Great Applications for Mobile Workers
Information technology researcher IDC, predicts the number of mobile or remote workers — that is, workers who operate externally from a central office — will reach an amazing one billion people worldwide by 2011.
Given this, many businesses that build software applications have developed, and continue to develop, different applications to make working remotely easier and more productive.
One such firm is Citrix, which specialises in developing mobile applications compatible with a range of different apparatus, including laptops, internet kiosks and smart devices.
Its flagship mobile application is Citrix® XenApp™, which delivers rich, Windows-based applications to any device, be it a PC, laptop or mobile tool such as a Blackberry®. It is perfect for remote workers who need reliable software applications wherever they are working.
Aside from XenApp, Citrix has also developed an access gateway, Secure Sockets Layer virtual private network (SSL VPN), which works with private networks, allowing remote users to connect quickly and simply to a corporate network wherever they are.
Toby Knight, manager of systems engineering and solution architecture at Citrix says, “This application allows a remote user to access the internal network from anywhere.” The system can be customised to suit individual businesses.
This system makes it possible for businesses to allow their mobile workers to access emails only, or it can be configured so that broader access — remote access to company files, for example — is allowed.
“Access is based on the user’s current access scenario. So if the users are on a corporate-owned asset like a laptop, then they may be able to access everything on the network. But the way we set up the system, if they are in an internet cafe, mobile workers may only be able to open emails, depending on the level of security the firm needs,” says Toby Knight.
The system also allows help desks to take control of the remote worker’s device if there is a problem with the application. “This has huge productivity benefits for businesses. You don’t have to wait for someone to come to you to fix a problem, instead the problem can be solved straight away,” says knight.
So if people are operating in an office in Singapore, but their home office is in Sydney and they can’t access their emails, all they do is telephone the help desk, explain the problem, and the help desk can take control of the device and look at the problem.
Citrix has developed Access Essentials™, a special application for small businesses. It allows up to 50 mobile users to access a private network from anywhere at anytime. It also provides remote support and can be customised to meet the requirements of individual businesses.
“Our goal was to make it easy to use and install, and cost-effective. At the upper end, the solution is scalable, which offers significant return on investment,” says Knight..
Case in Point
Knight’s own team demonstrates the efficiencies and productivity gains Citrix’s applications provide. “I have 18 people working for me in Australia and New Zealand. We don’t have offices in all locations and our staff need the ability to access things when they need to wherever they are, to drive efficiencies in the business. It is important our workers have the flexibility not to have to go into an office,” he says.
The attraction of the system is that it allows ultimate flexibility; users can check emails on the train, while on the way to a meeting, at home or when out and about. “When you consider how critical flexibility is in today’s working environment, it’s easy to see how important an effective mobile worker strategy is," says Knight. "It brings both productivity and happiness rewards to a business.”
An effective mobile strategy makes collaboration easy. “You might have people working all around the country or even the world. If they are linked through a remote private network, they can respond to customer queries so much quicker,” he says.
So an effective mobile strategy means that when the business day ends in Australia, for example, and you need a solution to a client problem overnight, workers in Asia or Europe can access the client files on the private network and develop a solution to the problem. When the next business day starts in Australia, the client’s problem or issue is solved.
Aside from the productivity benefits this approach delivers, it also contributes to the firm’s reputation as one that can respond quickly to clients’ needs.
An effective strategy for mobile workers also assists the business in continuity planning and disaster recovery. For example, if there are major train delays or terrible traffic jams, workers can stay at home to do their work, so long as they can access the business’s network remotely.
In terms of the future applications for mobile workers, it’s “all very exciting” Knight says.
“In the future there will be even greater flexibility offered to workers, when wireless broadband is deployed across Australia. You will be able to access the internet anywhere you want — in the air, on the street and in the car, which means workers are likely to become even more connected,” he says.
According to Knight, constraints on business travel as firms cut travel costs to save money will also help build the mobile worker revolution. “Doing more remotely will be a key driver in business cost savings,” he says.
In future, there is almost no doubt that workers will take for granted the ability to access emails and the internet whenever and from wherever. The days when workers could only access email and internet from their home or their office are disappearing fast, and small businesses better get ready.
Small businesses that don’t keep pace with mobile technological developments will see their productivity rates decline, as competitors that embraced a mobile worker strategy watch their businesses soar.