Sunday, December 8, 2013

Working from Home (AWL)

This weekend, I have to work supporting testing on a major project. This is my alternate work location (AWL) and works well for most purposes. My company supports an access gateway which allows me either to bring home my work laptop or provides a virtual desktop experience to a system at work. The way I work depends on what I have to do and the access capability of the various set ups. This weekend, I am using the virtual desktop with my laptop in my work location because I have to run jobs on the laptop which would take much more time were I to bring home my laptop. The principle reason is the amount of data which would have to move through my laptop. The extra latency and more limited band width of the AWL is the limiting factor.

Here are some additional considerations I have found when working at the AWL:


Make sure that you have access to all the resources/systems that you require. I don't have that sort of access to some systems and need to provide workarounds for this security  TEST BEFORE you must use your AWL to make sure that you can reach everything. Be sure to test with all the access ports and tools that you use. You may be able to telnet somewhere, but not reach it with you database client, for example. Work with your security and network groups to make sure that you have the appropriate access or have determined that this access cannot be provided. If the access cannot be provided, look for an alternative. For example, you may not be able to reach a system, but you can remote desktop (RDT) to another server from which you can reach the system. Again, be sure to TEST all the tools and ports needed to perform your duties.


If you take home your work laptop, consider the amount of data that you must move through the system to perform your duties. There is a good deal of latency introduced by the infrastructure that provides your remote access. Make sure that you can perform those duties in a reasonable time. If it can't be done, look for alternatives. Again, perhaps you can use RDT to reach a system at work from which you can run your jobs. Make sure that all the tools are loaded on this system BEFORE you need them from the AWL.


When you work from an AWL, you are at the mercy of the Internet connection from that location. Make sure it is as fast as possible and reliable. Also make sure that the infrastructure at your company is the same.


If you are working from an AWL make sure that the WIFI at that location is SECURE. At a minimum, it should be password protected and encrypted. Be VERY CAREFUL of  public WIFI. Even if it is secure, remember that you are sharing it with the public, by definition. You may want to take additional precautions with your personal equipment to make sure of additional encryption and, even then, be careful of the types of tasks you do. If you are working at home, secure and encrypt your WIFI.


...and speaking of public locations...take extra precautions. Position your screen to minimize the chances that someone can view it. Never leave your equipment unattended, and if you use the phone, be cognizant of the people around you who can listen in on your conversation. Be aware of your surroundings and the people in it. Minimize the amount of sensitive data that you deal with in a public setting and, if you are using public equipment, make sure that it has settings which do not place any files on the local drives.


It can be pretty neat to work in your footy pajamas or bathrobe, have access to your personal coffee maker and fridge. But, make sure that you have access to all support equipment and supplies at your remote location. Make sure you have (electronic) copies of any required documentation, forms, etc. If you need to print things, make sure that your AWL setup allows you to do that. It's pretty embarrassing to realize that the document you just printed is coming out on a printer at your work location. This can also be a security issue if the document contains sensitive information and you are not there to pick it up. If this does happen, contact someone at your work location to retrieve the document and dispose of it appropriately.


That's it for now. Working at home or other alternate work location can be a major benefit, especially if you have a long commute or must wait for that service worker ("we'll be there sometime between 9AM and midnight" ), or you have a sick family member or other work/life balance situation. But, you must be prepared, have considered all the alternatives and needs and are ready to take on the work from your AWL. Now, where did I leave my fuzzy slippers...

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