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  • Writer's pictureDave Kennedy

Smart Phone as a general Remote Work Device

In the last few months I have been asked to look at various options to help customers who would normally be office bound work remotely.

Many ideas have been proposed and some are good ideas, some not so much. With some of this information in mind I thought I would produce a few brief posts about some of the suggestions.

Can a modern smartphone be used as a remote access business client and communication device?

The short answer is "yes", the longer answer is, yes but its probably not a good long term solution, its not for the average user, and difficult to manage and support.

Its certainly possible to create a setup using a smart phone to access many business systems and services.

  • Secure connectivity is possible with VPN services and Apps from Barracuda, Sonicwall, Cisco and others.

  • Apps exist to connect directly to files held on premises or cloud storage.

  • Microsoft Office Applications and Productivity services almost all have Android and iOS clients.

  • Remote Desktop and Remote control mobile equivalent apps both native and 3rd party are reliable and well established.

While all of these things are possible from the device itself, the ergonomics of using a smartphone sized device for hours at a time must be considered. Trying to word process, type long emails or even spreadsheet on the phone screen are entirely possible but are neither comfortable or practical for long term use.

  • Using a Larger Screen: Most modern smartphones can cast / share their screen, "Mirroring" output to an external display or TV, using Chromecast or Airplay. This allows almost anything that can be displayed on your phone to be projected on a connected external display. Many modern TVs have this as a built in feature or a Chromecast or AppleTV Device can be used to allow this type of connection.

  • User Input Devices: Both Android and iOS devices support Bluetooth connection for external keyboard and the selection is very broad and setup is generally very easy. Mouse support is less broad but a Bluetooth mouse can be connected to many Android devices as easily as a keyboard. From iOS 13, iPhone also supports mouse use but the setup does require some very specific settings changes on the phone.

I'm confident on an individual case by case bases it would be possible to set some degree of workable solution up for staff members to connect to their workplace from a smart phone. Unfortunately I don't feel its a very productive solution, multitasking or even switching between tasks would be challenging and accepting a telephone call while working on something critical could have some very undesired effects.

From a management and support point of view things are tricky. Very few mobile devices allow remote control should you need assistance, although many offer remote viewing with the addition of 3rd party apps. If customers and users are using their personal phones there are security aspects to be considered as well as the inconsistency of the user experience and the level of support required.

I'd consider such a setup as something only to be used as a last resort and not something to target as a main or long term solution.

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