This year’s record snow fall has tested more than just my patience and pothole avoidance skills. The heavy snow fall and subsequent office closure allowed for real world testing of the remote-worker friendly solutions Airfoil implemented within the past year. Microsoft Exchange 2010 and Lync, along with company-issued laptops allowed our staff of 50-plus to access what they needed, when they needed it and kept them collaborating to meet client demands.

Exchange 2010, Microsoft’s newest version of the popular mail server, now allows users to connect without the need for a supplemental VPN through a feature called Outlook Anywhere. Because Outlook connects after any Internet connection, many users aren’t even aware of the feature, only that it’s now easier to read and send email remotely.

Microsoft Lync allowed them to stay connected through color-coded presence indicators, voice and video conferencing, instant messaging, desktop and document sharing, all without the need for VPN. Later this year, we plan to move to SharePoint 2010 in the cloud with Microsoft’s new offering, Office 365. Currently, we have remote access to SharePoint 2007 through Citrix. Once this final piece is in place, we will be able to access critical communication tools independent of the office domain or cumbersome VPN solutions. 

As I worked from home that snowy day, I was surprised to only receive a few calls from new users for whom this was their first remote-working experience.  We continuously have a few users working remotely, but it was satisfying to know these systems can support our entire staff simultaneously. From this experience, I can see that like winter, the days of dealing with complicated connection solutions and limited functionality are finally coming to a close.

Tony Onofrio is an IT Specialist at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.