Remote access services

Do you have to support people working away from the office such as home workers, sales staff on the road and senior managers? Do you ask yourself: should we be encouraging home-working? Can you significantly reduce office costs? Are you using the best technologies? Can you outsource it?

A global financial services company asked h2index to find out the best practice in Remote Access Services (RAS). We spoke to senior IT technical managers from 16 large financial, consumer, pharmaceutical, energy, and professional services companies. All participants have well established RAS with substantial numbers of knowledge workers.

Several common themes emerged from the study.

  • A robust and flexible RAS is now an employment pre-requisite for knowledge workers. All companies interviewed provide RAS to a high proportion of eligible users and it is definitely seen as a way of improving employee satisfaction.
  • Almost all have a RAS with two modes: full access (all corporate IT) and limited access (personal productivity applications).
  • Half the companies interviewed are actively encouraging home-working to reduce facility costs, especially if they have office space in costly locations. Part-time and ad hoc home working is common, but full-time home working is still unusual: only one company has a measurable proportion of home-workers.
  • All new RAS solutions are deploying an SSL VPN technology, although companies are not rushing to decommission older IPsec systems.
  • RAS is seen as an essential component of business continuity planning (BCP) and systems are sized accordingly.

Two further interesting points came to light. Firstly most participants report that hardware, and not software, is the bottleneck at times of high demand.

Secondly we asked participants which solutions would be around in three years’ time. Many indicated that cloud solutions would become all pervasive, but that there will always be some company-specific applications that are not suitable for the cloud. Some companies are already using direct SSL access from browser to corporate productivity applications such as Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) and SalesForce.com. Several companies referred to “putting Apps on the Internet”: the Jericho Forum approach, but real progress is slow.

As a result of the study, h2index has strongly recommended the client move to a SSL VPN system sized according to their BCP plan requirements, and consider using a third party to manage and run their RAS, possibly their current network services provider.