Ten years ago only the largest companies could afford to provide remote access support for their home-based and remote workers. Most of these were based on dial-up lines using the telephone network. Connections were notoriously slow and expensive; especially when dialing from abroad. Such schemes were fine for synchronizing with the corporate mail server or downloading sales materials when on the road. But they were never able to provide the remote worker with all the IT facilities available to the central office based worker. But that has now all changed. The widespread availability of low cost broadband connections combined with the ubiquity of the Internet means that even the smallest company can provide their home and remote workers with full network support as if they were locally connected to the corporate network. And not just for data: advances in Internet Telephony mean that the Internet can also be used to connect remote workers to the company voice network to reduce the cost of voice calls both within the company and for external calls.
A recent study funded by the European Commission has shown that teleworking has the following positive advantages for companies and their employees:
- Economic: improved work performance, less absenteeism, improved recruitment and retention, reduced office costs, reduced travel costs and child-care costs.
- Environmental: reduction in commuting at congested peak periods, improved air quality due to reduced transport, reduction in office space requirements.
- Personal/Social: improved life quality and life/work balance, health benefits and less sick leave giving increased working hours, increased involvement in local community services and activities.
In particular the report concluded that: "Broadband and other advanced communication technologies are allowing higher volumes of data to be transported to and from people's homes. This can mean that tasks requiring frequent access to large files can now be done from home."
But data isn't the only story. Recent advances in Internet Telephony mean that the same connection that can carry large volumes of data can also be used to carry voice traffic with the same quality as normal analogue lines. For home and mobile teleworkers this can mean that all calls back to the central office can be made at no charge as the calls can be routed over the Internet. Savings on national and international calls can also be significant. By routing the call over the Internet and switching the call through an exchange nearest to the person being called, such calls can be made for the price of a local call at the destination.