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Teleworking Best Practices

Pandemic Preparedness: Teleworking Best Practices | Wi-Fi Planet

My comments on this topic

In the article referenced from this post, the last few paragraphs talked about being prepared for teleworking whatever the “raison du jour” was. This was because whenever there was a national security incident, a natural disaster or a plague, the concept of telecommuting would be raised through business discussions. But whenever these risks subside, telecommuting falls off the agenda.

I personally consider the concept of teleworking as something to be factored in to everyday office life no matter the national or global situation. One application I think of very heavily would be for workers who end up doing double-duty as family carers, such as for ill or convalescing children; or elderly parents.

As well, it may appeal to people who are approaching the end of their tenure at the business to be able to increase being used to staying home rather than at the office. This is more so with family-run businesses where there is an increased risk of “living in the office” even as their active tenure comes to a close.

Similarly, it could also allow larger office-based employers to reach talent pools that exist in rural communities for some of their office jobs. The employers can be able to then work from home for most of their working month, but come in to the office for meetings and similar activities.

The way to technically prepare for teleworking would be to ensure that there is a good-quality secure Internet link to the office, such as a VPN, and consider the use of a VoIP or other “virtual extension” setup for the telephone. A webcam can be handy if you intend to do some video-conferencing with the office.

As far as the printer is concerned, make sure that you can print out any workplace documents with it. This may involve making sure that any “remote-desktop” programs can work with your local printer.

Small businesses can look towards using LogMeIn or GoToMyPC as a quick-setup remote-desktop tool, especially if you use “home” versions of Windows operating systems in the office or you don’t have much computing knowledge. If you use a “pro” or “business” version of Windows and have a fair bit of computing knowledge, it may be worth knowing how to user the Remote Desktop functionality.

As far as your VoIP or “virtual extension” setup is concerned, it may be worth making sure that your system can be capable of allowing the same extension number to be easily switched between two or more physical terminals, like a softphone program, VoIP handset or classic fixed or mobile telephone. This can permit the phone system to work with your work-home life.

Once you have a setup that allows you to do your work at home, you can be ready to work from home at a moment’s notice.

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25 May 2009 Posted by | Network Activities, SOHO / Small business computer setups | , , | 1 Comment

A step in the right direction towards unified messaging for personal and residential telecommunications

 Neufbox de SFR : la messagerie vocale évolue – DegroupNews.com (Language: French)

I have read this French-language article about improvements to SFR’s voice-mail service for their NeufBox residential triple-play customers and one feature that stood out was interfacing the voice-mail with the customer’s home computer.

Typically the voice mail service that is available with most personal / residential landline and mobile telephone services can only be managed through the user pressing buttons on the phone keypad in response to voice prompts. Business-grade setups typically have a “unified messaging” setup where their voice mail and e-mail messages are managed through the same interface, typically their computer workstation or their smartphone. Some PC-based answering-machine setups could achieve this through a “voice modem”, essentially a data modem with built-in sound-card functionality that can work with the phone line, answering all of the voice calls and communications software that can work with the “voice modem” capturing all of the messages.

This setup allows the user to receive their voice-mail messages as an e-mail message through their regular computer interface and/or an MMS message through their mobile phone. This kind of service will typically pack the message the caller leaves as an e-mail attachment or MMS multimedia attachment, which can be of use for replaying (through other devices) or archiving. SFR are extending the functionality to cover 5 different e-mail or mobile-phone destinations. This would typically allow for reception of the messages at work or for a couple to receive their home landline messages on both their mobile phones.

This kind of “unified messaging” service can be of benefit to telecommunications providers who want to encourage their customers to “have all their eggs in one basket” and subscribe to their personal / residential / SOHO telephone and Internet services through them. It is also future-proof when it comes to handling wideband VoIP telephony or videophone services because messages from these services can be distributed in the same manner as regular e-mails or MMS messages.

28 January 2009 Posted by | IP-based telecommunications, Unified Messaging | , , | Leave a comment

ASUS and Skype launch dedicated AiGuru SV1 videophone – Engadget

 ASUS and Skype launch dedicated AiGuru SV1 videophone – Engadget

My Comments

Previously, I had talked about the concept of Skype / Windows Live Messenger video conferencing as a tool for communicating with distant relatives. I was even citing a television newscast that was broadcast on the night when I published the article where there was an elderly relative in a care home communicating with their family that was a long distance away with this technology. Think of things like presenting the new baby to Grandma who is living a long way away or simply celebrating Christmas with distant relatives.

