Having a remote or branch office is challenging enough, but when you have to think about managing a “dual” infrastructure – not just the employees in your main office, management, finances and a dozen other things – it’s a double (or more) challenge.
Technology can help you ensure your branch office does not turn into a major headache.
Rob Ciampa Vice president of marketing at Marathon Technologies said that there are five things you can do, technically speaking, to ensure that although your remote employees don’t have access to a full time IT consultant, that their technology is just as good (or why not better) than their colleagues at the “main office”
TIP #1 – Ensure Fast, Secure Networks
For companies with a small branch office, secure internal (e.g., LANs and VPNs) and external networks are essential to effectively managing business-critical applications from anywhere in the world.
Most internal network hardware is easy to set up and allows users to simply plug in and start using the network. However, you should take the extra time to configure the security features, as it may pay off in the long run. In addition, installing firewall software can help to secure an external network.
This is so important. Although it’s a pain, to guests, to not allow them unfettered access to the Internet through your WiFi network, you’ll be much more secure.
TIP #2 – Keep your Wireless Secured
Remote workers are more likely to use wireless connections with mobile devices such as PDAs, smartphones, netbooks and laptops. It is important to make sure the wireless access is secure and password protected, because anyone within range of a Wi-Fi network can access company data, including confidential information. It is critical to limit or restrict the SSID broadcast feature and change the password frequently.
Tip #3 – Build an Intranet
An intranet is an ideal platform for employee comminucations and information sharing across all of your offices. Intranets can provide company-specific information, such as policies and procedures, and a description of employee benefits. Furthermore, an intranet can help establish a greater sense of community for businesses with remote offices, because it encourages employee interaction through the functionality of message boards, instant messaging, and even moderated chat rooms.
TIP #4 – Automate Configuration Management
Since branch locations may not have an IT administrator on staff to manage system patches or software updates, it is necessary to have software that automates and simplifies management of remote servers and printers. Given that most configuration changes must be coordinated across multiple applications, a single error can avalanche and affect the entire infrastructure. Automated network configuration management tools can save time and also reduce the chance of human error.
TIP #4 – Protect the Remote Data
Well-prepared businesses know how important it is to have the right resources, processes, and technologies in place in order to protect vital information and minimize downtime at their headquarters. However, these same businesses often overlook the importance of outfitting their branch offices with the appropriate resources and technologies to protect this critical data. Make sure to take the remote and branch locations into consideration when planning your technology budget for data protection.
TIP #5 – Don’t Overlook Remote Availability
Some IT departments fail to recognize the importance of application availability for branch and remote locations. It is just as imperative that these offices stay up and running, and be positioned to operate on the same level as the company’s headquarters. Application availability is essential to business operations and productivity no matter where they are located. Always include your branch and remote offices when
planning your strategies for high availability and disaster recovery.
BONUS TIP from Ramon
Another thing you should consider is desktop video conferencing with all employees. This way all employees, in the main office or the branch office can instantly connect with each other. If your budget permits you might event want a hi-definition video conference system that can project clear, crisp and very life life images.