Choosing the right technology is crucial to the success of any telecommuting program. At a minimum, every employee will need a PC, a modem and probably a printer. You may find you'll need to provide equipment and pay for additional phone/data lines as well.
Remote access software that allows off-site workers to access office-based applications and files, transfer files, and keep files synchronized on both host and remote systems is another consideration. There are two kinds of remote access software: Remote control software provides direct dial-in access to a networked workstation through a modem connected to that workstation, while remote node software provides access to the network through a shared modem or communications server.
One remote access program to look at is Symantec's pcANYWHERE32 8.0 for Windows 95/98/NT ($170) ( http://www.symantec.com ). This program supports both remote control and remote node access software.
To transfer files between office and home computers, simply drag and drop them onto your hard drive. The synchronization feature creates identical files on two PCs so there's no duplication. Users can also remotely launch programs on their office PCs simply by clicking on the pcANYWHERE32 connection icon. You don't have to jump through hoops to configure this program, either. Homebased employees can get up and running with one-click Quick Start wizards that quickly and easily guide you through the process.
Another remote access program, CoSession Remote 32 V8 for Windows 95/NT ($69 for a one-user version; $579 for a 10-user version) from Artisoft ( http://www.artisoft.com ), has basic drag-and-drop file transfer capabilities as well as file synchronization capabilities. It also contains a neat Voice Chat feature so you can talk with another party while accessing his or her PC remotely (sound card and microphone required).
Modems for Internet access and connecting to your network, if necessary, are the next pieces of technology to put in place. If telecommuters have basic e-mail and Internet access needs, a 36K or 56K modem with a dial-up account through an ISP will probably suffice. If they have more advanced needs, however, such as access to office-based files, it may be worth the extra cost to invest in a speedier ISDN line. To set this up, have your employees ask their local telephone companies to install a digital line and provide the proper equipment.