting remote workers

Jun 16, 20043 mins

* Remote-worker support issues

Last week, I was on the road with our Remote Office Networking Technology Tour in Arlington, Va. Although much of the D.C. area was otherwise focused on the services for former President Reagan, we gathered up a good-sized crowd to discuss the issues surrounding supporting remote workers.

Needless to say, the list of challenges is pretty long. Topping the list is the heavyweight, security. Trying to secure endpoints is Job One for IT managers letting users into the network from remote locales.

They worry that remote terminals can be compromised easily – by family members sharing the computer, thieves, or neighbors who hop onto the user’s network. Any of these scenarios could be devastating if the network is not configured to keep out unwanted visitors.

Key to security is the ability to manage the remote workstation. However, many IT managers at the event say they do not yet have control over the remote gear. They are working to install management of patches and software updates, but do not feel they are ahead of the curve yet.

Another issue they say is policy enforcement and awareness – what to access on the network, how to access it and when to access it. Users, they say, are quick to configure their own equipment and then ignore any demands from IT. However, IT managers are pushing hard for executive backing on policy enforcement – a way to crack down on what equipment users install, what applications they can have on that equipment and how they access the corporate network. The IT managers I spoke with are in the beginning stages of creating policies and educating users about those policies.

The attendees of the tour did say they are feeling the pressure to create for users a mobile environment that looks and feels like their desktop. To this, they say they have to manage user expectations because chances are, whatever mobile solution they create, will not replicate the “on the LAN” experience – in speed, data access or user-friendliness.

Also on the list of challenges is harnessing executives who want policies as long as they don’t apply to them. IT managers say that policies are no good if the boardroom won’t comply. And in most cases, that’s what happens. For instance, one attendee said the chief of his company was all for high security and then insisted on using his initials as his password.

Finally, there is reluctance on the part of IT managers to go too far down the remote worker path as it means stepped up 24-7 support. In many cases, organizations want them to beef up their help desk, but are not offering more monetary resources or increased personnel. Therefore, IT has to be selective about what it offers off-site employees in terms of applications and access. It can only dole out what it can manage.

Are you finding the same scenarios? What is your greatest challenge in supporting remote workers? Let me know at


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