As companies and individuals seek to slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and comply with orders to stay at home as much as possible, working from home is becoming the new normal for those who can do their jobs remotely.
If your business wasn’t already prepared to accommodate a distributed workforce, getting up to speed – including the deployment of secure solutions that allow your team members to work from home and stay productive without exposing your data – can prove difficult.
It’s especially important to ensure your employees can access all the apps and network resources they need to fulfill their professional obligations without creating new points of vulnerability that cybercriminals can potentially exploit. For instance, some organizations have turned to Zoom for video conferencing capabilities, but the app presents some serious IT security concerns: One of those is its vulnerability to UNC path injection via chat, which opens up the possibility of malicious actors stealing end users’ credentials, according to Bleeping Computer.
Ultimately, it is possible to rapidly get your staff set up to work remote while maintaining high levels of data security. Just keep the following recommendations in mind:
1. Implement proper controls for mobile devices.
Your team can use mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets and laptops to work from home. However, you should implement proper cybersecurity controls. For instance, laptops should have proper device encryption. For smartphones and other mobile devices, we recommend using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution.
We’ve noticed more businesses allowing their team members to utilize whatever computing means they have on hand to ensure they don’t skip a beat when transitioning to remote work. However, using home devices poses serious IT security risks. When home/personal devices are associated with your business network, you must maintain the same controls and processes that you would have in place for a business device. For example, does the machine have anti-virus software, endpoint Managed Detection and Response (MDR), anti-malware, and the latest patches installed (to name a few)?
2. Evaluate all your internet service options.
Home internet connections have become oversubscribed, as a growing number of home workers seek to increase their speeds to share with their kids who are also home from school and daycare. Internet providers have extended free Wi-Fi, which is saturating their networks even more.
Home internet services have no service level agreement in case issues arise. Have you ever thought what you would do if your home connection experienced performance problems or went down entirely? We’ve heard horror stories: If your cable was cut, home connection repairs could take seven to 14 days.
As a result, you might want to look into business connections, which provide a less shared experience and come with better response times if performance issues arise. Taking this one step further, have you tested if your cell phone could act as a mobile hot spot? Or, for business-critical positions and executive roles (CEO, CFO, CIO, CISO, CMO, COO and so on), have you provided a hot spot backup?
3. Make the move to cloud solutions.
As companies seek to give their staff members access to vital resources from anywhere, we’ve seen an increase in reliance on and expansion of cloud solutions like Microsoft Office 365 (O365). A good amount of small businesses have made the move to leverage the Office productivity suite and email. However, utilizing Teams for collaboration and audio/video and conferencing has also become extremely popular. Additionally, you can also get more out of your O365 ecosphere while maintaining optimal levels of security by sharing files via OneDrive and SharePoint.
4. Evaluate your phone system and find ways to accommodate remote workers.
Extending your telephone system to home workers has proven challenging for some organizations. If you still use an on-premise phone system, you might be on an older release that doesn’t allow you to set up home workers. As a result, you might try to enable remote call forwarding.
Our telephony engineers have been getting very creative to help with those kinds of issues. Setting up SIP servers to connect to cloud feature servers is a common way to address remote work needs. If you’re on current release, you can enable those technologies in such a way that end users’ cell phones can have apps on them that allow those working at home to connect securely over the internet by leveraging SIP terminating to Session Border Controller, providing voice firewall features.
For those who work from home consistently, we’ve found a physical desk phone is helpful, assuming the employee in question has a hard-wired home environment. Additionally, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions have become extremely popular, as we can spin them up in no time without the need for desk phones.
5. Set up physical security solutions to keep your facilities safe while you aren’t there.
For businesses that are following stay-at-home orders and/or have only a handful of staff at their facilities, there are physical security products available that can help you oversee your property from a distance. For instance, IP cameras can be easily set up to ensure your headquarters stays safe. You can keep an eye on machinery, technology or inventory, if needed, assuming you don’t have individuals on-site handling security.
In addition, alarm systems have gained popularity as a way to ensure your facility is monitored 24/7. Lastly, key fobs are an excellent tool for allowing individuals into your facility without meeting them on-site. Other useful solutions include smart devices, such as HVAC, AC controls, temperature monitors and so on.
6. Prepare to troubleshoot common performance issues.
If you have a large number of remote workers accessing technologies at your HQ, then you might run into performance issues, if you didn’t build out your facility with a 100-percent remote team in mind.
Internet providers have introduced aggressive promotions to increase bandwidth and expedite turn-around time. Unfortunately, most of them might need to install different equipment to accommodate higher speeds. This holds true for your firewall as well, as you’ll most likely need to replace it.
We recommend talking to a handful of key individuals within your organization to assess the performance of applications, file storage and so on. You could uncover a number of performance issues this way. Here are some examples of common sources of trouble you might find yourself dealing with:
A. Home workers are sharing internet with other individuals at home and nearby.
B. The internet-accessing core technologies were never designed to handle a completely remote team.
C. Your solutions are bogged down. App and service providers have experienced a surge in subscribers and haven’t had time to catch up, in terms of infrastructure improvements.
7. Ensure you have an up-to-date disaster recovery plan.
When is the last time you reviewed your disaster recovery plans? The transition to everyone working from home could either simplify or complicate your strategy, depending on your systems, applications and infrastructure. We recommend reviewing your infrastructure to ensure you are covered now that most workers are remote. Have you checked your backups?
If you have questions about any of these recommendations or need assistance setting up work-from-home capabilities, we’d be happy to help in any way we can. You can get in touch with us by calling 877-599-3999 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.