Technology must work everywhere

Mar 17, 2024

Adopting flexible work setups via technology is crucial for employee satisfaction – but achieving this requires addressing various logistical challenges effectively.

Enabling flexible work locations through technology capabilities is a critical piece of employee satisfaction. We must recognize that attracting the best employees today means that we are open to a variety of work arrangements: one or even multiple offices, home, field, and hybrid setups.

Many employees and potential hires request hybrid arrangements instead of a singular location. As a result, we’re experiencing pressure for:

  1. Offices supporting a variety of geographic locations.
  2. Establishing new spaces with only a few versus many employees.
  3. A need to onboard new facilities quickly.
  4. Minimal footprint impact on small facilities by technology equipment.
  5. A demand for excellent connectivity and performance at each office.
  6. Collaboration between offices, and not silos.
  7. The same performance and capability when at home or on the road.

Most technology installations require a significant investment in hardware that is near the user. We knew that adding servers and storage in our growing number of locations, and putting complex networking and security in place, would result in heavy capital expenditure, increased operational expense, and significant IT maintenance labor impact. Those challenges are magnified by the number of offices, regardless of their size.

Beyond the offices themselves, we also need to be able to make it work from home – where we know we cannot set up a datacenter! A poor, or degraded, user experience from home may seem like a small issue compared to security or functionality concerns, but it can be a significant driver in employee satisfaction and retention.

Your IT strategies must ask: How can we build a robust modern work-from-anywhere tech system that is simple to manage while providing excellent performance, a seamless user experience, and which meets security expectations while not breaking the bank? There are three key components to Prairie’s recent successes in this space:

  1. Access solutions that work. There are a lot of good tools out there for remote work, but I’ve found the traditional VPN approach is lacking in performance, user experience, and support capability. Working around VPN problems meant giving users machines on-premise and remote – creating a lot more hardware to maintain and only partially solving issues. This leads to higher costs and frustrated users.
    Prairie has taken a multipronged approach to remote access: virtual desktops and on-premise systems that are remote connected through specialized software. We’re creating a consistent user experience regardless of where employees are and what equipment they’re using. We’re also evaluating other evolving tools like always-on-VPN that can further enhance remote access. The key is remote connections that are so easy-to-use they’re invisible to the user. We need systems with great performance characteristics and intuitive but secure interfaces that users love.
  2. Cloud-based systems including files. Like most of you, we’ve been moving to cloud-based applications for many years. The latest service that we had to improve was our file system. The file system is at the core of what we do so it must be fast, secure, available, controlled, scalable, and collaborative. Syncing files on servers across many small locations, or even a few large ones, can be extremely difficult. Enter Egnyte as a cloud enterprise file solution that sits quietly on each user’s computer.
    This represented a file system with the power of online collaboration, but all the familiarity of classic network drives, and without the need to remote in. It not only enables flexibility in how data is managed, ingested, shared, and delivered, but it encourages us to ask questions about whether some users require virtual desktops. In effect having cloud-based apps and files means the access solution (see No. 1 above) gets even more flexible and can be catered better to each specific user!
  3. Remote management. Your users, like ours, have a tremendous amount of software, files, and processes they’re working with each day. There’s a lot that can go wrong. We’ve got to be able to support these systems at a moment’s notice without traveling to their location. Having a user explain their experience with a failing machine that’s been offline for six weeks over the phone is difficult at best. Basic screen sharing remains simply inferior to being there with diagnostic tools at hand.
    We’ve moved the bar in this space by embracing mobile device management configuration and compliance, stepping away from the domain, and adding a remote monitoring and management platform that expands our ability to troubleshoot issues and control systems almost like we’re at the keyboard as long as the device is online. You need a developed vision for your technology support model: the idea of computers that can be fully remote controlled, deployed on a whim from any vendor or from stock, and can be reset by the user but back up in as little as 30 minutes with no loss of data. This strategy maximizes uptime and employee satisfaction.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned as we’ve developed and deployed tools supporting these three areas is that one solution does not fit all use cases. Some things don’t work well virtually, no matter how hard we push. Some datasets can’t move around as easily as we’d like. Some internet connections just aren’t good enough. So not only do our solutions have to support flexible environments, but the strategy and systems themselves have to be flexible. Whatever you’re planning in these spaces, make sure that the solution is prepared to support not only the demands of today and tomorrow but that your vision has room to grow as those demands inevitably change. 

Nick Voss is an IT professional with 20 years of experience and has been the CTO at Prairie Engineers since the fall of 2021. Contact him at

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