Office of Information Technology

Frequently Asked Questions about Working Remotely

Per university policy, all arrangements to work remotely must be approved in advance by the appropriate supervisor and the authorizing executive.

The following frequently asked questions are provided by the Office of Information Technology to assist supervisors and potential remote workers with technology considerations, when working from home or a remote location. Specific terms and conditions for working remotely must be negotiated as part of the remote work plan.


Information for AU Employees Working Remotely

Remote Access Setup


Virtual Private Networking (VPN)


Technical Support


Collaboration Tools


Telephone


Software




Information for AU Supervisors




Information for AU Employees Working Remotely


Remote Access Setup


What do I need to do to prepare to work remotely?

  1. Please review this entire FAQ document to make sure you have considered everything that you will need for your remote work set-up to be a success. We recommend that you do a test of how to access everything you need, so you can get help if necessary, prior to having an urgent deadline.
  2. Verify that the computer you will be using to remotely connect to AU's network meets the minimum requirements. In general, the computer should have at least a 1.8 gigahertz processor and 1 gigabyte random access memory (RAM). Also, Windows computers must use Microsoft Windows XP or newer software. Mac users must use OS-X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer.
  3. Allow sufficient time the first time that you connect to AU's resources remotely to have your workstation's health audited and to fix any issues that are identified with its configuration.
  4. Arrange for installation or use of a broadband Internet connection from your home, if you do not already have one. Examples of these types of high-speed connections are cable modems, DSL, or fiber optic connections (such as FIOS).
  5. Make sure that all of the files or data you will need to access are available through an AU server or network resource, such as your personal or departmental network drives (known as G and I, respectively), the AU website, Datatel's Colleague system, a Lotus Notes database, etc. Gather detailed descriptions of the resources that you will need to access remotely, including the application name, filename, and location, as applicable.
  6. Contact the IT Help Desk for assistance at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp.

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Can I use any personally-owned workstation to work remotely?

No, your personally-owned workstation must meet the minimum requirements to be supported for remote work arrangements. In general, it should have at least a 1.8 gigahertz processor and 1 gigabyte random access memory (RAM). In addition, it must be configured to meet AU's minimum security standard (health check) before connecting to the AU network.

Windows Tips

All Windows computers must use Microsoft Windows XP or newer software. You will likely need to install a few university-licensed software applications on your workstation to configure it like your office computer; for example, the Lotus Notes client, the Novell client to access your network drives and departmental printers, and the latest version of Microsoft Office.

To access university-licensed software, log into the myAU.american.edu Web portal and click the DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE link under the TECHNOLOGY section.

Mac Tips

All Mac computers must use OS-X 10.6 Snow Leopard or newer software. You will likely need to install a few university-licensed software applications on your workstation to configure it like your office computer; for example, the Lotus Notes client, and the latest version of Microsoft Office, if needed.

To access university-licensed software, log into the myAU.american.edu Web portal and click the DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE link under the TECHNOLOGY section.

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I'm planning to bring my AU-owned workstation off campus. Is there anything special I should do before I work remotely with this computer?

  1. Arrange for installation or use of a broadband Internet connection from your home, if you do not already have one. Examples of these types of high-speed connections are cable modems, DSL, or fiber optic connections (such as FIOS).
  2. Contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp to have the standard software configuration installed on your workstation. This includes: encryption of your local hard drive and remote assistance software to simplify support. 
  3. Test your connection to AU's VPN to make sure that your workstation has the latest updates. You will then have access to all of the resources you are accustomed to accessing from on campus, although access speeds could be slightly less than you may be used to due to connection speed.
  4. Obtain a lock for your laptop from the AU Campus Store or any technology retailer, if you intend to travel with it or transport it to and from campus.
  5. Ensure the physical security of your AU-owned workstation by never leaving it unattended in a public place, or in a visible location such as your car.

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Will my AU-owned workstation work with my home wireless network?

Please note: OIT cannot install, configure, or support your home wireless network.

You should have no problem joining an AU-owned laptop to your home wireless network, in the same fashion that you connect any new computer to your home network. Please check with your service provider or wireless router manual for instructions.

