Finding the right remote access solutions for your small business can seem like a daunting task. With so much information available and seemingly endless options, it can be difficult to determine what’s going to be the right solution for your business.
What works best for your organization today may be vastly different from what will work best tomorrow. As your needs change, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of what the cloud is and what your needs will be so you can adapt accordingly.
What is remote access?
Remote Access is the ability for your staff to work, via the Internet, from anywhere (i.e. home, hotel, coffee shop, etc.)
Encompassing multiple types of remote access solutions can be broken down into four main categories:
- Cloud Based System access
- Remote into a dedicated remote access server
- VPN (Virtual Private Network)
- Remote into their work PC
- Offline work options
Depending on the size of your company and your specific needs, you may need all of these or just a few. Fortunately, that leaves you with several choices to accommodate your business.
Why do we need remote access?
Remote Access solutions solving many business problems allowing you to be more agile and flexible as an organization. It is also more cost-effective than having extra office space available for people who are not always working “from” the office, that takes up valuable financial resources. For a fraction of the cost of a traditional office work space, companies can empower employees to safely and securely access the information they need anytime, anywhere.
The benefits of remote access solutions include:
Rapid Scalability = Organizational Agility
With a virtually unlimited ability to scale, you can grow your staff quicker than growing office space. So whether your organization faces rapid growth or experiences a downturn, you always have exactly the right resources required to keep your business running smoothly.
With less office space there is less cost. Office Space often has 5 or 10 year lease costs which are a major operational expense. Every desk workstation requires a capital investment in furniture, phones, and printers.
For many positions you can hire the best talent in other markets, possibly at a substantial discount. Collaboration tools remove the barrier of distance from the hiring equation.
The younger generations expect to be fully mobile and have more flexible work schedules. Remote access solutions allow them to work when they are needed but from wherever they may be.
Work Life Balance helps Morale and Retention
Your staff have lives too – kids get sick, weather gets too bad to travel safely, they might be caretakers for a family member in need, etc. but this doesn’t mean they cannot still contribute if they wish.
With these benefits in mind, here are some of the cloud solutions available for your organization:
Cloud based software
Probably the most commonly known, the cloud applications utilizes a shared infrastructure to deliver a function – services such as Microsoft Office 365, Gmail, Salesforce and more are well known and dependable solutions. This means that anyone can have access to their data from any computer or mobile device, anywhere. Security and High Availability are baked into their solutions from the start.
Scalable, cost effective and easily accessible, this is a good choice for small businesses.
In house Remote Access Server
If you have many staff without a computer at the office or if you have specialty (or legacy) applications this is the best choice.
Designed to only provide information to those within your organization, the security is managed internally and those who log in only have access to what applications they need. Examples include Remote Desktop Server, Terminal Service, or Citrix Servers.
There can be some redundancies to prevent downtime, but this is an area to carefully consider while planning this solution.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
If you have many staff with a company provided laptop at home and no specialty (or legacy) applications this is the best choice. You have your computer connect to the corporate office and look like it is part of the overall network using an encrypted tunnel or VPN (Virtual Private Network) or SSL-VPN.
NOTE: It is not wise to allow home users to VPN into your corporate network, because you have no control over the security of those machines. They may not be patched, they may not have adequate antivirus protection, etc.
A VPN is a great solution for those that work from home a lot. It can be done via software (on the laptop) or hardware (a permanent device at the home), but both options require considerable pre-planning and usually significant up front costs to configure.
This solution is good for long-term users. However, in a surge work-at-home situation, it often cannot scale well because of limitations of the VPN “endpoint” at the office (not having enough licenses, not large enough hardware) or bandwidth at the office.
Workstation Remote Access
If you have staff that also has a computer at the office or if you have specialty (or legacy) applications this is your choice.
Designed to allow the employee to remotely access their own work computer. Anything they could do while sitting at their desk, they can do remotely. It is secure, fast, and simple to use.
There can be some redundancies to prevent downtime, but it considered as stable as their work computer.
Some of your users will require access to information while they are “Offline” such as on an airplane or in an area with no internet access.
While online, the information they need should be automatically synchronized on their computer. While offline they will work on the data. Once they get online again, their data should automatically synchronize back to the office. To be effective, this process needs to be automatic.
This is a more complex solution for small businesses as it requires substantial planning to work flawlessly. It is recommended you work with your Managed Service Provider to plan this type of remote access.
The best solution for you
So what is the best solution? To find the answer you need to determine what will allow your business to work most efficiently and affordably. That means taking a hard look at your needs and figuring out what remote access solutions will work for your organization now and in the future.
Regardless of what remote access option you decide is best for your business, PCS International can help you with implementation and integration into your current systems. Contact us today and we’ll help you find the cloud solution that will best meet your needs.