Raising the Olympic torch for remote working

The Olympics could provide a tipping point for remote working, but CIOs have to deal with some awkward issues to make it work

Remote working is set for a high profile test in the UK in August, when it is expected that many businesses around London will use it, some for the first time, in an effort to overcome the disruption caused by the Olympic Games.

The government has joined the Games organising committee, in its Preparing Your Business for the Games document, in encouraging organisations to think seriously about allowing staff to work from home.

This could provide a tipping point in which remote and home working becomes embedded within the culture of many organisations.

Its advantages are now widely known:

- It can cut the time and cost of travel for staff;
- Provide them with a better work/life balance and sense of autonomy;
- Help the environment by reducing the number of people driving to work;
- Help organisations to cut back on office space, which can provide significant savings.

In addition, the technology is now sufficiently robust to make it a viable option, with most people having access to broadband connections and the widespread use of extranets, virtual private networks and, to a growing extent, cloud computing.

Most CIOs, even if they will not be under pressure from the Olympics, are looking at the possibilities for remote working within their organisations; but there are a number of issues to address if they go ahead.

Some are related to security.

It is important to minimise the amount of sensitive data that could be downloaded to home computers or mobile devices, which could be stolen or lost.

The data can be encrypted when transferred, but its presence on a device outside the office always adds to the risk.

This adds to the case for keeping data and applications within a virtual private network, or a cloud service, which staff can access from outside.

This is accompanied by the need for robust identity management to ensure that only the appropriate staff have access to networks.

While the simple user name and password approach will often be sufficient, there may be a need for extra information only known to an individual, and ensure that access is based on their role within an organisation.

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