By now, many of us have adjusted to working from home. We’ve gotten used to Zoom meetings, Slack channels, and an array of collaborative software and project management tools. Remote work has gone from being a rare perk used to draw in top talent to be a requirement for businesses that want to remain productive and competitive. Further, it’s become, for many, an expectation. In fact, according to statistics from Gallup, “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so.”
It’s unlikely that remote work is going away in the near future. If anything, it is set to become the new standard. So, considering how integral remote work policies are likely to be in the future, it’s important for both employers and employees to have the right tools to maintain security standards and ensure success.
- Top Challenges of Remote Work
- How The Right Tools & Technologies Can Empower Your Remote Workforce
- Top Tools for Remote Workers to Boost Security
- How Colocation Data Centers Can Ease the Challenges of a Remote Workforce
Top Challenges of Remote Work
Forced to work from home, many of us initially focused on challenges like connectivity and network reliability. We were, however, able to look past some of those concerns as we enjoyed the lack of commute and in-transit time we saved, the money we saved on travel and meals, and how we were able to customize our workspaces (if we could find spaces with minimal distractions).
We’ve clearly sought to find the bright side of a difficult situation that came with challenges and continues to present more. While a good number of those challenges present as individual challenges such as time management (and work/life balance), those aforementioned distractions of home (pets, family, home projects), and social isolation, a few others are directly related to job performances and our ability to complete tasks and meet goals.
More specifically, any workers also struggled with understanding performance metrics, particularly without direct supervision. The lack of supervision, for some, also led to difficulties staying on task and focused on goals. Finally, these remote work challenges were likely compounded by difficulties with communication and collaboration. However, multiple technological solutions exist or were launched to alleviate some of these problems.
It’s only fair to add that businesses were met with many of these obstacles as well, in addition to a few others. In fact, many of the challenges are shared with their teams, challenges as maintaining productivity and alignment, keeping employees engaged and focused, and hitting business goals and objectives. Still, other challenges must be handled by organizational leadership and shared with teams.
Also Read: The Best SOC 2 Compliance Checklist
How The Right Tools & Technologies Can Empower Your Remote Workforce
To improve the remote work experience, many employers had to find and utilize the right tools to support their workforce. Whether you’re using remote software development tools, team collaboration and management tools, or cybersecurity solutions for remote work, there are a massive number of tools out there that can be applied to your remote work strategy.
Here’s a short list of some of the best tools for remote workers:
1. Slack (Team Productivity Software)
Fast and easy communication is critical for remote workers. Slack makes it easy for employees to share updates, create custom team chat channels, and even share files remotely. Whether people just need to send a “Hey, I’m working on ‘X’ right now” or share a link to a Gdoc so others can review it, Slack can be an invaluable team communication tool.
2. Microsoft Teams (Remote Office Software and Team Productivity)
Microsoft Teams shares much of the same features and design philosophy of Slack but is combined with access to the tools and features of Microsoft’s Office software suite. Users can send each other short messages and create custom chat channels as well as share Office files and edit them collaboratively in real-time (in a fashion similar to Google Docs).
3. Google Docs (Remote Office Software)
Many businesses (and individuals) use Google Docs because it’s a relatively simple (and free) online collaboration and file management tool from the world’s largest and most popular search engine. If you have a Google account, you have access to “Gdocs.” The tool allows users to create spreadsheets, text documents, slideshows, and more online and edit those documents collaboratively with others in real-time.
4. Zoom (Video Conferencing Solution)
Zoom is a videoconferencing application that many businesses use to simulate “face-to-face” time with their clients and employees. The software allows users to schedule video conferences ahead of schedule with the app, apply custom virtual backgrounds, share their computer screens, and more to make remote conferences simple.
ZDNet notes that, with an add-on, Zoom can support up to 500 participants per meeting—making it one of the most capable video conferencing solutions for large companies or special events.
5. Remote Desktop Software (Remote System Management)
There are several tools for businesses to remotely monitor and manage a remote worker’s desktop computer. Two major examples include Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDC) and Apple Remote Desktop (ARD). What these programs do is allow companies to remotely manage their employees’ computer systems so they can run software updates, enforce specific security rules, and more.
This does alleviate the need for employees to run these updates manually, but it can also remove some of their control over their work devices.
