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Survey shows data security remains a concern for remote working.

Sonicwall : 13 September, 2007  (Technical Article)
Data security, disaster recovery and team-building remain as the only detractors to remote working according to SonicWALL survey
According to a survey of more than 1,100 managers by secure infrastructure firm SonicWALL, business leaders and managers are becoming more comfortable with their staff working remotely, although concerns remain about the impact of the remote work force on employee productivity, effective teambuilding and computer security.

The survey of management views on remote working, sponsored by SonicWALL and conducted in the US and Australia by online marketing research firm InsightExpress, indicates more than half of the respondents believe that offering their employees the ability to work remotely is a competitive necessity or at minimum a motivating perk for employees. More than a third of the 1,184 managers surveyed have employees that work out of the office more than 20% of the time. The chief reasons to change their minds among managers with no formal remote worker policy in place are: employee motivation (26%); cost of office space (15%); rising gas prices (14%); and traffic or weather conditions (14%).

Half of poll takers also reported that their firms have formal remote worker policies in place. But despite this growing support for offsite working, business leaders identified several concerns unique to managing a remote work force. The top three anxieties - each reported by more than 20% of respondents -- included:.

* Worry over whether their remote workers will remain productive, in spite of the fact that more managers - 34% - believe remote workers are more productive rather than equally or less productive than their in-office peers.

* Challenges to building strong teams, with 15% believing remote workers are missing out on an aspect of the job by not being in the office;

* Concerns about potential security breaches resulting from remote access, especially top-of-mind for almost a quarter of respondents who had no policy in place for securing remote access.

"Our findings confirm that the majority of IT managers need to reassess their plans for safely connecting remote workers to corporate network resources," said Steve Franzese, vice president of marketing at SonicWALL. "In our 2006 survey of remote workers, we found that security rated very low on their priority list. It's therefore incumbent upon IT administrators to deploy flexible and practical secure remote access technology that enforces strict security but is easy to manage and even easier for remote employees to use."

Location of their remote workers matters to managers. Most (22%) prefer to think of their staff working from home, followed by 16% who find working from hotel business centres acceptable. Coffee shops airports, public libraries and wireless hotspots received limited support - between 6% and 9%. Fewer than 2% of managers would look kindly on workers who choose a wired beach, pool or stadium from which to conduct business.

Leaders and remote teams are not aligned on security matters related to remote working. While remote workers (surveyed by SonicWALL in 2006) ranked security low on their list of priorities, network security shared the top spot with productivity as the most pressing concern of their managers. More than 20% of employees felt it was appropriate to use personal mobile phones and PDAs to connect while working from home, while 68% of managers believe that company computers and personal desktops/laptops are most appropriate.

The poll also points out the deficiencies in preparing company networks to support secure remote access. According to the findings, only 23% have anti-virus software on their computers and laptops, just 16% offer an SSL-VPN connection, 14% have an IPSec connection, and 9% don't even know if there's security in place for their remote staffs. Only 34% of managers were confident that their organizations had disaster preparation policies including remote working; 13% of those surveyed did not know, 27% had no disaster preparation plan and 27% had a plan that did not include remote working.

When their remote employees don't immediately answer their home or mobile phones, managers showed some lapse of faith. Nearly a quarter think their employees are running household errands or shuttling the kids around, and 9% believe they are being deliberately ignored.

In a March 2006 SonicWALL-sponsored survey of remote workers themselves, (76% believed that working remotely increased their productivity, and 61% were positive that their managers agreed. The new survey suggests this optimism is not equally shared by their superiors, with 29% believing there was no difference and 21% believing remote staffers were less effective.

In 2005, SonicWALL launched the industry's first range of SSL VPN solutions for remote network access, supporting unlimited numbers of concurrent tunnels at no additional cost. Its powerful family of appliances makes remote clientless access simple and affordable and, within six months of introducing its SSL VPN offering, SonicWALL became worldwide unit market share leader for SSL VPN (IDC Worldwide Tracker Reports 2006 and 2007). In July 2007, SonicWALL acquired secure remote access leader Aventail, whose pioneering SSL VPN solutions cover security, access, end point control, policy and mobility.
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