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Working (away) from home

By Nick Ellis, Digital Transformation Consultant | Published 13 Sep 2021

A few weeks ago I had to work from my Brother-in-Law’s house in Southport, Merseyside. It was a real test of the ‘work from anywhere’ ideal that we hear about these days.

Firstly, a quick snapshot of my usual setup: a Surface Pro with a docking station, two external monitors on a rack on my desk, an external keyboard and mouse. Pretty standard fare. The slightly unusual elements are that I have an external webcam for meetings, and an external microphone to sharpen the sound quality. I also have a sit/stand desk and I missed that!

My set-up

To get set up away from, home, I took the Surface, the keyboard and mouse, a USB headset and a Surface charger, all of which fit perfectly into my usual work bag. The dock, monitors, webcam and microphone stayed behind.

My Brother-in-Law was kind enough to let me use his monitor, and of course his Wi-Fi. I also invested in a Surface adapter, a kind of mini-dock that converts the Mini DisplayPort to HDMI for the monitor, and converts the one USB port into two. There are lots of these, and I don’t warrant that this one is any good, but it seems to work for me.

It’s easy and I’m just as productive and secure

Plug everything together and away we go. I attended meetings, ran a recruitment interview, met with customers, developed some software…and that was just in the first couple of days!

Nothing quite beats the comfort of home (I was horrified to discover that my relatives don’t keep biscuits in the house!) but for short-term needs we live in a time of incredible flexibility. Honestly, I could be working from home, from someone else’s house, a hotel or a beach, and as long as I can maintain connectivity it all works pretty seamlessly. And because we’re a ‘cloud first’ company I have not had to use VPNs or a Remote Desktop to achieve any of this.

On the security front, since the data is all managed within our secure applications and on Microsoft 365 there is no change to the risk of data loss. In fact, I have had to reauthenticate on some of the apps because the systems detected a change of IP address and challenged it – very good security practice which, as a consultant who is regularly in customer offices, I am very used to.

We’ve come a long, long way

Compare this with 10 years ago: I did have a laptop then, and I did occasionally work from home – although only one day at a time. Extended periods were not an option as I needed access to company systems. Working from anywhere other than home would have been unacceptable because of the risk of losing hardware, and the fact that much of the data was on that device, unencrypted. Also, 1-2Mbps connectivity was considered impressive 10 years ago.

Now, think 20 years. 56kbps dial-up payable at a penny a minute; no Wi-Fi; no cloud applications; most people working on desktops; home PCs still very much a luxury item.

To borrow from Fat Boy Slim 23 years ago, “We’ve come a long, long way together”.

If you want to get advice on the best home (or away from home) setup, get in touch

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