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» Enterprise IT Planet » Security » Security Features

CDW: Telework Taking Off

By Pedro Hernandez
April 28, 2008

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It sounds easy.

Offload some of that pesky networking onto the home broadband connections of your workers and revel in the savings, extra parking spaces and cleaner air around your office complex. But in truth, supporting teleworkers can be a big technological adjustment for companies, particularly those with big security considerations. Even so, a new report from CDW points to an encouraging trend.

According to CDW's Telework Report for 2008, 56 percent of IT professionals employed by the Federal government reported that their organizations support telework, up 23 percent since 2005. For the private sector, the numbers are even better; 76 percent report that they are telecommuter friendly.

These rates reflect a cultural shift, says Jeff Godlewski, Field System Engineer Manager for CDW. IT managers are increasingly coming to recognize telework "not as an inhibitor, more of an enabler."

That enablement comes from a welcome side benefit, namely business continuity, says Godlewski.

Business continuity, still very much on the minds of executives and technical staff alike, winds up enhanced. Since remote workers are putting the networking infrastructure and systems that support business continuity and disaster recovery through its paces every day, working in the aftermath of a disaster may prove to be a non-event to the majority of the organization's workforce.

And, in a sign of the times, the "greening" of IT is also becoming a factor. "Everyone is looking to do everything they can to be a green company," says Godlewski. And supporting telework can be one stealth way of accomplishing this by trimming IT purchases, extending the life of in-place gear and taking a bite out of the electricity bill.

Other interesting stats emerged.

Percentage-wise, the Federal Government has a slight edge in teleworkers compared to the private sector, 17 percent versus 14 percent, respectively.

There are several advantages to a company that embraces telecommuting. According to Godlewski's observations, these can include "reduced cost, new and better [job] applicants, better retention of employees and reducing sick times."

Nonetheless, not everyone is convinced. This is due, in part, to the security specter that hangs over IT shops.

Of the Federal workers polled, 42 percent expressed security concerns while just 27 percent of those in the private sector did so. The gap isn't surprising, says Godlewski, given the confidential and "eyes only" nature of the material handled by several government agencies.

But even those concerns are evaporating, like previous fears over a bandwidth crunch. "As technology has evolved, bandwidth has become less expensive," reminds Godlewski. Now advances encryption and authentication, and the technologies that make them possible, are increasingly making telecommuting as safe as working in an office, he says.

Even so, there is still cause for concern. Some employees are still in the dark about their role in safeguarding their organization's data. Among Federal workers, 21 percent were unaware of their organization's security policies. The situation is worse for private industry where nearly a third, 31 percent, claimed ignorance.

A summary of the 2008 CDW Telework Report and download (registration required) are available here.

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