With the looming threat of the coronavirus outbreak, this week marked an unprecedented exodus across offices and corporate buildings across the United States. Tech giants such as Apple and Google are sending employees home to work remotely as a safety precaution after growing concern over the spread of the Covid-19. The Entertainment Industry has come to a screeching halt as many shows with live audiences such as Jimmy Fallon and Ellen have suspended filming in an effort to protect their live viewers as well as studio crew. Many companies have followed suit and suddenly working from home is the latest precautionary quarantine trend.
On March 13th President Trump officially declared a National Emergency to release funds of over 50 billion in federal reserves to aid in fighting Covid-19. On that same evening, members of the House of Representatives came together to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which will provide economic relief to the millions of Americans and their employers who are already feeling the financial effects in the coming months as we ride out the global recession wave.
Does your Company’s Disaster Recovery Plan Include working from home?
There are many challenges of working from home but thanks to technology, companies can continue to thrive in the midst of crisis. If your company is not prepared for the risks of sending their employees to work in environments out of their control, it can have a negative ripple effect in business profitability, productivity, and most of all- IT security.
Having a Disaster Recovery Plan is vital in times like these when so many variables can literally shake a company off it’s foundation. Many of is think of preparing for natural disasters that effect our geographical region. In California- having a disaster recovery plan for earthquakes or damage caused by fires would be standard protocol. For other parts of the country- Disaster Recovery Plans outlining the steps of protecting and restoring business during a flood, tornado, or hurricane would be the norm. However, many businesses have only focused on a partial backup plan for their storage, data, and servers. Many have not prepared for a medical emergency that would put an entire population in quarantine.
The Challenges of Working From Home
Deploying an entire company to work from home seems like it would just require everyone to have a laptop and they can hop on to their emails and keep working. Many people don’t realize there is a massive technological backbone to their company’s productivity- both seen and unseen. Aside from the obvious challenges of staying focused and having the space to dedicate to work from home, deploying this technology in a non-office environment can put a strain on everyone’s sanity.
Working From Home Often Requires Employees to Bring Their Own Device
It’s easy to assume that most people have their own laptops or desktop computers at home. In fact, 76% of American households own both a desktop and laptop computer. Thirty-six percent own a smartphone, tablet, and computer. Chances are, your employees will have at least one device they can use to keep connected and working through the murky days of the coronavirus outbreak. However, just because they have a B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device) doesn’t mean they will have the technology standards of your company in mind while working from home.
Buying new company provided laptops may not be a realistic option.
Maybe you think you can supply your staff with new laptops and call it good. That luxury is also waning as thousands of Americans are being sent to work from home. Expecting to walk into your local best buy or mac store to buy whatever they have in-stock is no longer a reality. Since the Coronavirus first broke out in Wuhan, China- supply chain demands on the tech industry have skyrocketed while Chinese manufacturing and production have come to a screeching halt. The demands are far outpacing the supplies- so this means whatever your employee can offer as their work from home device, you may just have to work with it!
Working From Home Can Lead to Less Productivity
We may encounter the normal distractions to keep productivity levels low and procrastination levels high: daytime TV, the constant temptations of a refrigerator stocked with enough food to survive the zombie apocalypse, stir-crazy kids, adorable pets…the list is endless. That closet you never have time to organize suddenly sounds more appealing than sitting on a metal bar stool crouched over a cluttered kitchen counter trying to ‘work.’
Getting frustrated or mentally shutting down is a daily battle. Employees no longer have the IT support at their fingertips; from simple questions to more complex- that chain of command is no longer there to assist when there are technology-related issues. It’s a miserable way to start a workday when an employee can’t get connected to their company’s server or living with the harsh reality that their internet service at home is barely able to handle all the devices connected to the network now that entire families are quarantined together.
Cybersecurity Should Be A Priority While Employees Are Working From Home.
IT Security should be at forefront of both planning and executing a work from home mandate. It doesn’t matter if your organization only has a few employees or several thousand working from home- having your team working remotely can exponentially expose the vulnerability of your organization to a cyberattack. Security protocol while working from home shouldn’t come with the same lax attitude about makeshift ‘home office’ dress code.
It has been said that hackers do not cause security breaches, they just find the weaknesses to easily access information. External networks can be the most susceptible to modifications eavesdropping, and information interception. In other words- a breeding ground for weakness and vulnerability!
IT Security and Support Tips While Working From Home
- Password safety is essential. Make sure employees are practicing any company protocol for password management. If you don’t use a password manager- consider using one now.
- Establish an external network. This network should be a separate network that is dedicated to remote access.
- Use a site-to-site VPN connection.
- Multi-Factor authentication is a must! Employees should have to identify themselves and their credentials through multiple layers to access information.
- Consider using session locking and encryption to protect critical data
- Do not allow employees to configure their own firewalls and anti-malware/anti-virus software. You need to have your Managed Service Provider or IT Support Service do this for them.
- Restrict browser extensions. Any unknown and often unnecessary extensions have tracking codes or can be used to spread malware.
- Consider setting up session time outs on any remote networking connections and automatic screen locks on computers after inactivity.
- Make sure you have end-point detection and response so you can keep tabs on what is happening on your IT systems
- Make sure all mobile devices are equipped with TFA/MFA layers to protect any company data while on the go. Creating a Mobile Device Management policy is essential to secure and protect data in the event of loss or theft.
- Make sure you clear employees working from home with your particular any industry regulators such as HIPAA, FINRA, Etc. if applicable.
- Manage the privileges employees have to certain data. This is foundational for the success of your IT security while your employees are working from home.
- Train employees BEFORE the start working from home so they know how the first defense of IT security for your company starts with them. Now would be a great time to brush up on email phishing scams (especially those specific to the coronavirus) and social engineering attempts to gain access to accounts.
Enable Your Employees To Work From Home With A Managed Service Provider
The best way to control these factors and have the most successful work from home transition is to make sure you have a stellar Managed Service Provider. Even if you have internal IT support, the demands on the few people to serve the entire company will be more than a small staff can handle. Consider outsourcing this task to a qualified MSP to get your company deployed with the technology they need to succeed. Partnering with an MSP who uses this technology daily will get your company back to as much productivity as possible while the entire country is still floundering.
Please keep in mind that having employees bring their own devices does pose more of a risk to the company even though it’s more cost-effective. Make sure your company is not only willing to accept the risks of employee provided devices as the weakest link to your IT security but is also willing to invest in all of the preparations needed for your employees to work from home.
If you are looking for help getting your staff set up to be able to work remotely during the coronavirus outbreak, or need to start the conversation for disaster recovery or business continuity- please contact Be Structured Technology Group for a free consultation today. We are here to help you succeed in the midst of a global crisis.