IT hints and tricksIT is nothing like it once was. Ten years ago, staff would usually work in the office on desktop PCs. Laptops were typically the exclusive preserve of senior management and mobile salespeople. As for iPads – um, well, they hadn’t even been invented.

Today’s IT department has plenty of work to do to keep control of this increasingly distributed user base. Thankfully, tools have evolved that make it easier for techies.

Supporting users who work remotely is about far more than having the ability to use remote desktop to react as problems arise.

  1. Users can often have a tendency to treat their company laptops as their own. But all IT professionals know that plenty of end users let their kids play with their company laptops (while they may not admit that out loud!).  Pets can also be hazardous to an unattended laptop!
  2. Remote machines are arguably more susceptible to infection than the machines kept in the close confines of an office environment. Just for starters, laptops are often more frequently connected to public Wi-Fi networks, exposing the machine to myriad threats.
  3. It can prove highly impractical for a user to return a laptop to “base” if something goes wrong, so it’s important to be able to fix as many issues as possible without physical contact with the machine.

IT departments need more than RDP to do manage the workforce.

The solution is something that includes remote support but also handles ongoing monitoring of remote machines and works effectively when fully or partially disconnected from the network in the office. If you need to clean an infected remote laptop, you don’t want the user to open a VPN into the production network so you can fix it!

Remote machines can present a real danger to the network, so the more ‘visible’ they are to you, the better. If unauthorized software has been installed, it’s important that you know straight away. That’s where asset tracking comes in.

It’s also quite easy for a remote user to continually ignore important patches and updates either through negligence (“I’ll do it tomorrow…”) or a simple lack of understanding (“I’m not sure I should click ‘accept’… better not risk it”). For this reason, you need some kind of patch management functionality to check that remote machines are being kept suitably up to date.

If you’ve worked in IT for any length of time, you’ll know that in the “good old days” of IT, it was common to get a laptop back after it had been with a user for some time, and have a small panic attack when you see the state of it.

Non-technical employees often completely ignore error messages if these don’t affect their workflow. An early good intention to “call IT at some point”, soon becomes an issue that’s ignored for months. Meanwhile, the laptop that you so lovingly set up and prepared for the employee is out there masquerading as a notice board for malware that could end up infecting the whole company infrastructure. You know what that means for you (and probably the rest of the IT team) – an entire weekend (or more) repairing the damage.

The more distributed the workforce is, the more crucial it is to have constant visibility of all the company kit that’s floating round out there. A scheduled “back to base” check for each machine is simply not enough – not if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises that cut into your free time.

For more information and some helpful hints and tips on the other areas where IT admins can save time, read our white paper.