Remote work can be productive and secure

Today, people around the world have to change dramatically their working practices and ways to manage teams of colleagues who work remotely. Fortunately, in our time, technology for full-fledged remote work not only exist, but also are also affordable, like never before.

Questions with the organization of remote work belong to two subjects – technology and psychology. Psychological, organizational points are very important and interesting, but I will not consider them. I would like to outline the main technology points that need to be taken into account in order to begin remote work as quickly as possible and at the same time maintain the productivity, security and team spirit of your business at a level no worse than with ordinary office work.

Hardware

The first thing a remote employee needs is a computer. If your employees use laptops, there are no problems. However, if people sit at desktops in the office, you have to decide what exactly employees are allowed to do on their personal computers that you have no control over. It can only be working with mail and participating in online conferences, or it can be full access to corporate resources. In any case, employees should understand the need to install on their personal PCs the latest security updates, antiviruses with current updates, the correct settings for their home wireless network (strong passwords, encryption, network hiding). And they have to understand their responsibility for this.

If working with personal devices is unacceptable in general for security reasons, I think the decision to purchase company-owned laptops will be just right. Yes, it requires investment, but you get fully managed and secure hosts. You can even control labor productivity on a remote site using special tools such as Softline Stakhanovets. But employees get convenient, pre-configured computers for work. Which they do not need to share with family members who also stay at home. Calculate how much the performance reduction will cost, for example, by 30% and compare with the cost of a laptop.

Another good option may be to publish on VDI desktops or specific applications for work. This is good from the point of view of security, but requires readiness of the infrastructure to increase the number of connections.

Without personal meetings, there will be many times more calls and conferences. Distorted sound at the conference is one of the most common problems. It is best to buy high-quality headsets for all employees (and do not forget to check their performance).

IT readiness

If the company-owned laptops of all employees is not your scenario, you will have to organize VPN and a remote administration tool such as TeamViewer. Not everyone can cope with the installation and configuration of software, so help from your IT specialists will be required, moreover, remote help.

In general, at first, the load on IT services can increase, and the helpdesk will be loaded with complaints about failures in the remote connection, setting up video conferencing, etc. The thing that will help is the readiness of clear and understandable manuals for work with certain services, applications and systems, but anyway your technical support will have difficult days, and they should be prepared for this.

Another important point is whether your infrastructure is ready to serve the growing number of remote connections? Are server capacities sufficient? Will the current Internet channel withstand the load? Do you have enough VPN licenses? All of these issues require verification and a very quick solution if you are not ready.

Another point concerns telephony. Even if everyone works at home, someone should answer the main phone number of your company. If you have not yet taken measures to service incoming calls by remote employees, it's time to do it.

Security

When work goes beyond the boundaries of protected perimeters, security issues arise. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between what needs to be protected firmly and uncompromisingly, and what is not necessary. For example, if an employee only participates in chats and calls where there is no confidential information, it makes no sense to force him to log in with VPN. It is also not always necessary to keep all applications behind the VPN, in many situations a properly configured Web Application Firewall is sufficient and the application is properly tested by vulnerability scanners or pentests.

But where security is critical, mass remote work requires protection from specific threats related to remote access. There are many of them, and I will not list them here. I can only say that in a situation where it is necessary to switch to remote work quickly, a realistic assessment and the preparation of the correct scenario are best done by an external auditor with high security competencies and developed industry expertise such as Softline.

And one more thing: in the daily monitoring of the security of infrastructure with mass remote access, in many cases it will be optimal to use cybersecurity services such as DLP as a service, SOC as a service provided by a qualified and responsible external provider.

Communication and collaboration

It makes no sense to talk a lot about everyday collaboration tools, everyone already knows and use tools like Office 365 or G Suite every day. I would like to note only two points. First, licensing O365 can easily be extended to personal computers. Secondly, I want to draw your attention to the Teams tool, which has proved to be an excellent alternative to other collaboration environments and is gaining popularity.

Learning

Distance learning for employees has long been a cheap and convenient alternative to traditional in-class learning, and for home office workers it becomes the only possible option. Softline Education has long been developing distance learning and currently offers not just online training courses, but can build a full-fledged electronic corporate university. It is possible to deploy a distance learning center in a public or private cloud with a large number of courses on various topics, testing, training control, analytics in a matter of days, and at an affordable price.


Remote work can be very successful. Many people work from home even more productively than in the office. Software and hardware manufacturers talked a lot about the ability to work “anywhere, anytime, from any device,” and now it's time for all of us to test this in practice.

 

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Sergey Cheronovolenko
Softline GLOBAL CEO

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