Telecommuting has become a way of life as more companies let employees work from home to do jobs that might otherwise be done on corporate premises. As a result, IT managers are adapting security policies to encompass home PCs.
Last year an estimated 8.9 million telecommuters worked from home three or more days each month during regular business hours, according to IDC. A quarter of them worked exclusively from home. At places where home-based work has become the norm, IT managers say a key concern is ensuring each telecommuter's PC, typically granted remote access to a corporate LAN, keeps pace with office security guidelines.
"We have a fair number of employees who are telecommuters," says Dan Lukas, lead security architect at Wisconsin-based Aurora Health Care, which operates 13 hospitals, as well as dozens of clinics, with about 25,000 employees. "We're driven by the business, not the technology."
Several hundred Aurora employees work from home transcribing voice recordings made by physicians regarding their patients. These transcriptionists, situated all over the country, then remotely access Aurora's private-line network over the Internet to file each transcribed recording with a patient's online medical records.
Other types of telecommuters at Aurora include radiologists, who can access the network to look at medical images.
Kettering Medical Center Network, a group of five hospitals in Dayton, Ohio, with 7,000 employees and 1,200 physicians, is one of many hospitals that see growth in telecommuting.
"More and more, physicians want access to their offices from home, and we're giving radiologists secure access so they can read images from home," says Bob Burritt, Kettering Medical Center Network's director of technology.
According to IDC, healthcare is the industry in which telecommuting is most common, followed by the science and technical services arena, and manufacturing.
Lukas says Aurora transcriptionists who telecommute are given PCs with a standard image on them for hospital applications and security, such as antivirus. They also are required to use secure VPN access.
The hospital is migrating from a Cisco IPSec VPN to a Juniper SSL VPN, since it doesn't require special agent-based software to deploy.
Aurora's IT staff coordinate with a business manager in charge of these workers' assignments to ensure they have access only to the database resources they require.