Coronavirus (COVID-19) has left many workforces scrambling to rapidly move operations from an office environment to a remote setting.
If you have largely moved core business systems to the cloud and have a workforce that is equipped with laptops and/or mobile devices, then you are likely in a strong position to fully utilize the tools at your disposal.
However, if your business utilizes on-premise servers and your core applications rely on the office network, working remote is still feasible. There are just a few more steps needed.
Access to Key Business Systems
If your core business systems run on servers at your office, you will need to make sure you have a VPN (virtual private network) that allows your staff to securely connect from remote locations to their needed applications in the same way they would in the office. It helps if your staff has laptops with the applications installed so they can simply connect from home.
It is possible to allow users to use their personal home machines, but there are additional security steps that are recommended (see "Security" below).
Communication and Remote Collaboration
If you are not already using platforms such as Office 365 or Google G Suite, which include tools for email, chat and more, there are many other options to connect people and create a collaborative environment. Applications such as Teams, Hangouts, or Slack provide the capability to somewhat replicate the experience of being in the office—organized meetings, quick one-to-one chats, or sharing data and information. These programs are easy to install. Platforms such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box all allow for secure sharing of files.
These tools are essential for communication and give staff an easy way to stay connected with their colleagues and teams. There are mobile versions of these applications for those without laptops or who primarily work outside.
When moving to a more distributed workforce, security should be an elevated concern. There will be greater threats from phishing, scam phone calls, and texts. Thus, IT teams should ensure their devices are using the latest versions of malware scanners and anti-virus protection. Users should be trained on common red flags and how to verify requests and attachments before opening them, including that they are coming from a known source.
If your business relies on staff using their personal computers at home, it is critical they implement appropriate safety steps first. Before connecting to your VPN, each computer should have the latest version of the operating system installed and configured to apply updates automatically. If using Windows, keep in mind that Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft, which means there are no ongoing patches or security updates. Your remote staff should use Windows 8 or Windows 10 with the latest updates. In addition to updates, ensure security software such as malware scanning and virus scanning is running to confirm each machine is free of known infections. Once installed, these programs should run on a consistent basis thereafter to ensure computers remain free of malware. If you do not have scanning software, Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender and the latest version is comparable in protection to other solutions. Other options such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, F-Secure and Trend Micro are all good options and typically provide more features. MalwareBytes is a good solution for malware scanning and contains options for free usage.
Effectively working remotely goes beyond technology. Coordinate short daily meetings (standups) between staff that work closely together to get caught up on what was done yesterday, what will be focused on today, and if there are any barriers to progress. This keeps people focused, creates achievable goals, and quickly identifies necessary priority shifts.
We are in unprecedented times. These are some short-term steps that can be taken to ensure that your staff is as productive as possible now. However, it is good to evaluate your capabilities to support remote work in the future and establish a foundation that will continue to support your business as you grow.
Unfortunately, the need to work remotely may arise again and those who are prepared will benefit. Our technology experts can offer a complimentary consultation to assess your needs. It may be too late to get all these items in place for the current disruption, but they can help you create a plan to build a remote environment for future use and make progress now.