Where Did Everyone Go?

There’s a lot of buzz around the office lately about working remotely.  $4 per gallon gas and snowstorms in April probably have something to do with it. We’re tossing around ideas about what our future work environment might look like. One idea is to have a smaller central office for meeting with important customers and prospects, with the majority of employees working remotely most of the time. Another suggestion is to have a few satellite offices (“touchdown spaces”) where employees who live in those parts of the Twin Cities can work.  Someone even offered up his home office for his whole team. I wonder if he realizes how much coffee and Mountain Dew he would need to have on hand.

Call me old fashioned, but I like face-to-face collaboration. Texting and instant messaging can’t build the relationships and convey the details that in-person communication can. “You bought a new car? Let’s go for a ride!” “Your toddler did what??”  And let’s not forget all the opportunities a real office provides for bringing in our latest electronic toys to show off - iPads,  e-readers, smartphones, etc.

It’s inevitable, though - companies of all sizes, including New Boundary Technologies®, already support employees and manage computers that are scattered across town and across the world. That’s where Prism Suite® comes in.  There are two clever features in Prism Suite that enable and simplify remote management  – the NBT Proxy Service and Distribution Locations.

NBT Proxy Service is a small application installed on a Microsoft IIS Server that accepts communication from remote Prism clients.  Enabling this feature means that Prism clients outside the corporate firewall can securely communicate with the Prism Server inside the firewall - without using a VPN connection.  The Prism client can be configured to always or never use the proxy,  or to automatically adjust based on the location of the client. The auto setting is especially useful for managing laptops that come and go on an unpredictable schedule. For example, sales folks sometimes need to take trips on short notice. Developers may rather write code from home instead of braving a 20-mile commute during a blizzard.  The NBT Proxy’s auto setting handles those situations perfectly.

The Distributed Tasks feature of Prism Suite takes remote management a step further. It allows administrators to distribute the payload of tasks (files) out to remote sites .  Prism clients at each Distribution Location get their task payload from their local Distribution Agent, rather than pulling it from the centrally-located Prism Server.  This means that large or numerous task files only need to be transferred once across the WAN to a Distribution Agent. 

There’s a lot of flexibility around this feature. For example, if a Distribution Location is a small satellite office, say 5 or 6 computers, the Distribution Agent doesn’t have to be a server – it can be one of the existing workstation machines at that site.  This is a real money and time saver.

The most unique thing about Distributed Tasks is how the Prism client determines which Distribution Agent to use. That is determined dynamically, depending upon which Distribution Location the client currently resides in. For example, imagine that Prism administrator Joe creates Distribution Locations for five different branch offices based  on their IP address ranges. This is done through Prism’s rule-based SmartUpdate technology. Next imagine that Sally from Human Resources needs to visit a different branch each day this week to make a presentation about the 401K program. While she’s going from branch to branch, her computer will still get all of its assigned Prism tasks. In addition, the payload of those tasks will be pulled from the Distribution Agent at each branch. Sally doesn’t need to adjust anything as she goes from site to site, and neither does Joe. It all happens automatically.  This is the kind of smart, automated administration that leaves time for Sally and Joe to trade stories at the water cooler.  

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