For most people undertaking office work away from their main
office, either full-time or part-time, the ideal solution is to
"stretch" the corporate desktop in its entirety to the
remote location. In theory this means:
The telephone operates without compromise as
a fully-functioning extension on the corporate telephone
The computer operates without compromise as
if it were connected directly to the corporate wide area
In current practice compromise is almost always necessary, as
the costs of providing fully functional, high bandwidth voice
and data connectivity are still prohibitive.
Here we examine the strengths and weaknesses of four
solutions for remote access:
Solution 1: Full voice and data routing:
This solution currently comes closest to
the conceptual ideal, though with data bandwidth restrictions and cost
is installed at the remote location, together with special
corporate telephone network services and features are
extended to the remote location over one ISDN channel
corporate local area network is fully routed to the remote
location, using data compression to increase the effective
The strengths of this solution are seamless
operation - the phone and PC at the remote location (e.g. home)
operate identically to the office.
Also online user and technology support services can
The weaknesses are modest data speed (even
with compression), long-distance phone calls and relatively high
Solution 2: Voice divert, data dial-up:
This is probably the most popular solution
currently, largely because it is cheap to implement:
voice calls are diverted to the remote location by the
corporate PBX or public network; outbound calls are dialled
directly or via the PBX
or ISDN dial-up (with or without compression) provides data
access to a remote access server or, for web browsing, to an
internet service provider.
The strengths of this approach are that its
costs are low and that it is easy to configure.
The weaknesses are low data speed, non-seamless
operation, long distance phone calls and the need for special
Solution 3: Voice divert, data via ISP:
In this option, an Internet Service
Provider (ISP) is used to provide data acc
Voice is handled as in the previous section.
connection is achieved using internet
"tunnelling": this effectively allows the
internet, rather than the telephone network, to provide the
secure link into the corporate systems.
The new high bandwidth internet access services such
as ADSL, cable modems and fixed radio can be exploited to
Strengths are low equipment and usage costs
(unmetered internet access services can be used) and relatively
easy configuration. Weaknesses
are possible security concerns, internet bottlenecks, low data
speed using modem or ISDN internet access and difficulties in
Solution 4: IP only:
Making greater use of the Internet will
probably be the preferred solution of the future:
The strengths are full
location-independence, no long distance calls and low equipment
costs. As the
internet improves, high speed unmetered access becomes available
and wireless services are launched this approach can only get
are that it is still relatively unproven, voice quality and
grade of telephony service may be variable and Internet
bottlenecks may further degrade service.
Nevertheless this is a "fully
converged" solution and will also support the widespread
use of online meeting and collaboration tools.
The inventor of the Internet, Vinton Cerf,
proudly wears a T-shirt proclaiming "IP under
everything"! In due course all corporate communications will probably be
built on the Internet Protocol.