TECH INSIGHTS: Is Your IT Ready to Support Remote Work?
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.
Your organization may be asking itself a question it’s never asked before: what do we do if our employees need to work remotely?
Some organizations may already have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place that promotes business continuity. However, many do not. The rising impact of Coronavirus is forcing organizations to explore and test Business Continuity plans or suffer the consequences of not having one.
The reality is that enabling employees to work from home demands a lot from your technology and organization. But there are a few questions that will help you and your IT partner get this process started.
What will your employees work on?
Organizations that already issue laptops or other mobile devices as an employee’s primary workstation are in good shape have a leg up already. If that’s not the case, then you will need to explore alternatives.
Bring work desktops home
Moving and setting these up at employees’ homes may be a challenge. But it can also simplify other security and access issues. For many organizations, this is the best choice.
Implement a remote access solution
There are a multitude of solutions – ranging from software to allow remote control of an office PC to full-fledged remote access solutions.
Work on personal computers
While often a simple solution, it can raise significant security concerns and access issues. We’ll cover more on both of those below.
Issue spare laptops to take home
It’s unlikely this will work for your entire staff but can be part of a larger solution.
Short term laptop rentals or leases
This is the last resort, but if you rent from a reputable vendor it can be part of the solution.
How will they do work?
Employees need access to the organization’s data and applications. This means email, documents, files and software to do the required daily tasks.
Ideally, you already have a cloud-based option in place like SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Docs. Without a cloud-based option, you’ll need to explore other options.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be used by smaller organizations, but a larger staff will likely experience bandwidth issues.
Remote access software like Splashtop, Zoho Assist, and others offer a compelling solution. It does raise a few cybersecurity questions, but with proper measures in place, this proves to be a strong option.
How will they communicate?
Phones will need to be redirected or brought home. If you have a VoIP system, this should be a fairly easy task. Keep in mind you may need additional equipment like a power supply when bringing the phone home. However, you could also redirect incoming calls to a mobile phone or you may even have mobile applications employees may download on their smartphones.
You’ll also want to ensure a communication and collaboration platform is available. Microsoft Teams is a strong all-in-one solution. Employees may store documents, chat with one another, host video calls, and more in this cloud-based solution.
Zoom and WebEx are also great options to help teams communicate and feel connected through video chats. WebEx even has a guide for employees new to remote working.
If you and your team need tips on communicating well while working from home, LinkedIn has 16 of its Remote Working training sessions free as a response to the Coronavirus crisis.
What are the security risks?
There are new cybersecurity challenges that come along with working from home. Things to keep in mind:
- Remote devices, such as home computers, are outside the organization’s managed security boundary and don't always have the same protections in place.
- Employees working from home computers need to make sure they have applied security updates and are working on supported, modern operating systems.
- Home computers often lack quality antivirus software. Organizations should be prepared to provide antivirus software to employees if they expect them to use personal devices.
- Home computers are often shared with others who may not follow safe computing practices.
- Personal email is subject to phishing attacks and often doesn’t have the same protections as enterprise email solutions.
- A compromised home computer can be just as much of a threat to your data as a system sitting on the network.
- Employees should be encouraged to make sure home WIFI, routers, and firewalls are running the latest updates.
That’s a lot to consider on the security front. That’s why it’s helpful to have a solution that’s thought out and planned for in advance.
The cloud shines in supporting business continuity. We have a solution many of our clients enjoy that leverages Citrix to provide cloud-hosted desktops. This enables employees to have the same desktop experience anywhere they have an Internet connection. Employees have the same level of secure access to applications, files, and data at home as they do at work.
Since the computer in this case just serves as a terminal, the computing happens inside the organization’s security boundary. It dramatically reduces the security risk, improves access, and minimizes confusion.
A cloud-hosted desktop is not the only option for maintaining business continuity. If you’d like a true IT partner to help you understand your options, fill out the form below. We’ll then set up an initial meeting to get the conversation started.
About Joe Howland
Joe has been in the IT industry for over 20 years and has extensive IT management experience that spans multiple industries. A UCLA grad with a degree in Mathematics Computation with a Computer Specialization, he worked with Computer Sciences Corporation for 10 years supporting defense and financial sector contracts. Joe joined VC3 in 2009 and during his time with VC3, Joe has performed in the role of Virtual CIO for some of VC3’s largest government customers. Joe is currently VC3’s Chief Information Security Officer and is responsible for VC3’s IT security as well as advising on security for VC3’s customers.
VC3 is a leading managed services provider focused on municipal government. Founded in 1994 with offices across the east coast, VC3 forms partnerships with municipalities to achieve their technology goals and harness their data. In addition to providing comprehensive managed IT solutions, VC3 offers cybersecurity, website design, custom application development, and business intelligence services. Visit www.vc3.com to learn more.