The Freedom of Cloud Computing and the Mobile Workforce

As I sit on the back patio of a family house in South Texas, it strikes me how amazingly mobile today’s workforce is when compared to just 5 or 10 years ago.

While relaxing on the back porch, sipping a mug of coffee and listening to the waves wash over the pier, I have access to all the same applications, tools and data that I would sitting at command central in the office surrounded by a bank of monitors.

Instead, I get to enjoy some different scenery while spending time with family — all without losing productivity or making my team pick up the slack.

So how do we accomplish all of this today? 

My trip starts out by packing up my Cradlepoint backup 4G/LTE router, which also has a built-in WIFI router with firewall. This is because you should never trust just your ISP if you have to get online, especially for work.

Surprisingly, the most difficult part of going from traveling to working is convincing one of my passengers to take over driving so that I can move to the backseat and use a power-jack in my car to power my router and laptop.

By plugging in 2 devices to power and turning on the WiFi on my router, I instantly turn my car into a mobile office rocketing towards relaxation at 75 mph.

Now I’m not pretending that being in the backseat of a moving vehicle with your knees up around your ears, lacking a few additional monitors and working on a 4G connection is an ideal working environment, but considering recent studies show that the average office employee only gets around 2 hours and 53 minutes of work done each day, the bar is set relatively low for productivity. But I am available and getting some work done.

The reality of working on the move is that the Cloud has made it possible to be as productive remotely as we are in the office.

On our drive to the bay, we finally come to a stop and I step out of the car and onto that peaceful porch I mentioned earlier.  I’m off of the metered network connection and back onto broadband that averages 100/10Mb.

If I want, I can easily travel with a backup monitor so that I still have multiple screens. And since all my applications and data are in the Cloud, I have everything I need to do my job at my fingertips.

Taking it a step farther, my desk-phone rings simultaneously to my cell phone and I can travel with a headset if needed to eliminate any potential background noise when working from anywhere other than my office.

At our bay house, we have the internet, a forwarded phone, applications and data available on the move. But let’s look at the final potential complication for the mobile employee: the laptop/tablet.

Modern computers are smaller and more powerful than they’ve ever been, but nothing is perfect and everybody has experienced a hardware failure or decline in performance to the point of being non-productive.

The truth is, as long as computing is being done at the device level, there is a potential for mobile employees to get cut off due to a device being less reliable than the Cloud technology powering the rest of this mobile office.

The thing is:

We can fix this problem by putting the computer in the Cloud, too!

Many providers are putting their own VDI (virtual desktop instance) solutions onto the market that allow you to spin-up a virtual instance of a computer with as much computing power as you need, that is available across almost any device. No need to shove a $600 or $1,000 laptop into your backpack. Now you can keep an entry level laptop or tablet, or even a thin client handy at all times and be able to perform all of your daily tasks via a Cloud-based VDI.

Have a device failure? 

Not a problem, buy a cheap laptop on the move, borrow one from a friend or use your cell phone in some cases to access your desktop instance and continue to be productive.

This also creates a secure environment where you don’t have to worry about storing sensitive data on a company laptop that is on the move with you since all of the data and applications reside in the Cloud.

Windows is even dipping their toe into the water by providing an Azure-hosted solution named “Windows Virtual Desktop.” (Look for a review from our team soon as we take it for a test drive.)

What we are now discussing is literally an office in a backpack. The right backpack can easily hold a laptop, backup monitor, a 4G router with WiFi capability, my deskphone (should I think I need it) and all power chords that I need.

With a single backpack, only half-full of gear, I have extended the traditional office to anywhere your imagination can take you without limiting your capabilities to do your job.

Now that you aren’t chained to your desk, where will you work from?

As John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

After my trip to the bay house has wrapped up, of course…

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