Once upon a time, businesses only had PCs to contend with. Bandwidth was limited, making it almost impossible for staff to work from home, let alone out on the field. But then came laptops, which made it easier to work away from the office.
More recently, smartphones and tablets, alongside software, the cloud, and advanced mobile applications, are seeing the entire business world embrace a mobile workforce.
The kit you need to succeed should comprise:
1. Tablets, smartphones and laptops
Firms will need to make a decision on the types of devices they wish to use, based on the functions they are expected to perform. A laptop is capable of carrying out the tasks you would complete on a desktop computer, but many firms are using notebooks, tablets and even smartphones instead: their smaller size makes them convenient and flexible.
If using tablets or smartphones, you will need to consider whether staff need an additional keyboard. Firms should also consider screen size; and how long you will need the battery to last.
Additionally, you should decide whether to deploy a 'Bring Your Own Device' policy, or provide staff with devices yourself. Both have their advantages, but the former will ultimately be cheaper.
Firms must consider if they wish to use a uniform operating system such as Windows on devices. It is also important to think about security software, including anti-virus, in order to keep business data safe.
Some small firms will find monitoring and reporting software a useful way of keeping track of employees. Meanwhile, remote desktop connection software allows you and your staff to access files and documents on an office computer using your smartphone or tablet.
3. Enterprise applications
Enterprise applications are a way of taking advantage of the software that is not already on a tablet; and using apps can make your business more efficient. For example, staff can access SkyDrive files while on the move, or can call overseas using Skype and Wi-Fi, rather than running up a hefty phone bill. You can also make your own productivity apps internally.
4. Cloud or server
For some small firms, it will be beneficial to set up a remote access server for employees to download project files. Alternatively, or if you don't have a server, cloud is one of the core pieces of kit that will keep your business working remotely. For example, an online collaboration system allows users to access files using mobiles and tablets.
Cloud also adds an extra layer of security to your business data, as staff won't have to carry the information around on their mobile devices.
As the industry moves towards cloud and mobile devices, your employees will need to be connected. If they are using high bandwidth applications such as video, or if you are expecting staff to upload and download large files, you'll need to consider 4G services offered by the UK mobile operators.
On top of this, you will also need to make sure employees have adequate Wi-Fi bandwidth to effectively carry out their jobs if they are working from home.