Working Remotely Information

(information last updated 12/4/2020 2:15PM)

 

IS suggests the following best practices when needing to work remotely.


 

For working remotely

 

Guidance on Accessing Documents from Home

Should you need to work on your home computer, it will be helpful to have access to any documents located on your office computer.  As such, it is recommended that you move any files necessary to either the P drive (ADMIN server for Mac users) or Office 365 OneDrive. Here’s how:

 

For documents containing, or potentially containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII), IS highly recommends not downloading these files to personal computers. However, in order to continue work with these documents, IS suggests the following.

  • Place your documents in OneDrive (instead of the P drive) and view/edit them via the OneDrive web interface.  Please note, OneDrive is both FERPA and HIPAA compliant.
  • If you do have to download documents to your personal computer, please be mindful of where the documents are downloaded to and keep them in one folder so they can all be easily located and deleted later when you resume your normal work on campus.

 

Managing Campus Phones and Voice Mail While Employees Work Remotely

When working remotely, continuity of communication is critical so give thought beforehand as to how you and your office will handle phone calls. Recall that phones assigned to employees deliver voice mail messages to email, but shared lines do not (as they are not assigned to any one individual).  IS suggests the following possibilities for consideration:

  • For shared lines where voice mail does not go to an individual’s email, add a voice mailbox indicating that the voice mail may not be monitored and to contact your office via email or another number.
  • Do not forward campus phones to personal numbers if it can be avoided as this may present issues for the office if the individual is unable to take calls due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Collect all available contact phone numbers and methods in an Excel spreadsheet in OneDrive and share the link with the group.

 

Using Personal Computers (or College-owned computers) to Remote Desktop to an On-Campus Computer

You or your colleagues may need access to systems on campus. Employees can initiate a Remote Desktop session from a personal or college-owned computer off-campus to a computer on campus. Unfortunately, the computer on campus must be a Windows computer and cannot be a Mac. Before you do this, you may need to enable this on your on-campus Windows computer. Here’s how:

 

Using Office Computers for Work At Home Purposes

Please inform the User Services Help Desk if you intend to take a desktop computer (Dell Precision or iMac) to your home to work remotely.  There may be adjustments that need to be made to the system before it will function properly on a home network.  

 

Remote Assistance for Personal Computers or College-owned Computers that are Off-Campus

It may be necessary for you to need remote assistance from IS staff while working off-campus. In order for IS staff to be able to request access to provide help or fix your computer, you will need to install Microsoft Teams on the personal or college-owned computer (Windows or Mac). Here’s how:

 

IT Support for Personal Computers or College-owned Computers that are Off-Campus

The User Services Help Desk is available from 8AM to 5PM Monday through Friday via email at helpdesk@dickinson.edu.  No phone-based help service is available as employees are not on campus.  Further, for hardware-related issues with Dickinson-owned computers for the remote working period, please feel free to contact the Help Desk to initiate assistance for computer hardware problems.  A Technical Services Specialist will email you to suggest a remedy and/or provide further instruction on getting the computer to User Services on campus if we should need to service the device.  If you have your computer a great distance from campus where bringing it would present issues, further guidance for shipping the device to campus or getting it serviced in your area by a third party technician can also be discussed.  For non-Dickinson-owned computers, we will try our best to suggest a course of action to remedy a hardware failure, but cannot guarantee we will be able to fully address issues on non-supported equipment.

 

Home Networking Guidance

For those experiencing poor connection to videoconferences or difficulty downloading course resources, please see the guidance below for options on improving the internet connection to your computer:

