Working at home and not using cloud applications and tools? That's virtually impossible today, thanks to Internet access to applications and tools hosted in the cloud. This two-part tip explores the changing world of remote workers and developers and the cloud management tools and applications that increase their productivity, as well as the changing business practices that favor telecommuting and put telecommuters on par with their in-house peers. Also, I'll give tips for managing remote workers and office productivity.
Cloud computing has brought talking heads to the home office.
The history of telecommuting
Not long ago, if a developer worked remotely, it meant he had a home office with a virtual private network, or VPN, connection on expensive proprietary systems, and most of his co-workers worked together in one office. Slow connections and even direct-dial numbers provided a connection to the network. Important meetings took place in conference calls that were hard to hear, which meant that many communications weren't passed on to the remote staff. Working remotely usually was less productive than working in the office, and just a way to continue to work when getting into the office wasn't possible.
Let's look at what cloud offers the remote developer, architect and software or IT manager. A top enabler is that remote workers can use the cloud to manage hardware without a physical presence. Also, all the software and hardware being managed is completely virtualized and available anywherea worker can get access to a high-speed Internet connection. Luckily, cloud's timing lined up with the emergence of high-speed Internet virtually everywhere, including on the go with 4G wireless broadband services based on standards like Long Term Evolution (LTE). Speedy Internet is everywhere, so hardware and software are both available anywhere as well.
Cloud begs the question, What's left for the physical office? Indeed, cloud's impact on the productivity of remote workers and developers is so great that many startups today make alltheir workers into telecommuters, with no physical office for any group. This is a revolutionary new idea that could be achieved only because of the push to the cloud.
Cloud-based face-to-face communications
Face-to-face communications are considered the primary benefit of a physical office, but cloud computing has brought talking heads to the home office. An example is Voice over IP (VoIP) cloud services like OnSip, Skype or Twilio.
Communication management and collaboration tools have become ubiquitous in cloud services from such vendors as Nirvana. Then there's Salesforce.com, which has made a huge impact with cloud-based customer relationship management applications that allow remote workers to keep track of who has had which type of contact with which customers. All key players can get instant access to all that important information today, whereas a few years ago, only on-premises managers could do so.
More on cloud management tools for collaboration
Effective remote collaboration tools
Team collaboration tools for project managers
Using cloud services for sharing files and reports has become routine, thanks to services like DropBox. DropBox also has a team application that was specifically designed to share documents within a group of workers. No matter how far away a worker is, transferring files through the cloud is a simple matter of just dragging things to the shared folder -- just like one does with a network workgroup in a physical office.
Amazon, Google and other Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service cloud vendors have rolled out a slew of cloud services for all levels of software developers. In part two of this series, I'll discuss the ways my development colleagues at Newstex are using cloud tools in development projects.
Meanwhile, this concludes my review of how cloud services not only enable remote software and IT managers to work as productively as their office-bound peers, but also could help them work evenmore efficiently because telecommuters don't have the distractions of an office. Work is no longer about location, location, location.
Telecommuters, what are your biggest challenges related to working away from a home office? Tell Assistant Site Editor Stephanie Mann.
Ask SearchCloudComputing.com resident expert Chris Moyer about cloud development tools.
Jan Stafford, executive editor of SearchCloudComputing.com, contributed additional reporting to this tip.