I write all our blog posts for Beaty Consultancy. Generally I write them on a Sunday afternoon. My wife is at work in one of the local pubs, and the dog is asleep behind me, in the patch where the sun shines through the window onto the carpet. For me, it doesn’t matter where in the world I work from. I take my remote working tools for granted. But on this particular Sunday, I feel like I want to share some tips with everyone else.
This particular Sunday is 15th of March 2020, and the UK is just starting to get a bit serious about this whole Corona Virus pandemic. I know a couple of folks who are self isolating because they’re in one of the higher risk groups. I know a few others who’s children’s schools are being closed, so they’re going to be juggling working from home with childcare duties for a couple of weeks. So against this backdrop, let’s explore some remote working tools, and how they might be useful to you.
What Do You Need?
Make a list. Is there some software you run on your work computer which doesn’t or can’t work elsewhere? Do you need to be able to answer your desk phone if you’re not in the office? What about sharing documents and files with colleagues? And lastly, what about just keeping up with everyone with regard to work projects and social situations?
It might help to just think about your working day, and what you usually do. Email fills huge chunks of time for a lot of people. If you check the email boxes for new enquiries, is it possible to collect those emails from your smartphone maybe? Things like this can be easily set up by either your IT team if you have one, or by the folks looking after your website.
Lots of businesses are already usingVoice over IP, or VoIP solutions. In that case you already know you can just install the app on your smartphone and receive your calls wherever you are. VoIP just means sending telephone calls over the internet. Wherever you get an internet connection, you can answer your VoIP phone. But what about those who aren’t? There are plenty of businesses here in the UK who will set up call divert services for you, and charge you a per-minute rate for the privilege. But really, the smart thing to do is to pull the trigger on VoIP now, since the UK will be switching off old fashioned telephone lines in 2025.
Beaty Consultancy does not provide these services ourselves, but we do work with some super talented organisations who do, so just ask.
This is the biggie isn’t it. How do we work on our documents from home, when they’re all sat on our computers at work? Well that all depends on what we mean by them being sat on the computer at work. It might be that all the shortcuts to our frequently used documents are on your computer at work, but the chances are that’s not actually where those documents are being stored. More likely they’re kept on the server in the office, or on a cloud storage platform like OneDrive, DropBox or Google Drive.
If the latter is true, and you’re already using cloud storage, you just need to know your login details. Once you can log into your cloud document provider of choice, such as Google Suite or Office 365, you’re most of the way there! If you don’t know your logins, reset them today, and store them in a password manager. Then, if you unexpectedly do need to work from home, you just log in, and off you go.
But it gets better! Do you ever work on shared documents, only to find that Jim was working on the same section as you, and you overwrote each-other’s work? Well it might be time to try out the web based versions of the programs you know and love, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. When you use the web based versions of these applications, you can see, in real time, everyone else who is working on the document at that time. You might never go back to the old way again!
Access To The Server
Okay, up to now it’s all sounded super easy, because it mostly is. But what about those apps which only work in the office. What about when you really do have a server in the office which all your critical work on it? Well in that case, you’re probably going to need to dig a tunnel from your house, through your back garden, under the city, and pop out in the canteen at work. That way, you can securely get to work without mixing with the great unwashed. What are you doing still reading? Get digging!!
Okay that might not be the best idea. But what if there was a similar thing that your computer could do. What if it could open up a secure tunnel over the Internet, and pop out inside your office? Well you can, and it’s called a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. We talked about them recently, and they’re an awesome remote working tool.
A VPN can be set up within a few hours, depending on the complexity of your corporate network, and can run on really cheap kit. The one we recommend for most small to medium sized businesses is the Netgate SG1100. It’s a tiny little firewall running the pfSense software, and allows you to connect from anywhere in the world, through it, and onto the network at work.
Staying In Touch
Lastly, let’s talk about tools to help us all stay in touch. There is absolutely something to be said for the free and open exchange of ideas in a workplace, and it would be a shame to lose that in these uncertain times.
Lucky for us, the big software giants have us covered. Team working communications apps like Google Hangouts Meet and Microsoft Teams are extending free use offers to anyone who wants to try them out. If you imagine a Whatsapp group, but with more organisation and integration into other systems, like calendars and shared storage, that’s what these platforms are.
Lots of people who routinely work from home will connect their microphone and speakers to the shared channel first thing in the morning, and drop in and out throughout the day. It’s like a conference call, but doesn’t seem as forced, and as though someone needs to be saying something at all times. It can really make you feel like you’re sat with the team you’re working with, and can be a real comfort.
For Everything Else, Just Ask
Remote working tools are a huge category now, and many of them are very mature. There is a solution to almost every problem, you just need to know where to look. That’s where we come in. We get to work with lost of different businesses every day, with such diverse challenges and opportunities. Put simply, we’ve seen it all! So whatever you need help with, just ask.
And if any of this information has been useful, or if you want to know about something else related to remote working, let us know that too.