Paying too much for WiFi, 3G? You have options

Aggregators, bundles, new offers can bring out-of-office Internet access under control

Wired or wireless broadband-speed Internet access is the norm in most offices these days. But increasingly, that's not where people are when they read and send email, use web sites or access the company network. Some are using notebooks or netbooks; others, Apple iPhones and iPod Touches, BlackBerries, and other smartphones and PDAs that pack much of the power -- and network demands -- of a notebook into a pocket-sized device.

"40% of knowledge workers work in non-traditional environments several days a week," states Jonathan Spira, Chief Analyst, Basex Inc. "And that means that in many cases they are looking for Internet access outside of the corporate network."

"Over 60% of our user base is mobile," says Daniel Little, Director, Customer Support at the Hay Group. "We have over 2,600 employees working in 85 offices in 47 countries. It's not uncommon for our consultants to be out of the office for weeks at a time, at client sites. Meanwhile they have to be connected to their other clients, so we needed a cost-effective way to maintain connectivity."

And travellers aren't the only ones seeking and using Internet access outside the office or home.

A survey by JiWire, Inc., which maintains an interactive online directory of publicly-available (for free or fee) WiFi hotspots, found that "80% people using public cafe WiFI aren't college students or travelling business users but the opposite: people in their local market who also have an office or home Internet access," says David Staas, Senior Vice President of Marketing at JiWire, Inc.

Companies are spending about six billion dollars annually in remote access -- of which about half could be avoided

Eric Paulak, Vice President, Telecommunication Services, Gartner, Inc.

These aren't brief check-email-over-a-quick-cup-of-coffee sessions, either. JiWire's survey found that 85% of people in cafes say they connect once or more per week, 68% for at least one hour, 22% for at least two hours... and 67% are 25 to 49 years old, and split nearly evenly between SMBs and enterprises -- about 44% were from companies with under 100 employees.

"This means that IT professionals have to factor in, and provide, a 'third location' besides office and home," says JiWire's Staas, not only in terms of budget but also authentication and security.

The unnecessarily high costs of remote access

If your company is like most, not only do you need to support this 'third location' access to the Internet (including VPNing back to the company network) -- but you're probably paying way too much for it.

According to Eric Paulak, Vice President, Telecommunication Services, Gartner, Inc., companies are spending about six billion dollars annually in remote access -- of which about half could be avoided.

Not only that, unless your company is relatively small (or even just you), you don't know how much is being spent on out-of-office access.

"About 70% of all remote connectivity expenses are buried in expense reports," says Paulak. For example, employees may itemize fees for use of WiFI hotspots at airports... or lump them in as miscellaneous. Similarly, per-day use of hotel WiFi and Ethernet may be itemized on the hotel bill, but not appear as a discrete a line item in an expense report.

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