Infrastructure requirements for a mobile workforce
International hiring, geographical dispersal, digital business communications, flexible hours, remote working, home-based staff and a mobile workforce continue to reshape the commercial landscape. In this developing environment, enterprise policies and working practices must take into account the fact that so many employees now rely exclusively on mobile devices for getting access to enterprise resources, information and business communications systems.
Mobile device technology has been fuelling the adoption of flexible and remote working practices and has reduced the dependence of enterprises on in-house talent and resources. And a growing mobile workforce has come to rely on an ecosystem that combines fast internet and wireless connectivity, mobile apps and a demand for “anytime, anywhere” access.
Beyond the management of the devices and processes now contributing to network architecture, organisations must also consider the underlying infrastructure which binds the various elements together and enables the activities of a mobile workforce to be fully integrated with both the customer / public-facing and back-end operations of the enterprise.
It’s these essential elements of mobile workforce infrastructure that we’ll be discussing in this article,
Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
In defining a mobile workforce infrastructure, it’s helpful to be able to call upon some kind of guideline or policy framework, which is based on proven technologies and best practices. For many organisations, this takes the form of an Enterprise Mobility Management or EMM solution.
Enterprise Mobility Management consists of a set of technologies, services, and mobile management systems designed to protect corporate data housed on employee mobile devices, and to safeguard intellectual property. It’s primarily a security solution that typically empowers administrators to remotely lock or wipe data from workers’ devices and to “whitelist” and secure their mobile apps.
Mobile Workforce Management (MWM)
Software and related services used in managing staff working outside the corporate premises make up the remit of a Mobile Workforce Management or MWM system, a solution often adopted by enterprises that typically use a number of field workers, such as utilities and service industries.
The software component of MWM focuses on the acquisition, deployment, and management of mobile devices, apps and desktop software. Support services might include tracking and monitoring, productivity management, logging, dispatch and related aspects of business communications.
Some service providers specialise in a particular industry, but Mobile Workforce Management companies in general will tend to have experience of working with companies across a range of disciplines.
Managed Mobility Services (MMS)
Managed Mobility Services (MMS) tend to focus on enterprises, rather than field work, and are usually dedicated to connecting a mobile workforce with the file servers, databases, management and other employees that make up their organisation.
With the growth in use of mobile devices, secured wireless networks, apps, and virtual desktops by small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Managed Mobility Services are finding an increased adoption by organisations in all areas.
Regardless of the framework or managed services option that’s adopted, certain core elements of infrastructure are required in supporting the operations of a mobile workforce environment.
Access to Email and Messaging Services
Remote working requires that staff members be able to check in with their colleagues, clients and business contacts using both instantaneous and time-delayed communications channels. The same holds true for a mobile workforce.
Email serves as one of the latter. But even though it’s a time-delayed medium, users require a system that offers them the minimum lapse between messages being received and replies sent. So its infrastructure requirement calls for fast and stable file servers which offer ready access from all locations. In addition, many email clients are linked to enterprise software applications and databases, so security and file integrity are prime concerns.
Business communications systems from trusted providers such as LG Networks are built on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and its related digital technologies. These provide the backbone infrastructure for voice, instant messaging, chat and notification systems that equip the mobile workforce with its real-time avenues of communication.
Content Management Systems
Though document and file creation have traditionally been associated with a desktop computing requirement, an infrastructure for remote working and a mobile workforce must make provision for workers using mobile devices, or in locations where the required hardware may not be available.
On the technological side, back-end software must be selected for its ability to provide access to enterprise content and information via mobile platforms. And mechanisms and policies must be put in place to ensure that an organisation’s documents and business content can be tracked and audited across the network and that information remains secure at all points in transit.
With the physical and geographical dispersal of enterprise resources and personnel, it’s necessary to provide facilities and platforms for collaboration, to enable remote and mobile workers to share ideas, information and documents with their colleagues.
VoIP and Unified Communications (UC) systems combining digital telecommunications with business productivity and data management tools can readily allow for this. LG Networks can provide business users with collaboration and real-time communications tools that are easily accessible from the corporate network via dedicated mobile apps and desktop software.
Enhanced Network Dynamics
A robust business data network capable of providing generous bandwidth and high speed connectivity with minimal latency is required to ensure that a mobile workforce is in turn capable of gaining access to enterprise information and resources from a range of devices.
As data networking specialists, we routinely install and maintain dynamic business networks with a global reach, using the latest technologies such as optical fibre, and on-site installations fully optimised with structured cabling configurations.
Platform and Device Independence
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and even enterprise sanctioned distributions of mobile hardware for home-based staff, remote working and a mobile workforce, result in a diversity of device types and operating systems being deployed throughout the business, at any one time.
This requires that the underlying infrastructure tying everything together, should be platform and device independent, to maintain compatibility with physical equipment and to allow for the seamless integration of applications and processes.
Data Monitoring and Analytics
Business Intelligence (BI), intelligent monitoring and data analysis tools can reap benefits both for the enterprise and its individual workers, when incorporated with the infrastructure that enables remote working.
With access to such tools, members of a remote or mobile workforce can take advantage of market intelligence and analytical insights to inform their customer service, sales, and marketing activities, in addition to gaining the option of on-the-spot analysis and data input from various sources, for performance enhancement and troubleshooting purposes.
For management, data monitoring and analysis capabilities allow for a more detailed view of the various aspects of the enterprise, These capabilities can assist administrators in assessing staff performance and in drawing up guidelines for their business operations.
Security Measures for Remote Working
Given its widespread use of separate and often privately owned devices, the mobile workforce can expand the potential attack surface of an organisation, through a multiplying of network endpoints and individual points of vulnerability. So an infrastructure for remote working must include a serious commitment to preserve enterprise security.
BYOD security policies, Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems and other measures should be called upon to establish rights of access, network privileges and procedures for user authentication and validation. This activity should also be supplemented by measures to ensure that software security patches, application and operating system updates and the latest versions of anti-malware and security software are automatically and frequently deployed.
As business communications and networking providers, we put measures in place to ensure redundancy, fail-over, business continuity and Disaster Recovery (DR) – all of which can supplement an organisation’s own security efforts.
Finally, businesses should consider the financial implications of their commitment to maintaining a mobile workforce and remote working practices. Considerations such as data roaming and out of network charges should be taken into account, as well as the cost implications of Bring Your Own Device, in comparison to the issuance of enterprise-sanctioned hardware.