When it comes to setting up home-based employees, the easiest answer might be WAN and cloud-based operating systems, such as 5G or Starlink.
With the pandemic now in its final wave, it seems more and more that Covid-19 (and whatever comes next) will be part of our lives from now on. Companies believe that most workers will return to the office, while most people will want to stay home. While insurance companies do not yet increase premiums, this may change because the virus does not go away. I hope that soon some carriers will start charging companies more for unvaccinated employees and for those who go to work rather than working remotely. (Delta Airlines has already announced that it will charge unvaccinated employees.)
A few weeks ago, we saw the results of the survey which indicated that up to 40% of employees in companies intending to force a return to office were looking to change jobs. Silicon Valley has stepped up its efforts to hire remote workers to reduce labor costs and attract more employees. The trends seem clear: working from home does not disappear and could gain even more traction in the future.
We have seen problems for months with the constant supply of domestic employees, IT concerns about the security of the employee network and environmental events (floods and fires) that have forced employees to be even more mobile.
All this made me think about how I would simplify the supply at home and keep the workers safe.
Windows 365 with 5G or Starlink
I’ve been using the basic Windows 365 setup for a few weeks now, and although I still lack GPU power, I can live with this service for the most part. In terms of computer performance, the entry-level virtual desktop is acceptable for much of what I do; where the service excels is in loading and unloading performance. Currently, I have a premium cable service at home and with Windows 365, I get download speeds of about 1K Mbps and 2K Mbps for uploads. My latency is generally about 20 milliseconds, although with Windows 365 it is six milliseconds, significantly better. (This suggests that the blockage is with my ISP, not Windows 365.)
High speed WAN is increasingly preferred for remote work because it is relatively secure. Does not require a router. You can usually connect other peripherals, such as a USB or Bluetooth printer, so that IT does not have to handle questionable networks. But 5G coverage is still debatable in the US, especially in rural areas where services such as ISDN are still used. Compared to my internet connection, Starlink is better at uploads (29.35 Mbps), much worse at downloads (71 Mbps) and latency (53 milliseconds). But for routine office work, it should be good enough.
As for how well Windows 365 works, assuming you only work on Windows 365, you get virtually Microsoft’s download and upload speed. Windows 365 systems are cloud-connected, ensuring at least national consistency (and, in the case of Starlink, potentially international consistency) in network provisioning. These are nets that rarely, if ever, go down. And while 5G means much more portability, even the Starlink service can move faster than programming a broadband cable connection.
Employees with access to 5G already have a supply solution, and Starlink serves as another outside the 5G coverage areas. While Starlink can be installed by the user, you may need to pay a local technician to install it to make sure it is safe and can be moved quickly during a disaster (or easily removed if an employee leaves the company).
Virtually better than home hardware?
Windows 365 gives you a platform that will run on any PC, including Chromebooks and a few thin clients, substantially reducing the need for desktop support. You should be able to download most of the home network support to your 5G or Starlink operator, assuming, in the latter case, that the network is dedicated to the employee’s work effort. Another approach would be to subsidize the Starlink service so that the employee can legitimately use it for personal and school projects.
Using a virtual desktop, whether it’s Windows 365, Cameyo, or another alternative, offers a level of remote performance and consistency that you probably can’t get with any other home computer solution. A wireless or satellite WAN solution (Starlink) provides a generic way to ensure and ensure connectivity and portability if the employee has to change location for any reason.
In combination, a cloud desktop and a permanently activated network service seem to be the ideal way to set up home offices for the foreseeable future. The surprising thing is that the future seems to be more and more now.