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Working remotely as effectively and safely as possible

Working remotely as effectively and safely as possible
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Working remotely as effectively and safely as possible

Working effectively and productively away from the office is about more than simply having a smartphone and a laptop. It’s about having access to the right tools, the right information and the right methods of communication – all while being mindful of data security. Robert Best of Infotech, which provides all our support here at Capital Space and prides itself on creating effective business continuation plans, takes us through the essentials.

Being prepared for working remotely

In an ideal world, whatever the size of your business, you’ll already have made a continuity plan in place to ensure you and any colleagues can effectively work remotely in the face of the current crisis.  If you haven’t already done so, we recommend looking at the following, with a focus on security and continuity of business operations:

  • Systems:  Will everyone who needs to be able to access them, even if they are not in the office?
  • Connectivity and VPN (see below):  Do you have the required connectivity with the right bandwidth to handle the whole business working from home?
  • Devices and people:  Has everyone got a secure computer (with emphasis on the secure) they can work from?
  • Phones:  Can you connect to your phone system from anywhere? How can your staff take calls?
  • Communication plans:  Do you know who to contact and how?

Systems

You need to look at what systems you’ll need to be able to continue to work outside of the office – essentially, everything you use on a day to day basis. This is likely to include.

  • Email
  • Customer management system (CRM)
  • Remote management tools
  • Data storage
  • Documentation systems
  • Finance and Accountancy systems
  • Any specialist equipment that’s unique to your business.

Once you have the list you need to understand how you access them. Most of the applications we use are cloud-based so we can access them remotely. You might have applications that are on the company server or just installed on a few workstations. Anything cloud-based can be accessed remotely, but anything on a server will need a discussion on how to access remotely. This applies to any files you want to access, too – and even if they’re saved in the cloud via a solution such as Office 365, you’ll need to consider how you’ll back up that data for security purposes.

Using USB drives

USB's might seem a convenient solution but they can be lost and only one person can access any data on it at a time. If you are going to be using a USB drive (if only one person needs access to the data) you will need to encrypt it to help keep the data secure.

Connectivity and VPN

For anything that you cannot access in the cloud, you will have to use remote tools and VPNs. Remote tools, such as Screen Connect or TeamViewer, will allow staff to access their office workstation from another device.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network or VPN creates a secure, protected connection between your home and your office. To create a secure VPN you would normally use your firewall. Not all firewalls have this function, so  check with your IT provider when setting this up.

You will often need licences from your firewall vendor to use a VPN. Commonly, a small number are included as default. If every member of staff needs VPN access you will need to get more licences.

VPN traffic is carried over your internet connection. VPN traffic requires significant bandwidth, especially if you have lots of staff using VPN connections. The upload speed of your connection will be important and basic internet connections will likely struggle with this. Consequently, this really is an area in which you’ll need advice either from your own IT support or an independent IT consultancy.

People and  devices

Ideally, you will have a company laptop for every employee. If not, be aware: the problem with allowing staff to use their own devices to connect to company systems is that you have no control over that device. The device might be hosting dormant malware that the owner is unaware of. This will cause severe security concerns around usernames or passwords being stolen or virus being transmitted.

When it comes to phones, if you are already using a Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP-based telephone system, you are in a strong position. As with file storage, it’s a cloud-based solution designed to offer the flexibility of working away from the office. You need to consider how to communicate internally and how to communicate with customers and suppliers.

Phone options

Depending on the size of your company, you might be able to get your main number diverted to a mobile phone - your telephone provider should be able to advise you. If you are a larger , will you be able to divert extension numbers through to mobiles? If so, it’s worth finding out in advance if it will affect the cost of your phone bills.

Communications plan

How are you going to communicate with your office? Regular phone calls? Skype meetings? Zoom? Whichever method you choose, in these difficult times communications has never been more important.

Pairing the correct IT solutions with the right protocols and ensuring regular communication will allow you and your team to keep your business functioning efficiently even in these uncertain times.

MEET THE EXPERT

Robert Best is marketing manager at InfoTech [link], an independent IT support and service company based in Rochester, Kent.  Infotech has produced a checklist that will help you consider all aspects of the business and how they might be affected. You can download a copy here.