It has the ability to dramatically slash overheads as well as increase productivity. It's therefore no surprise that the remote workforce is growing rapidly.

This growth is being fuelled by changing technology, which is allowing users to be just as productive at home as they would be in the office.

Here's how Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system can help smaller businesses looking to work remotely:

1.VPN

Windows 8 comes with built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN) support. It is ultra-secure, encrypting your internet traffic and protecting company data while enabling you to remotely access systems, such as home networks, on the move.

Using Windows 8, small businesses have the ability to trigger VPN connections through an app.

The VPN in Windows 8 is also optimised to use with touch devices, making it easy to work on the go, whether using a tablet, smartphone or laptop.

2.Office 365

Cloud is an essential tool for any remote worker: it gives users the ability to connect and collaborate from anywhere, at anytime. With Microsoft Office 365, documents are saved to the cloud by default and you can share them by simply sending a link. Office can be used when away from your computer via Office on Demand.

It's seamless across devices, from laptops through to smartphones and tablets. Once you've chosen your Windows 8 devices made by vendors such as Dell, Office 365 is simple to deploy and manage with an easy-to-use, web-based admin console.

3.Video conferencing/Skype

Face-to-face contact is an essential part of day-to-day interactions but when employees are working remotely, it can sometimes be forgotten.

This needn't be the case: services such as Skype allow face-to-face conversations between management and employees as well as employees and clients. It's also free to use, cutting the cost of expensive international calls.