There are lots of reasons to think that working from home is intrinsically a good thing. But the dangerous combination of the vaccine-hesitant and the quick rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant means we won’t be getting back to the office anytime soon. Just ask Google, Facebook, Netflix, or the U.S. government, all of which are either delaying office reopenings or outright embracing remote work.
Now is the time to start making permanent plans for your crew to work from home—not just for the rest of 2021, but well through the 2020s and beyond.
1. Consider Desktop-as-a-Service for your remote workforce
In case you hadn’t noticed, PCs, especially laptops, are getting harder to find and are more expensive, to boot. The great chip shortage is catching up with the PC market. That’s annoying, but what’s even more vexing is that Windows 11 will require newer hardware than many of us already have. What’s a company owner to do?
Consider moving to Windows 365 on your existing hardware or getting Chromebooks instead. Windows 365 and Neverware CloudReady, the Chrome OS you can install on PCs, should work well for most business uses, and they work on the PCs and laptops you’ve had in the office for years.
Chromebooks also deserve attention, not only because they tend to be cheaper than laptops, but because you can run Windows 365 on Chromebooks along with the full Microsoft suite of business software. Whether you prefer Office 365 or Google Workspace, you’re covered.
Another real plus with either approach: They’re easier to secure and manage remotely than Windows 10. I see Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) working well for many companies with remote workforces for security, cost, and technical reasons.
2. Improve your employees’ internet
If you’re not already paying for workers’ internet access at home, you might consider it. In some states, such as California and Illinois, you’re required to pay for the part of your employee’s internet used for work.
These days, your employees need the fastest internet they can get, especially if they move to DaaS. And even if you don’t, since we’ve replaced face-to-face meetings with videoconferencing, you can get a lot from maximizing your staffers’ speed.
I recently upgraded to a Gigabit-per-second internet connection, and while I push technology’s limits far more than most, anyone can appreciate the increase in productivity that comes with faster speeds.
3. Standardize on a videoconferencing service
Some are obvious, such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for Google Workspace and Office 365/Microsoft 365 users, respectively. But after a year of using every service out there, I don’t think you can beat Zoom. It’s simply the easiest and most reliable option, has the most features, and works well with other services. (For example, I constantly use Zoom in concert with the top voice transcription program Otter.ai.)
The real question is: What service are your partners and customers most likely to use? I’ll bet no matter what service you’d like to use internally, Zoom is what most of them use.
Zoom or not, pick one and stick with it. You’re going to use it for a very long time.
4. Choose a virtual private network
Since you and your folks will literally be doing all their work outside the office, picking the right virtual private network (VPN) is vital. If you’re not using a VPN, it’s not “if” you’re going to get hacked, it’s “when.”
VPNs use encryption technologies such as IP security (IPSec), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/IPSec, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS), and WireGuard to create a virtual encrypted “tunnel” between your computer and a VPN server. While your traffic is in this tunnel, no one can see where your work’s going or what you’re doing.
As with videoconferencing, you have many VPN choices. Whatever you choose, don’t go cheap. Free VPN services are infamous for being unreliable and slow.
5. Secure the home office
I’ve written about locking down home offices in detail, but if I had to pick one item from my list, I’d focus on putting a wall around your workers’ PCs. This consists of three main tasks.
First, whenever possible use two-factor authentica
tion (2FA) for all your office software services. These days, if someone really wants to crack your password, it’s going to get cracked. Besides, attackers can often phish their way to your people’s passwords. 2FA is the most common, and easiest, way to block such attacks.
Second, think about ditching passwords once and for all. Replace them with a hardware-based Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) authentication security system. The best of these use the FIDO2 Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standard. U2F devices range from $20 to $60, but they’re top-notch in authentication security. Options to consider include the Google Titan Key, Kensington VeriMark Fingerprint Key, Thetis Fido UCF Security key, Yubikey 5 NFC, and YubiKey 5C. Personally, I’m a fan of the YubiKey family.
Finally, while antivirus programs are good to have, you need more. Get an Endpoint Threat Detection and Response (ETDR) program, such as Dell’s Endpoint Security Suite, HP’s Sure Sense, Check Point Software SandBlast, or SentinelOne.
These automated analytic tools watch for suspicious patterns of activities. For instance, some programs can catch a ransomware attack by detecting when multiple files are changed at once.
Do all the above things, and you’ll find your workers are as productive and secure as they ever were in the office.
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