Keeping mobile workers connected overseas

By Mary K. Pratt, Computerworld |  Networking

With all of those options, says Groustra, now assistant director of Boston University's Information Services and Technology Project Management Office, he felt confident that Vantage's workers the connectivity they needed.

That was until the uprising in Egypt this past spring, when the government shutdown of Internet connections left Vantage's tour guides unable to use their regular methods of communication.

The tour guides managed to make it to Vantage's offices in Cairo, where they used old-school landlines to call the home office, which then arranged for a chartered plane out of the country. Groustra says the experience made the company rethink a proposal to cancel landlines in its Cairo office and go all-cellular.

Smooth travel starts at home

While the IT department should be at the forefront of deciding what gear and software is best for which employees, protecting mobile workers is not a job for IT alone. HR executives, legal experts and physical security specialists should all be part of the discussion with IT leaders, says Luftman.

"Much of this goes beyond IT, though much of it can be enabled with IT," Luftman says.

He says IT's role starts at home, with the establishment of a portal, such as an Intranet or wiki, where employees can find travel updates, including safety tips, State Department warnings and other key pieces of information.

IT could create a hotline for travelers to call -- via landline, Internet or satellite phone -- if they run into trouble. And it could set up a means of pushing out information -- via pager or cellphone alerts, for example -- to ensure traveling workers get critical information right away.

(Managers may also want to keep tabs on the burgeoning array of disaster-preparedness smartphone apps to determine which, if any, are right for their employees.)

On the hardware side, IT should ensure that workers are equipped with the basics, such as Skype on their laptops and a cellphone that will actually work overseas. "You have to have these in place and communicate that these are in place," he says.

From there, Luftman says, IT can look at the places where workers will be traveling to determine what additional needs they might have.

At Edgewater, Clancey has the process down. He says he looks at where his workers are going and how long they'll be there. Then he starts to pack up their traveling kits, pulling most of the needed items from the stock he keeps at company headquarters.

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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