Working at home… does anyone actually know what a VPN is?

As the UK coronavirus lockdown continues, many of us are settling into our new working from home routines. Whether that means setting up a home office for the first time or learning how to share working space with family members, we are all on our way up the rather steep Covid-19 learning curve. Hopefully your remote working technology is now set up and functioning well but if it isn’t, or if you would like to understand it all a bit better, we answer a few technological working from home questions below.

What is remote support?

Remote support is the working from home equivalent of office based help desk support. Instead of visiting your office to sort out your computer problems, IT technicians can use special software such as TeamViewer to access your computer remotely. By now your organisation should have given you details as to how to ask for remote support help but if they haven’t we recommending finding out, before you actually need it.

What does VPN stand for?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. If you need access your usual work network  on your home computer, your organisation has probably set up a VPN. Once you have access to this VPN you will be able to securely use protected files and systems without exposing them to the dangers of internet hacking. Imagine sending and receiving all of your information down a protected pipeline, and you will have a good idea of what your VPN is doing for you and your organisation.

Exactly how big is a gigabyte?

It is likely that working from home is going to take more computer memory and storage than you are used to needing. The Guardian recently recommended at least 8GB of RAM (memory) and 265GB of storage. You don’t need to understand how bit a gigabyte is but you might like to. Computers work in binary with a system of zeros and ones (switches that are either on or off). Each of these ones or zeros is a bit (small b). For each character of text you need around 8 bits or 1 byte (capital B). Because your computer is working in binary not decimal, the number of bytes in larger  denominations can look a bit strange. It would make more sense if you learned to count in binary but you really don’t need to do that.

1 kilobyte = 1,024 bytes

1 megabyte = 1,024 kilobytes

1 gigabyte = 1, 024 megabytes = about 1 DVD = around 10 minutes of film streaming

1 terabyte = 1,024 gigabytes

What are collaboration tools?

Working in an office allows you to interact, share ideas and generally communicate with your colleagues. Now you are working from home you are probably missing these both from an efficiency and an emotional point of view. The good news is that collaboration tools can allow you to work together with people in ways that are slightly different to your norm but often just as effective. Whether you want to organise a project, work together on important files or discuss ideas with your colleagues, the number of available collaboration tools is growing, and we are all going to have to get used to using them.

Who can do video conferencing?

There was a time when video conferencing seemed like something for the elite but during this working from home time, we could all do with a bit of group planning and idea sharing. You may have already used video conferencing without knowing it. If you have ever chatted to your distant family via social media or had a Skype interview, you will have been using tools very similar to the ones to which organisations are now turning. So don’t be scared, when the opportunity arises, step up and join in.


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