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In recent posts, we covered various facets of flexible work arrangements and trending technologies that are helping Security and Network Administrators answer the call for better performing, more secure corporate networks. We’ve also covered priorities for equipping remote employees. Our Guide to Preparing for a Remote Workforce, which you can access on the same page, dives into Virtual Workforce topics for business leaders.
With more employees working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, IT administrators have had to tackle a variety of challenges at greater volume and velocity than in years past. Being able to remotely manage employees in a safe, efficient way has become crucial for many companies. Using reliable communication tools and enabling all team members to save time and upgrade efficiency simultaneously may seem difficult, but it’s possible.
Having discussed the topic of remote work management with dozens of corporate execs and managers over the last several months, we’ve seen a common set of challenges emerge. Here are the top five challenges of managing remote employees.
- Security on a residential broadband network. This has always been a challenge, as a personal home network tends to be less secure than any corporate network. While the threats come from a variety of sources, let’s focus on a couple home network challenges that have emerged more recently. The first is the rise of Internet of Things IoT devices. Simply put, these devices are hard to secure. And their makers may not have had security concerns top of mind when they designed them. That baby monitor, security system camera, smart speaker, or app-connected garage door opener could leave a hole in your home network for a hacker to exploit. If you want to remotely manage your employees and keep all data safe, you must secure every network component.
The second emerging home network security challenge is the fact that more people in the family are relying on it for more things. Adults are working from home. Kids are learning from home. And as a result the number of apps and websites we’re accessing - and the inherent security risks - have increased exponentially. Susie unknowingly clicked a link that downloaded a virus. It spread from her laptop to yours over your home network. When you connected to the corporate network to upload a file, the virus infected your company network. Not great, obviously! With more employees working from home, the risk to corporate IT resources and data balloons.
Corporate network security policies should offer safeguards. What are yours? Probably the easiest and most cost effective available today: give all your remote workers access to a VPN.
- Application performance on a residential-grade network. Despite widespread high-speed access, there are residential areas that have yet to catch up. Subpar broadband is seldom a match for bandwidth-intensive ‘As-a-Service’ solutions that many companies rely on today. In particular, Voice over IP performs best when running on a stable, fairly fast connection, especially when users want to collaborate in multiple ways simultaneously during a web call: share their screen while holding a video call, for example. As discussed in our last article, administrators are finding that they can solve this issue for power users such as remote working executives by deploying an SD-WAN device. When combined with a secondary broadband connection such as wireless, the SD-WAN manages and balances traffic optimally and failover, if needed, automatically.
- Public WiFi. It’s convenient and ubiquitous, but risky, that free public wireless connection down at the coffee shop, airport, or train station. We’ve all seen the warning: ‘Information you send and receive may be visible to others.’ But that doesn’t mean people have to end their digital nomad lifestyles. Again the solution chosen by many network administrators that remotely manage their teams is to have employees connect to a VPN while using a public network. The VPN creates a secure connection that helps protect the user’s and their computer’s identity and data.
- Device-level protection. U.S. households have an average of 11 connected devices. Consider laptops, tablets, smartphones, and IOT devices such as personal assistants/smart speakers. Some of these have a lot fewer security measures in place than others. And while stories of data stolen from purloined devices have dominated headlines, another problem lurks in the shadows: these devices connect to the home network, which a hacker could exploit via one of these less secure devices. Despite being among the least secure devices, smartphones are nevertheless commonly used for work, and can create an attack surface for the corporate network. Solutions exist to help safeguard the network and the devices that connect to it. Microsoft InTune is one example of a solution that gives workers the freedom to use the devices and apps they like, while safeguarding corporate resources.
- Secure connections to headquarters, data centers, SaaS, and multi-clouds. In our last article, we talked about the widespread adoption of software as a service and the broad dispersal of computing and network infrastructure across branch locations, data centers, and cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google. Accelerated by the pandemic-induced rise in remote workers, these computing trends have introduced or exacerbated security risks and network performance challenges. For one or two office locations, it was relatively easy to consolidate security solutions and protocols. With people and resources spread out, though, security has become a bit more like the wild, wild west. The solution of choice for many companies we work with has been SD-WAN coupled with next gen firewalls.
We’ve all navigated challenges coming our way at ‘warp speed’, with a few wormholes thrown in to throw us off our bearings. But we're still here despite dramatic changes in how different work, life, network access, and security look today than they did a year—or even six months—ago. The duties of a manager should include finding a way for all employees to deliver their services efficiently even if they work remotely.
Bogged down by the demands of supporting a virtual workforce and managing remote teams?
For decades, we’ve helped business and IT leaders design, deploy, and manage technology solutions for the workplace. Remote worker management comes with several challenges, but our specialists know how to help you overcome each of them. We’d love to talk about your needs and how we could help enhance your productivity.