Since COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic, hundreds of millions of employees from organizations around the world have been working from home.
Although many companies already had work-from-home options for their staff, the pandemic has made working from home a necessity, not an option.
When working from home, it’s essential that you have access to all of the necessary tools that you would use in an office setting – most notably, IT tools.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind while working remotely.
Access to Office Files
Most remote workers still need access to files that are stored on office computers, either their desktop systems or servers inside the office.
Most companies globally have not moved their entire operations and all their data to the cloud. Several technologies make this possible. For example VPN (virtual private network) applications, and remote desktop applications, such as LogMeIn.
Too many remote teams and workers rely on technologies like VPN. These technologies first made remote work feasible. However, given the constantly increasing need to connect remotely, VPN and Remote Desktops are no longer ready for prime time.
The reason is that they depend on hardware devices like desktop computers and firewalls, to be always up and running and error-free. But hardware and the software running on it will eventually fail or become corrupted, lose power. Then it becomes necessary to send a tech on-site, and the business is depending on that.
Microsoft 365 and Sharepoint, or G Suite, or other remote office platforms are the most straightforward way to give employees reliable, secure remote access to company files.
Faster is better. Video conferencing, big data, and collaboration applications have driven the need for fast internet. Now it’s basic for business.
Hi-speed cable (e.g.,100 Mbps and faster) is becoming more and more affordable and should be sufficient for most streaming video, video conferencing, and collaboration applications.
Popular but much much faster, and of course more expensive is Fiber (fiber optic). Such as cable, it is bundled with telephone and TV services.
For home users, fast internet has two components: (1) how fast the signal gets from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to your home; and (2) how fast the signal gets from the ISP equipment in your home, wirelessly to your computer.
It slows down considerably in the wireless connection to your computer. In many homes, poor wireless performance is the biggest bottleneck. To get the best possible wireless performance in your home, consider implementing a “mesh network.” There are several affordable mesh network solutions available for consumers today.
Home Computer Management
Millions of remote workers are using home computers. Generally, they are not up-to-date (in terms of software releases and security patches), are not backed up, and can’t be secured. They are more vulnerable to internet security threats and may pose a threat to the entire company network.
A recent alternative for remote workers is VDI, also known as Virtual Desktop. This technology provides users with not a physical but virtual, purely software computer, which can be opened with any browser anywhere. This solution is very secure and manageable, but also expensive on smaller scales (smaller numbers of employees).
A more reasonable approach is company-issued laptops. Companies don’t want to manage user’s home systems. They are a security risk and hard to support. Support and security are well worth the cost of the laptop. Company computers benefit both home workers and the company.
Many businesses assume that their VPN is secure. In fact, VPN provides a secure tunnel from your home network to your office network. But if a home computer with a virus connects to another network, nothing prevents the virus from spreading to the office network. Insecure home systems are a threat to the company network.
Advice to remote workers on home systems
If a company computer is not provided, take charge of your security and data protection with these basic guidelines:
- Create a reliable daily computer backup
- Install a current version of a leading antivirus software provider (Norton, McAfee).
- Make sure your computer software is always up to date
- Take Cyberber-awareness training such as Knowbe4 to be aware of current phishing threats.
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It is hard to overstate the importance of a designated workspace for work-at-home efficiency. Of course, this is not always possible. Millions of us live in small apartments and don’t have room for a separate office or workspace.
Indeed, the definition of workspace has expanded to require video-readiness, with lighting and sound control. In most apartments, there are very few options to set up a permanent, sound-controlled, camera-ready environment. But it remains optimal because there are so many variables now in any given business interaction.
Once upon a time you just had to focus on the person you were talking on the phone with. Now you have to sound good, look good, and do an online presentation at the same time. With all these variables you want to settle them once and for all, rather than having to set up and test anew.
Many employers will provide extra monitors, cameras, etc. to help you interact best with colleagues and clients. Businesses have a lot to gain by making their employee’s work environment as friction-free as possible.
If you require outsourced managed IT services or IT-based support for your New York-based business, contact Power Consulting today.