6. GitHub (Software Development Tool)
GitHub is a software development platform that allows developers to work together on projects quickly and easily to maintain productivity. From collaborative coding features that let multiple developers code, build, test, and debug in a cloud dev environment to automation features that streamline testing, project management, and best practice implementation, GitHub is one of the most trusted software development tools on the market.
7. Jira/Atlassian (Team Productivity and Software Development Tool)
Built to help software developers handle their project management, Jira sees significant use by Agile teams to help with project management. Specific tasks are put into cards on the software, which are then assigned to employees for them to work on during a “sprint.”
Each employee has six “swim lanes” for cards to track their progress: Planning, Ready, In Progress, Internal Review, Acceptance, and Done which are used to track the progress on that task from beginning to end. As cards move from lane to lane, everyone on the team can see where each card is and how work is progressing.
Also Read: Jira Service Desk Alternatives
Top Tools for Remote Workers to Boost Security
Many of the challenges businesses faced were related to systems that were created based on a shared space. Shared space meant meeting rooms, meant casual and informal interactions, meant supervision, and the ability to check in with a team, and a shared space meant control over security, both physical and logical.
Much of the security concerns stem from users now logging in from remote locations without strict security controls in place, nor with a mind for those controls. Let’s take a look at some of the more common security concerns and the tools available to mitigate them.
1. Brute Force Attacks on VPNs – Using credential stuffing, hackers pound VPNs with as many user names and login credentials as they can until they find one that works and gains them access to your network. The explosion of users on VPN made this an extremely attractive avenue for hackers.
2. Phishing Attacks – A hacking favorite, this requires one of your workers to click on a malicious link in an email or other messaging app. The link downloads malware onto the user’s computer which then enables access to the computer, the network, and possibly more.
3. Multi-factor Authentication Bypass Attack – Similar to phishing attacks, this relies upon workers who are unfamiliar with using this kind of layered security as they’ve been working on premises. It offers a login screen for a known application and then takes the user’s credentials to log on to a system enabling access and escalation.
4. User Negligence/Awareness– Perhaps one of the greatest threats is the simple negligence of the workforce. As many are used to using devices provided by a company that has antivirus installed and are provided with in-office security protocols, that’s just not the case when we work from home. Many use unprotected networks, and unauthorized devices, work in locations that may not be secure, and more. All of these pose threats to data security and network access.
Security Enhancement Tools
Obviously, there are multiple concerns regarding remote work and IT security. While your best defense is to create a culture of security in your workplace, and hopefully one already exists, there are also tools on the market that can help mitigate some of the larger concerns.
1. Password Management Tool– The common element among nearly every security concern listed above has to do with password security and controls. Because many companies have their employees using numerous cloud-based applications—each with its own password and login information, employees may opt to reuse a password or use overly simplistic passwords. One tool that enables employees to use more complex passwords is a password management application.
In fact, password managers, like Dashlane, 1Password, and LastPass, can create unique, high-strength passwords and remember them for various websites and applications, making it so users only have to remember one password instead of thirty.
2. Require Anti-Virus Software– There are a variety of ways viruses can spread through a network with the potential of shutting down applications and systems, corrupting data, or worse. One of the easiest ways to mitigate this risk is to require all end users, regardless of whether they use a Mac or PC, to have virus software installed and properly updated. Tools such as SplashtopSOS or LogmeinRescue allow your IT team to access an employee’s computer remotely so they can install or assist with updating virus software.
3. Comprehensive Data Security– While not necessarily a tool, the first element of this is a data security governance policy that informs your entire team of the protocols regarding handling data and documents, particularly those that contain sensitive information. Again, having established a culture of security in place will ensure adherence to the protocols set forth in this document. However, should additional data security be needed, there is an extensive list of data security software on the market to add additional layers of security as needed.
4. Security Awareness Training- Again, one of the biggest challenges to remote work security is the end user themselves. While having a data security governance policy in place is a great start, training your employees on security threats and mitigation reinforces the need for such policies. While an IT team can certainly put together a presentation, a comprehensive training plan, developed by IT security professionals and trainers, like the one offered by Knowbe4 can provide your team with the knowledge they need to help prevent the human errors that can lead to data breaches and security issues.
How Colocation Data Centers Can Ease the Challenges of a Remote Workforce
While a myriad of tools, applications, and services exist to help mitigate the risks, partnering with a data center is also a great option. Not only does it afford other advantages, but colocation can also provide your team with considerable security advantages. Colocation means you get all of the security protections the data center offers on top of your own security measures.