  1. Internet connection: Of the options available in the Carlisle area, Xfinity cable internet is the fastest.  DSL providers are slower so for fastest connections from the start, consider Xfinity if you are not already on it.  For those outside of the Carlisle area, consider a similar cable internet service provider over a telephone-based (DSL) provider for the fastest possible speeds to your home or workspace.
  2. Home/Workspace Network:
    1. Understanding the pieces (Modem and Router): the modem is the device that connects your home to the internet via cable (with cable service) or your phone line (with DSL service). The router is the device that typically provides wireless service to devices in your home and connects those devices to the modem. Cable and DSL internet providers often supply one device which is both a modem and router all-in-one.  Typically, however, these all-in-one modem/routers do not have very strong WiFi - there are a few ways to improve network speeds within your house.
    2. Understanding WiFi in your home: WiFi is just a radio signal emanating from your router to the devices in your home. Several factors decrease the range this radio signal can travel such as: the size of your home, the construction materials used in your walls/floors/ceilings, the number of devices connected to your home network (computers, phones, iPads, SmartTVs, streaming devices, smoke alarms, etc.), and your proximity to neighbors with competing WiFi radio signals.
    3. Easy Options for Videoconferences/Meetings: If your connection is acceptable for most actions, but your are experiencing poor video performance during online classes or meetings, here are a few very quick things to try before exploring more in-depth options below:
      1. Proximity (simple setup/free): If you have a large home, if you have brick walls, or live very close to many others with competing WiFi signals, moving your computer closer to the router may help.
      2. 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz WiFi Bands: Most modern home WiFi products broadcast two (or more) WiFi bands. The 2.4 GHz band provides coverage at a longer range but transmits data at slower speeds. The 5 GHz band provides less coverage but transmits data at faster speeds. The range is lower in the 5 GHz band because higher frequencies cannot penetrate solid objects, such as walls and floors.  Check to see if your WiFi router is broadcasting a 5 GHz and, if so, make sure you are close enough to your WiFi router and try connecting to your 5 GHz band for faster speeds.
      3. Disabling video: Both Zoom and Teams allow you to turn off your own video and the incoming video of other participants in the videoconference which lessens the bandwidth used for the audio or other aspects of the class.
    4. Boosting your In-Home Network Connection:
      1. Range Extenders (simple setup/inexpensive): range extenders are WiFi repeaters which boost WiFi to specific areas in your home.  They can be inexpensive and fairly easy to set up.  Netgear Range Extenders here.
      2. More Powerful Wifi Routers (intermediate setup/expense depends on model): if you are using an all-in-one modem/router (or an older stand-alone WiFi router) and WiFi is poor where your computer is located in your home, you can purchase a separate WiFi router to use instead of your all-in-one modem/router.  Using a separate WiFi router allows you to choose the strength of router you wish to use based on your needs. Netgear WiFi routers here. Typically for a home connection, the newer "WiFi 6 (802.11ax)", "802.11ad", or "802.11ac" routers are best.  THese days, WiFi routers can be setup fairly easily using a smartphone app. *note: you may wish to contact your internet provider to ask them to disable the built-in WiFi from your modem/router all-in-one to minimize confusion and interference.
      3. Mesh Networks (intermediate setup/expense depends on model): An alternative to a single WiFi router and/or range extenders is a 'mesh' network which consists of smaller interconnected WiFi routers positioned around your home. Generally more expensive than a single router, but can be expanded by adding mesh units. Netgear Mesh Routers here.  Google Nest Mesh Routers here.
      4. Wired Instead of WiFi (simple setup/inexpensive): Even with a powerful router, it may not be possible to get a good signal to your devices so you can consider a PowerLine solution.  PowerLines consist of two small units which use your home electrical wiring (through 2 different power outlets in your home) for internet connectivity.  They are fairly inexpensive, easy to set up, and do not require any WiFi to use. Netgear PowerLine units here.
    5. Cellular over WiFi: If improving WiFi is either not an option or the slowness is due to the internet connection itself, but you have a strong 5G cellular signal, it may be best to use a cellular 'hotspot' instead. Hotspots can be a separate device which connects to cellular service but then offers a WiFi connection to other nearby devices such as your computer.  Many smartphones can act as hotspots as well provided your cellular provider allows it - this is typically an added cost to your cellular bill and the amount of data transfer may be limited with overage charges for exceeding the limit. More on mobile hotspots here.

Exact product recommendations widely vary depending upon needs, specifics about the home, product availability, connectivity in the desired geographic region, and personal budget.

 

Microsoft Teams for Group Communication (text and voice/video conferencing) and Document Collaboration

Again, when employees work from separate locations, communication and the ability to easily share and collaborate on documents is critical. Email is often used for this but is not efficient for all situations. Microsoft Teams allows coworkers to hold group and private chats, share and collaborate in real-time on documents, easily hold one-one/many-many voice- or videoconferences all via Windows computers, Macs, and mobile phone. Chat and document content is all searchable and available to new members of the Team in the future so institutional knowledge is easily shared and preserved.

Administrators Requesting Zoom for Meetings and Office Group Communications: Please also remember that you can use the Teams Meeting button in Outlook when creating an Outlook calendar invitation to add a link to a Teams meeting in the Outlook invitation.  When users click the link they are joined to the meeting – users neither need Teams installed nor Dickinson/Office 365 accounts to participate.

 

Please contact the Help Desk for questions at helpdesk@dickinson.edu