1. At our organization, remote access to our intranet has been essential to getting the intranet adoption rate near 100%.

    Most of our people are consultants often working at client sites, on the road, from hotels, and so on. Although they could always use VPN to get to our intranet, that extra step is usually not convenient for quick tasks — and sometimes not even possible (incompatible networks at some hotels, for example).

    A few years ago we set up access to our intranet from the Internet. We use special client SSL certificates to secure the connection, in addition to the standard user authentication. Since then, we’ve been able to set everyone’s home page to our intranet: when you’re in the office you get a normal http connection, and when you’re outside the office you automatically get a secure https connection.

    Bonus: when we acquired another firm last year, before their office could be integrated into our WAN, they could still access our intranet as remote users — so they were connected to our tools, knowledge, and community right away.

    • James Robertson

      It’s great to see SSL provided as a way of accessing the intranet remotely. In the past, IT security often meant physical tokens or complex access prototols, which were expensive to implement and difficult to use. For most intranets, there’s nothing so secure it can’t be covered by the same SSL encryption used in the finance industry for online banking :-)

  2. Jonathan

    At my company, we have also enabled intranet access via the internet and it’s proved a successful method of widening consumption of content. We have 72000 employees, but only 30k have PCs and so it’s critical that we provide alternatives. Our route:

    Public Kiosk access in all 550 facilities
    SSL access via the internet.

    As our intranet is also the primary HR self-service tool, external access was vital.

    Key Issues
    Unlike company-owned computers, there are thousands of likely configurations of hardware and software. To simply, we did optimise access to IE and Firefox (and low versions of both). This can frustrate more technically minded employees — and Apple fans in particular.

    Consider the cultural change. Considerable work was done with Works Councils and Unions to ensure that they were happy with the approach and that it did not constitute ‘work creep’ back home. Presenting the flexibility of the approach, providing kiosks for work time access helped smooth this potentially difficult problem.

  3. I recently worked with a company where physical tokens were still in use. Using it, and getting the thin client to work on a Mac, was a pretty awful user experience.

    I got there in the end and one of the most inresting aspects was that a Mac-owning employee at the client’s office asked me how on earth I had got it all working. It required some light modification which I had to Google for, but the IT HelpDesk had been typically unhelpful!

    To the point of the article, with such adversity to accsssing the systems, few people will actually bother. Remote access has to be super-easy to use, it surprises me that simple sign-on systems are not more common.

  4. James,

    Hope you are well. How’s your book coming along?

    It is a relief to see that BT has followed the approach you are advocating in your post. This is very useful for any organisation thinking of going down this route or have problems with what they have tried.

    In BT many thousands of people work some time from home and, as in my case, are officially homeworkers with phone, broadband and PC provision.

    For me it has been one of the best decisions I have made when I decided to be a homeworker over 12 years ago and save myself 4 hours (yes 4!) each day commuting.

    BT’s intranet is open, security is keep to what is essential, network speed is quick with broadband.

    All of these have encouraged homeworking and saved BT millions of pounds in increased productivity and office accommodation not needed.

    My own experience when moving home is given here


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Published June 30, 2010

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter or find him on Google+)

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