AU-owned desktop computers generally do not have a wireless card installed, so you will not be able to connect to any wireless networks unless you purchase and install one. Alternatively, you may find it more convenient to connect the desktop via a wired connection using a traditional Ethernet cable plugged directly into the wireless router, if available. Please check your home wireless router to see if this alternative solution applies to your equipment.

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Virtual Private Networking (VPN)


What is the VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When you connect to it, you are creating a secure, encrypted connection between your off site computer and the AU network. You can connect to it by opening your Web browser and going to vpn.american.edu. Online instructions are available.

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Do I need to use the VPN to access AU services?

We recommend that you sign onto the VPN any time you are working with AU information and files.

You will be required to sign onto the VPN before using Datatel Web UI or the Novell client. Mac users can connect to their network drives using CIFS.

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What services can I access without using the VPN?

We recommend that you sign onto the VPN any time you are working with AU information and files.

You are not currently required to be connected to the VPN to use the following systems from off campus: the myAU.american.edu Web portal, Web Mail, Lotus Notes, Blackboard, and the EagleData Warehouse.

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Will the VPN affect my connection speed?

The VPN encrypts all of the data your computer sends and receives with AU, so it is possible that you may experience a very slight slow-down in your access speeds while you are connected.

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Technical Support


Who do I contact for technical help while working remotely?

Contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp. It is important to tell the Help Desk Analyst that you are working remotely to ensure the best understanding of your situation and needs.

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How do I report problems with my AU-owned workstation?

Contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp for assistance. Due to limited staffing resources, we are unable to dispatch a technician to work with you off site; however, the IT Help Desk will do everything possible to resolve your problem remotely. Hardware problems or other serious issues may require bringing the workstation back to campus for service.

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Where should I save my files while working remotely?

Always save your files to one of your network drives (usually G or I), when working remotely. Do not save files to the local hard drive of your computer, as locally saved files are vulnerable to loss if your hard drive fails or if your computer is stolen. Files you store on AU's network drives are secure and backed up daily.

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How do I remotely access my G and I drives and printers on the AU network?

Windows Tips

Check to see if you have a red N icon in the system tray in the lower right corner of your screen. If you do not, log into the myAU.american.edu Web portal and click the DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE link under the TECHNOLOGY section. Install the Novell NetWare client. Then, connect to the VPN. Right-click on the N icon in the lower right corner of your screen and select NOVELL LOGIN. Sign in as you do when you are on campus to access your network drives and office printers.


Mac Tips

Mac users can connect to their network drives using CIFS. Please note: Novell printing services are not available to remote Macintosh computers at this time.


Web Access Tips

If the above options don't work for you, you can download and upload one file at a time from your G or I drives through the myAU.american.edu portal, by clicking on TECHNOLOGY and then ACCESS MY NETWORK DRIVES. Using this method, you have to save files to your local hard drive while you work on them. When you are finished, you must remember to upload them to your G or I drive again, and then delete them from your local computer. Detailed instructions for this service are available online.

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Can I print to my home network printer when I work remotely?

Yes, but you should be extremely cautious about printing confidential or sensitive data to a home printer. Prevent unauthorized access to the information, and dispose of it securely, such as by using a shredder. Please review AU's Data Classification Policy to better understand your responsibilities with regard to specific types of data.

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What do I need to do to protect confidential AU information when working remotely?

  • Contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp to make sure that the standard software configuration has been installed on your workstation.
  • Please review AU's Data Classification Policy to better understand your responsibilities with regard to specific types of data.
  • Consider where you are saving files, and who has access to that location. Don't store AU files or data on your local computer or external drives.
  • Connect to the VPN any time you will be accessing AU information, as this protects what you are sending and receiving from interception.
  • Make sure any confidential data is shredded, when disposing of paper documents.

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Collaboration Tools


Can I chat with my colleagues to stay connected to the office when I'm working remotely?

Yes. You can sign onto SameTime Instant Messaging the same way you do while on campus, once you have installed the Lotus Notes client.

You can also sign into SameTime while using Web Mail, by clicking on TOOLS and then PREFERENCES. In the BASICS tab, check the box beside ENABLE INSTANT MESSAGING and click OK. Click the CHAT button and select SHOW INSTANT CONTACT LIST. You can use the directory to locate and add colleagues to your contact list.

