It was a simple job. The small accounting firm hired New Jersey consultant Keith Krebs to network three computers. Since all the equipment resided in one room- two PCs were within 12 feet of each other, the third, 25 feet away - Krebs suggested 802.11b wireless networking gear. Since he'd been a long time Linksys Group customer, he recommended its products without hesitation. But five weeks later, and half a dozen lengthy technical support calls later, the network still doesn't work.
Stories by Toni Kistner
Despite all the media attention telework enjoyed in 2001, new research from IDC and Cahners In-Stat/MDR show its growth is slowing.
When it comes to VPN (virtual private network) technology, Finisar Corp.'s Director of IT Patrick Wilson is of two minds. He's quick to credit the technology for keeping his remote workers connected and productive as his company's ranks quadrupled from 300 to 1,200 in 2001. Yet, he's as quick to point out the technology's serious shortcomings.
Two years ago, there was no such thing. Today, thousands of independent contractors call themselves virtual assistants. While many are former brick-and-mortar executive and administrative assistants, other types of workers are standing under the VA umbrella - IT workers, paralegals, even some accountants and controllers. Some are military spouses, many were recently laid off, others juggle full-time jobs while trying to launch VA practices in the off hours - and all are working from home.
At Comdex this year, we enjoyed short cab lines, long security lines (unless you knew about the secret media entrance), and plenty of great technology for roving and home-based workers. I got to meet Bluetooth, the 10th century King of Denmark, and played with some neat Swedish technology that lets you touch type in mid air.
Talk about micromanagement. Scalable Software Inc. has developed a tool called Survey Time Manager (US$95 per seat) that measures the actual usage of computer applications. By counting keystrokes and mouse clicks, the program tallies the time you spend working in Word or Excel, surfing the Web, reading e-mail, etc. At the end of each day it sends the results back to the server, where the results are then viewable by employees and managers via a Web interface.
What a time to be a network manager. Above, company execs are sanctioning all manner of telework. Below, employees are demanding anytime, anywhere access to the company network. Good thing you've got sophisticated technology in place so you can sleep well at night.
- or Charlotte Patin, it started last winter, the day she met two Microsoft consultants who had BlackBerry handhelds clipped to their belts. One peek at the wireless e-mail and personal information manager device - complete with tiny thumbable keyboard - and she was hooked.
Last week, in my weekly online column, I suggested a slightly unorthodox plan for bringing your boss around to telework. What I failed to mention was the risk involved. It's a good thing there are two neat tools that take the risk out of shuttling work between two places.