How to Support Remote Workers With a Secure IT Working From Home Plan
The mass exodus of the office caused by COVID-19 has put a huge strain on the IT infrastructures of many UK businesses. Of course, remote working did exist in the pre coronavirus world, but gone are the days when it was just the exec team working from home in the latter part of the week. Now it’s the whole company for the entire week.
While some people are itching to get back into the office for some much-needed human contact, some reports suggest as many as 9/10 people now working from home want to continue doing so in some capacity. And with productivity levels remaining stable, there’s no reason not to. Therefore, remote working may well be ‘the new normal’ and that means your IT infrastructure needs to be able to support a large remote workforce.
So, let’s find out exactly how to improve your work from home infrastructure to support remote workers effectively.
The main aim of supporting your remote workforce is to create a business-as-usual environment where employees can seamlessly access secured servers and go about their day-to-day activities without any hiccups. You will have a fixed bandwidth capacity with your service provider. If this remains unchanged it can easily be overloaded if there is a surge in remote workers accessing your private network to share large files, host video conferences, and share presentations.
There are ways to manage bandwidth usage. Some companies have taken to staggering work hours and using audio conferencing instead of video conferencing to reduce bandwidth consumption. However, inevitably there will be days when usage spikes. So, we recommend speaking to your service provider and if there is a risk of overloading the system, increase the fixed capacity to avoid any issues.
There is greater exposure to risk and vulnerability with a large remote workforce. This is because laptops, mobiles and tablets that are remotely connected to corporate networks create vulnerable pathways into otherwise secure systems. The more remote employees you have, the more weaknesses you have. So, it is paramount to tighten protocols and processes to ensure end-point security measures are present to protect employee devices from threats.
You must provide access to a secure VPN so that there are no unencrypted connections for hackers to intercept. Make sure that your employees know how to use the VPN so that your servers stay safe, and so they don’t lose any time trying to access important information stored on your network.
This one almost goes without saying but you will need to make sure all of your employees have access to the technology they need to work effectively from home. This includes laptops, keyboards, mobiles, an internet connection, and maybe a second screen.
While the must obvious, this can be the most difficult to arrange on short notice if you have a workforce that normally uses desktops that are located in your office. For example, when a deadly virus forces the whole country to work from home overnight… If you don’t have all of the equipment you need, using an outsourced IT department can help you.
As well as making sure that your corporate networks are healthy and secure, you also need to make sure that you consider the well-being of your remote workforce. Video conferencing and collaboration tools will help your team to stay connected with one another.
Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype are all types of video conferencing software that can facilitate your remote workers staying connected. The fact that they can see each other face to face is another way you can create a business-as-usual environment while your workers are absent from the office. This will help to boost the mood of your employees, which will in turn, improve productivity levels. It’s a win-win.
Collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams give your employees a dynamic platform that allows everyone to share ideas instantly and move forward with work quickly. It’s unlikely businesses will ever go back to just using emails as many companies have reported increases in productivity since using these types of collaboration tools.
It is important, however, to implement acceptable use policies for employees using collaboration tools as there is an increased risk of private data and information being shared outside of your protected network. You can use two-step authentication processes to ensure only permitted users gain access to your Slack or Teams dashboard. Also creating smaller groups that are set up to discuss specific projects or workflows will help keep your data and information in the hands of only those who need it.
Network access controls (NACs) should be implemented to ensure the authentication of employees as they log into secured networks. NACs also manage individual access to data needed for specific job roles. For example, someone from HR doesn’t need access to the finance server and your systems should be able to identify who’s HR and who’s finance. Access controls ensure that employees don’t waste time searching through servers irrelevant to them and adds another layer of protection to your data.
The use of NACs becomes particularly important when managing access from additional devices like mobiles, tablets, smartwatches, and other IoT devices that are potentially more vulnerable to attack. Using NACs allows you to set configurations and rules for each type of device connecting to your network. For example, you could block all android phones or all devices that are not running the latest anti-virus software. This level of granular control will go a long way in keeping your networks secure.
Your in-house or outsourced IT department will need to be prepared for more regular and more thorough systems testing to ensure reliability. Additionally, increasing the availability of support is a good idea to cover for the inevitable hiccups that occur when rolling out mass remote working systems.
You will need to conduct realistic, reliable and repeatable tests in a variety of scenarios. Your employees won’t just be accessing the servers from within your corporate network anymore. Some will live in urban areas, while others will live in remote villages. So, you will need to test against varying Wi-Fi speeds, mobile connections, cabled connections and wide-area networks to understand how your systems work in all of these conditions. This will help you to understand the performance of remote working systems for all types of employees and will help to identify any problems that might occur.
Troubleshooting and providing support can be difficult at the best of times and becomes more difficult when your workers are all over the place. It’s important that you set up remote access capabilities and real-time monitoring systems when troubleshooting remote devices. This will help you to get you to identify and solve problems as quickly as possible to get your employees back to work fast. Using an outsourced IT department is a great way to deal with the increased support needed when managing a remote workforce.
It’s unclear exactly how long Coronavirus restrictions will force people to work from home. However, all the data suggests that even when offices open back up, a significant portion of the UK’s workforce will continue working from home in some capacity. Therefore, it’s important to invest the time and money required to make sure that your IT infrastructure stays protected and works efficiently. As well as making sure employees stay productive and connected with their colleagues to look after their well-being while working remotely. If you need help supporting your remote workforce feel free to contact us and we can make a plan together to make remote working possible for your business.
Originally published Apr 8, 2021 01:19:19 PM, updated June 11 2021