Winter’s come early this year – too early for a whole range of people who simply weren’t prepared for so much snow in November.
Lots of lessons were learned from last year’s long hard winter, many of them about home or remote working when large numbers of staff were stuck at home because of blocked or treacherous roads and faced the challenge of turning their spare rooms into temporary offices. Undoubtedly many businesses resolved never to be caught out by the weather again but it is quite possible that some delayed implementing the kind of changes that would make remote working a seamless possibility.
The reality of recent weather will have been a wakeup call to those businesses. But the good news is that it is possible to put in place everything needed to let employees work from home with full access to their work PCs in little over a weekend.
Bruce Skinner, managing director of Pisys-net which specialises in the provision of high quality, cost effective IT support, explains: “We can install all that is necessary in five days, so that could be done over a weekend and the company would only lose a couple of days, and that’s for a 45 user site. For smaller businesses it can be done in a couple of days.
“If you have 20 workers all trying to log on from home at the same time and you haven’t made provision for this, your system could grind to a halt and it will be a total nightmare.
“The way to get round that is to use cloud services, also known as a hosted service. That’s what we use – we have always run our business through them.”
Broadband connection speeds are at the heart of the problems – and answers. “You have to understand that your upload speed at work is your download speed at home. People don’t take that into consideration.
“A combination of Microsoft Online Services and Livedrive will give you a data centre and high speed links to speed up downloads and that determines how quickly a home-based employee can connect to your business. Not only can you connect to your email, you can have your company intranet online as well, and access to all the documents, files and folders stored on your work computer back at the office. You also get Microsoft communicator which is like instant messaging. There’s a live meeting facility so you can communicate by voice or internet in real time.
He reckons with these products it is pretty much possible to keep a business running with staff scattered all over the countryside.
“Home computers are powerful enough to cope with any demands. The other day I used a six year old PC with half a meg of RAM and a one meg broadband connection and I was able to do everything I needed to do, but only because Pisys-net uses Microsoft Online Services and Livedrive. I could have done it with a traditional server and a virtual network connection but it would have taken twice as long because of download speeds.”
Cloud computing is catching on – Aberdeen-based Pisys-net has installed 800 mailboxes in the last 18 months – and the days of each company housing its own email server are numbered.
Maybe those snow clouds are heralding more than winter weather.