Led by the necessity to ensure business continuity during the pandemic, many organisations have had to make quick, tactical decisions to enable over 90% of their workforce to work remotely at the same time.
Remote working is not a new concept, what is new is that through the unprecedented times we’ve all been navigating, even the biggest skeptics of the agile working culture have had to adopt and trust in this practice. While solutions that enable an entire firm to work remotely, and have existed for some time now, the pace at which organisations had to adopt these over the past few months has brought a new set of challenges for all.
All round security
Ensuring a secure system is a key part of a firm’s operational resilience. In a time when organisations are stretched for money and resources and business uncertainty is high, vulnerabilities can surface quickly, especially with the growth of remote working. Hackers have already identified ways to exploit the security loopholes Covid-19 has revealed and won’t hesitate to use these to their advantage. It is hard enough to keep data secure when employees are working from the same base, but even harder when a workforce is isolated.
The first step in arming your organisation with the tools to keep hackers at bay starts with employees. Organisations must spare no time or effort to ensure individuals are fully up to date on best practices for data protection and emphasize the potential risks a poor cyber hygiene can bring to the business.
A ‘zero-trust’ approach is another tactic that applies to both employee mentality and the way you manage trust within networks and systems. The concept being that you treat all traffic the same by default (not trusted) until the identity of the user or software is identified as safe and within company means.
With the advent of AI technologies; such as machine learning coupled with High Performance Computing, the ability to analyse vast quantities of log information is now possible in near real time. This combined capability can provide critical analytics that can help find possible attack vectors and close them before they can be exploited – whether external malware, or internal bad actors.
You can also rely on a strong virtual desktop infrastructure to establish or expand secure access to applications and data, which we’ve seen cases of in organisations from financial services to call centers.
It comes as no surprise that with the serious rise in demand for fast and reliable broadband came the drawback of network strains and outages. Home broadband and cellular networks in the UK were never designed to support 90% of the UK workforce logging in from home, but the global pandemic has shifted demands overnight. While the role of maintaining strong network connections falls partially on network providers, there are steps organisations can take to keep employees connected and ensure productivity.
Ensuring your company’s virtual private network (VPN) / remote access infrastructure can handle a high number of users at the same time is a key to overcoming this challenge. While working from home and the network issues that came with this were once seen as a temporary issue, the trend towards a continued remote workforce means everyone will be relying on fast and reliable connection at all times. As well as a strong VPN, you want to make sure you offer employees a strong and consistent connection with a service provider that has made commitments to continually improve its capabilities. Throughout the pandemic many of the top providers in the UK and across the globe have reaffirmed their goals to offer the best possible network connection.
All too often we see technology taking the blame for the challenges remote working policies bring to organisations, when the reality is that a company’s culture plays an equal, if not more important, role in the way remote these practices are adopted. There are no two ways about it, the need to provide employees with sufficient remote access and equipment to work safely and productively from home is paramount, but ensuring processes and training are in place to support this shift for colleagues who aren’t used to it is of equal importance.
What’s more, one of the greatest challenges has come not just from needing a secure IT infrastructure, but from recreating a sense of company culture within an isolated workforce. Going beyond the need of the right IT tools to support enterprises, businesses must be looking to recreate a sense of being within a work community.
In our own business, we have adopted several culture focused sessions to encourage employees to maintain social interactions with their colleagues from their homes, including virtual coffee mornings once a week to help replicate the short catch-ups employees would normally have at the coffee machine that can encourage thought-sharing and problem solving and even Friday evening concerts performed by members of staff.
The way forward
Now that most businesses have started to settle into the new remote working era, it’s possible that many are looking to refine the adopted strategy and solutions and culture to suit its needs in longer term.
What has become clear throughout lockdown is that with a balance between a strong IT infrastructure and focus on company culture and community – productive and secure remote working can be achieved. The best way to overcome remote working challenges now and into the future is to connect and protect – a concept we think will enable businesses and teams to continue to flourish even after the pandemic.
- Chris Ibbitson, Chief Technologist at HPE.