Telecommuters are at the forefront of the connected home

A couple of years ago, I started getting letters from Windows & .NET Magazine readers who said they wanted information about home networking. Here's an example of one such letter:
"I think you're missing a huge market. I support mega-size clients, but I also support hundreds of small, sub-100-user accounts. And most of my peers have home networks. We use them as proof-of-concept test beds and to develop solutions for our small customers. I bet most of your readers who support large numbers of clients also support home or small office/home office (SOHO) networks. Our group's primary DBA lives in Pennsylvania

and supports our group in Raleigh, North Carolina. Most of our servers are in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DBA has a home network and bemoans the fact that no one seems to provide information about her type of networking environment. You do your readers a disservice by not addressing this group's needs."

This and other similar letters prompted me to look into home networking, and I learned that supporting home networks is indeed a challenge for IT professionals. According to Cahners In-Stat Group research, 60 percent of enterprise IT decision makers reported that supporting home-based workers is increasingly difficult, and 71 percent said they expect the number of telecommuters they support to grow every year. In addition, 37 percent of IT decision makers said IT support for remote workers significantly affects IT spending. In enterprise companies, 7 percent of IT budgets—or roughly $16 billion—will go toward technology for telecommuters in 2002.

Although IT professionals are busy enough supporting inhouse workers, 62 percent of IT respondents to the Cahners study said they want to remotely manage the technology their home-based workers use. But, like the readers who have written to me, these IT professionals lack resources to learn about what products and services are available and how to implement them efficiently.

Out of this need, Connected Home Magazine was born. IT departments need to know how to give remote workers the same high-quality, high-speed network access that inhouse workers have. They need criteria for evaluating broadband providers as well as home networking equipment and software. They need to ensure their enterprise networks' security by protecting telecommuters' home networks. And they need to know how to troubleshoot and maintain telecommuters' equipment to the same service level they provide within the enterprise's office buildings. (For the first article in a series about how to provide for all these needs, see Mark Smith, "5 Ways to Equip Telecommuters," page 17.)

But beyond these needs, IT wants to know about all home technology. Remote workers are finding personal uses for the broadband connections that IT has brought into their home offices, and IT professionals themselves are early adopters of home technology for entertainment (e.g., digital music, photography, home theater, gaming) and convenience (e.g., home automation, home security), as well as work. (In this issue, David Chernicoff covers new developments in digital music distribution in "The Digital Media Dilemma," page 28, and Scott Anderson explains how to set up your home network for a gaming party in "Configuring Multiplayer Games," page 22.)

The mission of Connected Home Magazine is to help you make technology work in the home. This special issue of Windows & .NET Magazine covers trends in Windows IT and introduces one of the most important trends: supporting remote workers and home technology. A new Connected Home section in Windows & .NET Magazine will begin in the June issue. In August and November, we will produce supplements devoted to the connected home, and our goal is to launch a standalone Connected Home Magazine next year.

Let me know what role remote workers play in your IT environment. How do you use technology in your home? Your letter might lead us in a whole new direction!