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How do I show a colleague something on my screen when I'm working remotely?

Starting a secure online meeting with your colleague is a good option if you want to demonstrate a task or collaborate with a colleague from a remote location. Log into the VPN, and click the START button beside NETWORK CONNECT. Select INSTANT MEETING. Additional documentation on how to use the secure meeting service is available for your review.

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Telephone


How do I check my office voice mail messages from off campus?

You can call into your office voice mail to check your messages from off campus.

Consider changing the outgoing message on your voice mail to indicate that you are working remotely, and indicate the frequency that you will be checking your messages, for example, every hour, three times a day, etc.

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Can I forward my office phone to an outside number so I don't miss calls?

Campus phones are not set up to forward to off campus lines by default, however you can contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp to request that off campus forwarding be enabled for your extension. Once it has been configured, follow the instructions for forwarding your phone.

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Software


Can I install University-licensed software on my personal computer? For example, Microsoft Office?

Yes. Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows and 2011 for Macintosh are available to faculty and staff for download from TECHNOLOGY section of the myAU.american.edu Web portal, under the DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE link.

Other University-licensed software also available for download and installation on faculty and staff personal computers are: EndNote, Lotus Notes, and Novell clients.

If you are prompted for a license key while installing, contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp for assistance.

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Can I access the EagleData Warehouse and Datatel's Colleague systems on my home computer?

Yes. You can connect securely to the EagleData Warehouse through your Web browser. No special configuration is required.

You will need to connect to AU's VPN prior to logging into Datatel Web UI to access Datatel's Colleague system.

Please note: any reports that you create should be saved to your G or I drive, rather than your local hard drive. Also, be sure to shred or otherwise securely dispose of any sensitive documents that you print while working remotely.

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Can I access Lotus Notes on my home computer?

Yes. Most Lotus Notes e-mail functions are available through Web Mail, which you can log into at mail.american.edu. However, installing the Lotus Notes client is recommended for the best user experience.

Before leaving campus, review the installation instructions, and copy the files you will need to your G drive, so you can access them from home. The bookmark.nsf and desktop8.ndk files are particularly important, as they contain the locations of the databases you need to access. You can download Lotus Notes from the myAU.american.edu Web portal.

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Information for AU Supervisors


What financial or budget implications of working remotely should I be aware of before agreeing to a telework plan?

The specific implications of a telework plan will vary depending upon a number of details pertaining to the remote work environment, remote workstation, and the duties expected to be carried out by the employee working remotely. There should not be budget implications in most cases.

However, if the employee works with a desktop workstation at the office and it is determined the employee does not have an appropriate workstation for working remotely, management should be prepared to either: spend resources on a second workstation, pay for the upgrade to a laptop or notebook workstation, or look to plan to replace the desktop with a laptop at the next lifecycle replacement.

If Internet access is specifically needed to work remotely or current Internet access speeds are inadequate for the scope of remote work, then management may have to plan for and bear some of the costs for residential Internet access.

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Are AU-owned workstations insured in the event of loss, theft, or damage?

AU does not insure workstations for replacement, due to loss, theft, or damage. If an AU-owned workstation is lost or stolen, your department will be responsible for purchasing a replacement.

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When people on my staff are working remotely, what tools do you recommend to help us keep in touch?

The type of work being performed will largely dictate what makes sense for your group. We recommend that you set expectations for the initial period of working remotely, such as how many times per day or week a staff member should contact you by phone, e-mail, or instant message to check in or update you on their progress. Most likely, a mix of phone calls, e-mail messages, and instant messages will work best. Be sure to review your communication expectations periodically, especially if you have concerns about the staff member's progress.

Please contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp for a consultation on available tools.

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Are guidelines available regarding the type of equipment my staff member will need to work remotely?

OIT recommends that you and your staff member closely analyze the work they perform, the essential tools of their work, and how those tools will either be taken off site by the staff member, or procured elsewhere. Any AU-owned equipment taken off site should be thoroughly described and documented in the remote work plan, including serial and service tag numbers.

Please contact the IT Help Desk at 202-885-2550, helpdesk@american.edu, or AskAmericanUHelp for a consultation if you have questions about what type of technology equipment an employee may need to work remotely.

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