This device is one step in delivering Skype’s videophone functionality in a reliable, easy-to-use box that can appeal to technology-shy users who may find using a computer a very daunting task.  Similarly, the Skype or Windows Live Messenger video-conferencing functionality could be ported to a set-top box platform so that it can be implemented in to a set-top box or PVR (“personal TV” device) sold or leased out as part of an advanced TV service. The user then connects a good-quality webcam compliant to the USB Video Device Class so they can use the regular TV set for this kind of video-conferencing.

This kind of setup would definitely appeal to families who want to use it along with the large-screen TV set to celebrate the family occasions over longer distances.

Another form factor that would appeal to this device class would include electronic picture frames that are VoIP-based Skype-compatible speakerphones. The device could be able to work alongside an existing VoIP handset such as a WiFi phone; have a DECT cordless-telephony base so it can work with a digital cordless handset or have an RJ-11 FXS phone socket so it can use a regular telephone as part of a VoIP / videoconferencing system. This form factor would come in handy in the kitchen or on the desktop as an alternative to the orthodox videophone form factor which is based on the desktop telephone.

24 December 2008 Posted by | Video-conferencing | , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas from Simon Mackay

I am wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

There are some important issues to think of during this gift-giving season, especially when you open those computer-related gifts on Christmas Day.

1: When you set up that new router, make sure that you set it up in a secure manner. The wireless network segment must be secured to WPA-PSK standards and using an SSID unique to the premises as described in the “Making Sure Your Home Wireless Network Is Secure” article.

2. Make sure that the administration front-end for the router is secured with a good password rather than the default “admin” password that the manufacturer sets it to. This should also be set up for any other network devices like network-attached storage boxes that are able to be managed from the Web browser.

3. When you set up a new computer, make sure it is running the latest version of an anti-malware program and that there is a desktop firewall in place. A good anti-malware program that I would recommend for home use would be the free AVG program (http://free.avg.com) or the Avast Home Edition (http://www.avast.com/). Also make sure that Apple Macintosh computers are running anti-malware programs because of the latest crop of malware that is now targeting this platform.

It is worth knowing that the recent crop of anti-malware programs integrate “sure-surf” functionality that warns you if you are heading to dangerous websites or if an item in a Google search list is a trap Website.

4. Make sure that operating systems are set to obtain update files automatically. This can be achieved by going to the “Live Update” menu in Windows or going to the “Software Update” under the Apple menu in MacOS X.

5. Don’t think that the Webcam is just for weirdos. Think of it now as a tool for communicating with distant relatives and allowing them to be part of your life. Consider them being on Skype or Windows Live Messenger and you could easily save heaps on the phone bills.

6. Enjoy a safe and happy New Year

With regards,

Simon Mackay

16 December 2008 Posted by | Network Management, Network Security, Uncategorized, Video-conferencing | , | Leave a comment

Making VoIP easier for the home, SOHO and small-business user

A new networking trend that is approaching the small network user is VoIP (Voice Ovr IP). It will typically include IP-based videoconferencing and offer such benefits as free or very low-cost calls, “local number anywhere” and wideband (FM-grade) telephony. Businesses of all scales are moving away from the classic PABX or key system which has its own wiring infrastructure and moving towards an IP-based business telephony system which uses existing local-area-network infrastructure. For them it also reduces the need to rent extra telephone lines for such requirements as inter-location “tie lines”.

The main problem with current VoIP setups is that they are hard to configure. Typically, you have to determine the network configuration for your VoIP service provider and work out particular “dialling plans” such as whether to use VoIP or standard telephone to make a particular call. The other factor you have to work out is which number your VoIP handset rings to. Most of these setups involve awkward interfaces and terms, including remembering certain parameters to be set across multiple devices. In some situations, this kind of work still needs one who has technical knowledge of all things to do with business telephony.

A lot of VoIP service providers have responded to this issue by selling pre-configured VoIP hardware that is locked down to their services. This situation ends up with the hardware being useless if you decide to move to a better deal offered by a competing service provider or decide to expand and evolve the system.

One way of improving the setup is to provide service-plan data packages that can be uploaded to VoIP hardware. This can be useful when it comes to signing up to a new service provider or upscaling the existing VoIP service. Another improvement that can exist could be preset outbound dial plans such as “VoIP for calls other than local & emergency / service”, “VoIP for calls other than emergency / service” or pre-defined “VoIP tie-lines”. These can be selected through a wizard-style interface.

