6 Top Technologies For Remote Office Support ... And 2 To Avoid

Can today's hot technologies revitalize the satellite office and boost productivity and morale?
As always, there are technologies to avoid, and we'll address two specifically: Apple Macs and Microsoft Windows Vista. Let's face it: Many IT staffers and C-level folks now have Macs at home. Engineers love 'em. They can run Mac OS, Windows, and even VMware all on the coolest-looking laptop since the Epson HX-20 (Google that). Apple's market share, while still relatively miniscule, is growing, according to most analysts. At first glance, Macs seem to make sense in the remote office because the promise (at least in the commercial) is that Macs are easier to use.

That's what can bite you. Now, before you flame us, we like Macs. That said, they have major problems in a corporate environment, especially in an office that may not have sophisticated users. The issues:

Limited support for Microsoft applications. Yes, it matters. Office for the Mac is good, but it's not the same client as Exchange. The connections and layout are different and don't offer the same functionality.

No Internet Explorer. This matters less than in the past in terms of Internet delivery of many applications, but for using Microsoft-centric apps such as SharePoint or Outlook Web access, Safari or Firefox users won't get the full functionality.

Unix chops. Just because engineers like Macs, that doesn't mean they know how to fix them. Don't forget, at the core of this nice-looking laptop is a BSD Unix kernel that takes some real skills to troubleshoot.

Desktop management tools. Every network needs to have some level of desktop management, from asset tracking to desktop policies to patching and control. If you're Windows-centric, throw out most of your desktop management tools and strategies once you support Macs. You can integrate them into Active Directory, but your Group Policies won't run. The closest you'll get to a mixed-platform system is Altiris, and that's limited to inventory and software delivery.

As for Vista, this is one area where both headquarters and remote offices agree: Most will stick with XP for now, thanks. We recently reviewed the plans and licensing for our larger clients with enterprise agreements with Microsoft. Less than 3% run Vista in any significant capacity, and very few have begun developing formal rollout plans. The reasons include hefty hardware requirements and existing investments in XP equipment and skill sets; the difficulty of making custom applications work on Vista; and the extensive user retraining required, a problem exacerbated with multiple remote office sites.

Michael Healey is the CTO at GreenPages Technology Solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience in technology and software integration. Reach him at [email protected].

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