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Why IT Gets Telecommuting Right By @SolarWinds | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Telecommuting is seen as a way to provide flexibility and improve work/life balance

It's no secret that telecommuting is a highly disputed topic. For the general employee, the jury is still out on the pros and cons of telecommuting. For organizations like Yahoo!, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and U.S. Postal Service, telecommuting is not an option due to the need to foster collaboration, alleged employee abuse of telework benefits and mounting security concerns, respectively. Among the startup scene and various other organizations, though, telecommuting is seen as a way to provide flexibility and improve work/life balance.

For IT professionals, however, such reasoning does not apply. In fact, IT pros have worked remotely with success long before these debates ever started.

By providing remote support from anywhere - even in far-flung locations, as a recent SolarWinds poll of our thwack online user community found - IT pros have shown they are able to seamlessly integrate into the daily workflow of their organizations regardless of location or distance. Why is this? What makes this aspect of remote work so successful for IT versus the rest of the organization? How can those same practices of remote IT be applied to the entire organization to ensure telecommuting success?

The Advent of Remote IT
Before remote support tools existed, IT regularly dealt with frustrating issues related to the lack of such technology. For example, the number of end users at most organizations far outweighed the number of IT personnel, which made IT support - remote and on-premises - particularly daunting. Also, without automation, help desk personnel had to deal with less-than-efficient processes for conducting daily work.

My personal help desk experience alone is a testament to the difficulties of providing IT support pre-remote tools. In the 1990s, I worked on the help desk for a large computer manufacturer, and we delivered all support via telephone and without remote tools. We on the IT team had to verbally coach end users through troubleshooting, which was frustrating because it was difficult to ensure the issues they described were relevant and accurate, and also that they understood the correct steps to fix the problems. The organization experienced high turnover on the IT help desk team, and it's largely due to the frustrating nature of the support delivery method. In short, troubleshooting blindly is not fun.

The same frustration would be experienced when organizations opened satellite offices in the Before Remote Support Tools (B.R.S.T) era. To provide IT support, organizations would either have to hire IT personnel for each office, or provide support via telephone from the main office without the ability to see what was actually happening on the other end, which as discussed is troublesome.

Enter remote support tools. Upon the advent of remote support tools, IT and help desk organizations quickly realized the benefits of centralizing the delivery of support - specifically, the efficiency this centralization achieves as organizations grow. The advent of remote IT support tools has allowed organizations to not only provide seamless IT support and drive IT - and in effect, end user - productivity, but maintain an IT-to-end user ratio that benefits business bottom lines.

The Benefits of IT Telecommuting
The advent of remote IT support tools certainly alleviated many of the pain points IT and help desk personnel experienced for many years. Now let's fast forward to current scenario many IT pros experience working for startup or SMB organizations where IT pros wear many hats, meaning they often have to focus on network or server projects while also finding the time to support end users. Having remote support tools readily available allows IT to effectively multi-task without even leaving their desks, which makes a truly remarkable difference compared to aforementioned experiences in the B.R.S.T era. With remote support tools, IT experiences noticeably less frustration with end user support, and can in turn be far more productive whether they're in the office or offsite.

While in the office, we IT pros spend many hours in meetings, both scheduled and impromptu, but often these meetings don't actually require IT's time. The ability to work from outside of the office, and know that support you can provide will be seamless regardless of location, really enables IT to drive productivity in ways that were previously unachievable.

From IT to End User: Have the Right Tools
With these IT telecommuting successes in mind, it's important to note, amidst the ongoing debates about telecommuting, how these same practices that have made remote IT support so successful can be applied broadly.

The one key element to successful telecommuting or remote work across both IT and end users is to ensure you have the right tools. In that sense, remote working - from a technology perspective - should be no different than working from the office. Most organizations spend huge sums of money on infrastructure and tools to make sure employees are productive and successful in the office, and many don't realize that building out infrastructure and providing the right tools for remote workers usually doesn't require a completely different set of technologies. In fact, most organizations already have the systems in place to support remote workers, but it's important to ensure these systems are robust enough to support the entire remote workforce.

An IT department armed with the right tools will be able to resolve most end-user requests without needing to be physically present at the end-user's machine. Some remote support tools only work inside the corporate firewall, but many work both inside and out. If an end-user is connected to the corporate network through a VPN tunnel, an inside-of-firewall solution will probably work, but companies should invest in one that allows for secure connections to computers regardless of VPN connectivity.

The topic of telecommuting, its pros and cons, will continue to be hotly disputed, but the number of remote workers continues to rise nonetheless. With that in mind, it's crucial to understand the tools that organizations have at their disposal to mimic the seamless connectivity that IT achieved years ago in doing remote support.

More Stories By Glenn Gray

Glenn Gray serves as Senior Product Marketing Manager at SolarWinds. He has more than 10 years of experience working in various IT roles including systems administrator and IT manager. He attended the University of Texas for a degree in International Relations and Economics and attended the University of British Columba’s MBA program.

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