The inbound call plan would be set up through a service-extension map for “direct inward dial” or simple “one-click” options for basic “all-call” setups.

As far as the provisioning of new VoIP telephone extensions goes, VoIP systems should consider use of UPnP and similar IP-based technologies for this purpose. The other issue that also needs to be considered is a standard data package for supplying the extensions (VoIP handsets or analogue telephone adaptors) with the necessary data. This avoids the requiement to have a system that can only work with telephones from a few vendors and can allow innovation in this field. It is more of concern as far as WiFi-based VoIP handsets, including “fixed-mobile convergent” mobile phones, are concerned.

The data packages would be an XML-based configuration file that contains information about SIP / STUN provider details, handset identity details and outbound / inbound dial plans.

Once measures are taken to make VoIP telephony easier to deploy, this can lead to system owners being able to have home and business telephony their way.

15 December 2008 Posted by | Voice Over IP | , , | 3 Comments

“Triple Play Social” now in full deployment in Paris

News Links (French-language sites)

http://www.degroupnews.com/actualite/n3071-hlm-paris-sfr-fibre_optique-haut_debit.html DegroupNews (France)

My commets

Since my earlier article wbich I had moved from my older blog, SFR had taken over Neuf Cegetel. But this universal-acces “single-pipe triple-play” service has continued on and the trucks are now rolling a the HLM estates as this is being written.

Because of the high-throughput technology, companies like SFR are able to provide this kind of acess to the people.  As I mentioned earlier, it is underpinned by the European business culture which is primarily “for the people” rather than for the executives of the big companes which is the primary business culture in the USA.

11 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Triple Play Social” in Paris – an example for providing a universal bare-bones “triple-play” service

News Links (French-language news sites)

http://www.pcinpact.com/actu/news/41764-neuf-cegetel-opac-triple-play-social.htm PC Impact

http://www.vnunet.fr/news/neuf_cegetel_introduit_sa_fibre_optique_dans_les_hlm_de_paris-2026564 VNUNet 

My comments

)In February 2008, Neuf Cegetel (a French telecommunications provider) along with Office HLM de Paris (the public housing authority in Paris, similar to the Ministry of Housing in Victoria, Australia) have established a universal-access “single-pipe triple-play” service for deployment in areas of Paris that have fibre-optic telecommunications.

This service, which is offered for EUR1 / month tax-exclusive has the provision of:

  • 18 channels of regular “free-to-air” digital television programming including high-definition broadcasts provided by the “free-to-air” broadcasters
  • 512kbps broadband which is effectively the same standard as most mid-tier ADSL plans currently available in Australia and;
  •  a landline telephony service of similar standard to Telstra’s InContact service — can receive incoming calls but cannot make outgoing calls except to emergency and special numbers

delivered over the fibre-optic pipe.

Comments on this service in relevance to the Australian market

From what I see, the 512kbps ADSL service is being considered the bare minimum standard of Internet access in Europe where people in Australia have to call this standard of service a luxury and have to consider 256kbps “fraud-band” Internet service as the “way in” when thinking of broadband. Often this has meant that sole parents and others on very limited income are having to stick to this speed if they want to think of broadband at all; or just simply work with a dial-up Internet connection.

As well, Australian pay-TV providers don’t offer a “FTA-only” deal where you only receive the free-to-air digital TV channels. This may be because of the prevalence of cheap standard-definition DVB-T boxes flooding the market and the DTV service comprising primarily of the FTA channels receivable on regular TV and a handful of supplementary channels that are “spin-offs” of the regular broadcast output. The only areas where such a service may take hold would be customers who live in areas with marginal TV reception and / or customers who rent premises where there is an underperforming TV aerial or simply no TV aerial and may find it hard to get proper digital TV reception.

The kind of landline telephony service that is offered may appeal not just to people on a low income but to share houses where a common telephone may be required just for receiving calls and “emergency fallback”. Typically, the tenants would then maintain prepaid mobile phones for their outgoing calls and for receiving personal calls.

This kind of service provisioning may catch on in Continental Europe where most of the culture is centred around being “for the people” but won’t easily be accepted in cultures like the USA where corporate profits are more important than the needs of the people.

11 December 2008 Posted by | Internet Access And Service | , , , , | Leave a comment