Scaling up your remote working capacity in 2020

2020 certainly has been a year for business transformation. With bushfires in our local regions and the onset of the Covid-19 locally and across the globe, working from home has become a 2020 norm.

The technologies that enable most of us to transition to a work-from-home environment have existed for years. Yet large scale business adoption of these technologies and solutions only accelerated as we retreated to our homes through Australia’s autumn and winter months, to minimised the spread of Covid19 infection.

According to Gartner, 88 per cent of companies have encouraged or required employees to work from home in 2020. That is an exceptional up-scaling of work from home technology.

The majority of employee’s home technology was not designed to support this scenario. This is especially the case when all members of the household on online at the same time; two parents working, and a few kids engaged (!) in online learning.

Needless to say, the preparedness to respond to these work-from-home requirements has been a wake up call for businesses of all sizes and persuasions.

So against this backdrop, what are the ways that businesses can continue to optimise their investment in this mobile infrastructure and keep their teams engaged as they work securely and productively from their living rooms, home offices and kitchens?

We’ve put together a list of top tips to keep you ahead of the game.

1. Now is not the time to try something unknown

The middle of a pandemic is time to stabilize your workplace. Thus with so much uncertainty for both employers and employees, the most important element in scaling up your remote working ability, securely, is to reduce uncertainty wherever possible.

That is not to say you can’t be thinking ahead to your future strategy, especially given your business requirements have likely changed. However, in setting up your employees securely at home, stick with the solutions that are tried and tested.

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are a good way to enable secure tunnelling and provide a level of secure connectivity so businesses can trust users who would normally not be able to access critical apps on their private Wi-Fi networks.

When using VPNs it is important to ensure your systems are fully patched and that you have systems in place to monitor access and potential breaches. Ensure security logs are available to your monitoring teams so that there are more eyes looking out for issues.

Additionally, be aware of device management options through endpoint security services. You can disable USB ports on laptops or mandate malware protection on tablets or phones to reduce the risk of a security breach.

2. User authentication is vital

These days, it’s not unusual for people to own multiple devices and accounts across different service providers. This can make it difficult to monitor and manage each individual. Yet being able to identify and authenticate your users is a vital first step to mitigating risk.

Gone are the days of relying solely on usernames and passwords, which can be hacked or stolen; it is essential that businesses use multi-factor authentication as an added layer of security.

Monitor your user behaviour as much as possible, to promote a security-focused mindset across your business. Monitoring should be able to identify when a user logs in across multiple devices in different locations, and alert you to potentially suspicious activity.

When relying on your workforce to work remotely, it is also important to have the ability to quickly fix any security incidents. One suggestion is to use your cloud infrastructure and SaaS solutions as a central source of identity, through which you can disable accounts quickly if needed.

3. Get set up for remote support

Remote working also changes the way your staff access desktop support from IT teams, which can impact their ability to work.
Enabling remote support is essential to ensure the user experience remain the same. Getting set up with an online ticketing system that enables staff to prioritise their level of help is an essential first step.

4. Create a cyber-security culture with your staff

These days, even the most secure infrastructure can be breached by one person inadvertently clicking on a phishing email. Ultimately, your business is only as secure as your weakest link.

Creating a culture where staff are trained in and have a keen eye for cyber security threats is as important today as installing all the infrastructure security available.

Staff awareness is especially important now that great numbers of people are working from home and hackers are taking advantage of the uncertainty driven by the coronavirus.

Many businesses have found that employees have been more understanding of increase security, training and change at this time, as they realise that to work differently means accepting both the benefits and challenges of that change.

5. Find your balance between security and productivity

We have often seen employees create their own work-around solutions to get work done, which can be one of the biggest risks to your businesses.

When the infrastructure your employees rely on to do their work and remain connected is not running well, it is not uncommon for people to turn to another option such as a messenger program (WhatsApp, Slack) or via their home email.

All of these services are beyond your security stack and beyond your ability to monitor. Yet staff will often suggest that these solutions enable to increase productivity in a remote work environment.

It’s critical that you get the balance between security and productivity right to mitigate use of shadow IT, and a fully embedded security culture is the key to managing this.

6. Start working on your future strategy  

The enforced adoption of remote working has seen businesses of all sizes and sectors scramble to ensure security, collaboration, productivity and performance, for their infrastructure and their people.

Yet, we have also seen many businesses adopt requisite technologies in haste while overlooking the security as a key factor. For these businesses, it is essential to review their solutions periodically or risk being vulnerable to future security breaches.

While working from home has become more comfortable for most people, it’s also important to remember this pandemic won’t last forever.
That’s why we need to begin planning for what happens next. Right now, businesses have a great opportunity to get their systems and our cultures right to enable a more productive, safe and empowered business in the future.

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