Web extra: Technologies for telework

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Wired for telework

Agencies have extensively tested and used many telework technologies. The Federal Aviation Administration created an online virtual office to emulate a real office based on research conducted by Ron Simmons, a scientific and technical adviser at the FAA. Dubbed the Knowledge Service Network (KSN), it represents an office environment, complete with doors and desks.

“Eighty percent of the work you do does not need to be secure,” Simmons said, citing daily tasks such as photocopying files, talking to co-workers and getting lunch.

KSN’s core technology is Microsoft SharePoint Services, which handles document management, task tracking, library functions, calendar updates and other functions related to scheduling and training. About 22,000 FAA employees use KSN, but not all are teleworkers. Many FAA employees simply use the virtual office to stay in touch with their colleagues in the field.

Other agencies have built their telework programs using Citrix Systems' Presentation Server, which allows remote access to applications at a secure data center. Sensitive data remain on the server, and employees work with images of the data rather than the actual data files. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Defense Information Systems Agency use Presentation Server.

The Internal Revenue Service tried several systems, including secure dial-in and virtual private networks, before selecting AT&T’s Enterprise Remote Access Program. The IRS wanted to use only one telework infrastructure, and the program was the only option that supported high-speed connectivity. As of June 1, the system was tracking nearly 26,723 registered users at agency offices and 171 active fixed sites, which include work spaces at companies the IRS is auditing.

The agency said it has avoided about $10 million in monthly software and technical support costs.

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