Is remote access part of your toolkit?

Sep 15 2011 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

If you've ever had the nice human from IT take over your computer from another location to solve a problem, you've seen "remote access" in action. It's kind of cool - and just a little unsettling. After all, do you really want someone to be able to take control of your computer any time they want? A surprising survey says yes, you probably do.

Why do people want this feature? Why should it be available to your team? According to a survey carried out for Teamviewer, one of the world's most popular providers of remote control and online presentation software, there are many reasons people want the ability to have access to other computers.

Some of those reasons range from the altruistic (helping someone solve a problem faster) to the purely selfish (saving your bacon when you forget to bring an important file with you).

The way we work has changed. Many of us are now using more than one computer. It might be a laptop, a tablet like the iPad, a smartphone or something else that will be invented and thrust upon us shortly. Additionally, as the line between what we use for our personal lives and work becomes blurrier, the need for cross-platform accessibility becomes more crucial.

Why carry that clunky four-year-old company laptop when our iPad or Android Tablet does pretty much the same thing? (And just because it's company policy doesn't mean people will always behave. You knew that, right?)

What if some of your team is behind the firewall while others are trying to get things done in a Caribou Coffee shop or an airport departure lounge? We can't store every file we need on every device, which makes remote access not just a "nice to have" feature, it's becoming critical to our team productivity and mental health.

Here are some of the surprising numbers in the study:

  • 63% of Americans use more than one computing device. This means you need to do more than access the information—it needs to be in a form that's usable across multiple formats.
  • 79% of Americans would like the ability to control someone else's computer. Of course, my personal guess is that the number of people who would like to just have control over that other person is actually much higher.
  • 49% of those surveyed would feel "extremely nervous and stressed" if they didn't have access to a critical document and 31% worry they'd be fired.

This isn't as simple as just allowing people to people to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Do you really want to make it easy to get access to every computer or corner of your company's network? Do you really trust your IT department to look into your phone any time at all?

If you don't feel guilty about the amount of time you spend playing Angry Birds when you should be working the Johnson account you might not think this is a big deal, but most of us would be less than comfortable with the notion of always-on monitoring.

As a team leader, it's important that you think long and hard about the tools you use at work. For every problem something like Teamviewer, GoToMyPC, or something similar solves there are additional questions and challenges. You and your IT folk need to put your heads together.

Who gets control? When do you get bogged down solving a problem for someone over and over when people should learn to solve it themselves? What are the legitimate security issues to be addressed? What's the line between vigilance and paranoia?

We've already discussed the notion that once a technology becomes simple and available, people are going to want it to make their jobs easier and their lives less stressful. How prepared is your company to oblige them?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.