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Remote Work Toolbox

Jonathan Abela

Jonathan Abela

Enterprise Solutions Manager

Work Anytime … Work Anywhere”, a term that might have been a bit of a buzz phrase and just something to aim for a few weeks ago is now today’s reality.

For decades we were acquainted with the idea of travelling from home to the office and back … At the worse possible hours of the day.  Covid-19 gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “ability to adapt”.  With the world at the mercy of a pandemic, business must somehow find way to keep on running, especially in countries where a lockdown, or partial one, is in force.  Within the span of a few weeks, or rather days, business had to somehow rush to roll-out a work-from-home practice.  For most organisations, the sudden change in the way they operate their day to day business not only impacted their operations but also the way their IT function delivers its services.

Let’s have a look at the telework, or remote work toolbox, and demystify the technology behind it.

For most businesses, IT services can be categorised in the following categories

  • Communication Services
  • File Services
  • Line of Business Applications

Let’s start with communication services.

Email, instant messaging and telephony are the most common services under the communication services category. Undoubtedly, such services become even more important as a company moves to a teleworking set-up.   With smartphones becoming standard in everyone’s pockets, email communication has moved out of the boundaries of the traditional office location and is always-present, often to the regret of the smartphone owner or those around him or her!  On the other hand, instant messaging and telephony have always been deemed as secondary services, mostly because employees used to spend most of the business day at the office, where such tools resided on the the phone desk or not available at all, as in the case of IM.  Things took a different turn when the traditional office had to be locked down, and employees sent to work from home.  Such services instantly become the foundation for inter-company communication.  In addition, a service that is rarely used in an office set-up but become default in teleworking is video conferencing.

Moving on to file services, these have been an integral part of every organisation for decades.  While file servers gives employees a convenient and easy way to share files and data, these are generally very much restricted to the office network, and therefore to the need to be at the office.  Although a VPN can be used to extend such services while working remotely, this is generally not the best option, usually due to performance and overall control issues.  File servers are generally central to document share and access within every business and due to the dependency on them, and also the widespread of this service, IT departments often find it difficult to phase out the traditional file server set-ups in order to replace them with more modern options.

Finally, there is a category of tools, referred to as Line of Business (LOB) Applications. These  are programs/software that are critical to running the business.  Such applications include stock management systems, financial packages, Enterprise resource planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, as well as custom build applications.  These applications enable organisations to successfully operate their business.

Enabling a new way of working

Luckily the cloud era made it easier for businesses to move out of the boundaries of their office.   Products like Microsoft 365 incorporate all the components needed to replace most business communication and file services.  Exchange Online, OneDrive and SharePoint Online are among the most compelling components offering within the suite.  In addition, Microsoft Teams makes chat, meeting and collaboration available under a single platform.  With telcos now offering SIP services instead of the old ISDN,  the possibility of integrating telephony within tools such as Microsoft Teams or software-based PABXs has become a reality.  All an employee needs is Teams or PABX systems sych as 3CX installed on his laptop and mobile, and your PABX is now totally mobile.  

Digging in a bit more into the technology behind tools such as Microsoft365, a key aspect relates to the security features offered “be default”. Apart from the productivity tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams, Microsoft 365 includes numerous security features to ensure a smooth and secure transition from the traditional security methodology.  Historically, security focused entirely around the perimeter on one’s network.  Multi-factor Authentication, Mobile Device Management, Azure AD, Conditional Access, Advanced Threat Protection and Cloud App Security are only a handful of the included features and services available that help organisation stay on top on today’s cyber threats. Without going into the details of each, one can summarise the benefit as being end-to-end security from the device up the core infrastructure running the applications on the cloud.

Azure as a complementary platform to Microsoft 365

Microsoft Azure augments Microsoft 365 to give a truly cloud first experience to businesses.  For Line of Business applications, where migrating to a SaaS might be difficult, Microsoft Azure bridges the gap with thousands of available services that one can tap in on in no time. Migrating Line of Business applications to the cloud not only removes all dependencies on the traditional office but also improves employee productivity.  Such applications can be presented to employees using Microsoft Virtual Desktop, a fully-fledged Windows 10 user experience available from any browser on any device of the employee’s liking; it’s all transparent to the employee, while keeping security at the very centre of the solution. 

Post Covid-19

While most businesses are currently focusing on trying to continue operating under these hard times, history has showed us that no storm lasted forever.  This crisis will eventually unveil a new way of operating and doing business.  It is safe to say that business will acknowledge the benefits and flexibility that teleworking brings along.  Pollution is down, many claim there there is a better work/life balance, for sure there is less commuting and many organisations are experiencing higher productivity. These are a few of the benefits that we might be surprised to see following this storm. 

BMIT Technologies has launched a quick-to-deploy solution to enable your business to be able to telework.  It addresses issues such as access to core software, different security requirements, and specific business realities while preparing your business for tomorrows’ way of doing business.  Reach out to us to know more.

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