With over 3 million people infected globally by COVID-19, social distancing has become the new normal. The pandemic has brought everything to a standstill, imposing travel bans and lockdowns across cities and at some places, even countries. The Economic impact is enormous and everyone including employees and employers are affected by this sudden change. Businesses are finding a hard time continuing among this situation which no one would have ever imagined.
However, in these gloomy circumstances, there is a ray of hope. Thanks to the technology advancements, today’s businesses can resort to the ‘Work from Home’ option for their employees and still stay productive and efficient. Though not everyone was fully prepared for this work-type, it’s something that can be worked out comparatively easily. What is most needed is the change in mindset and setting proper processes in place.
While considering this option, there are a few things that need to be answered to break through this challenge –
- How to facilitate your employees work from home?
To answer this question, you have to find out the probable solutions that will enable your staff to access the required resources such as documents, emails, etc. to continue working from their residences.
- How to enable efficient and reliable collaboration and communication for your staff?
For a successful team, it’s imperative to have a means of uninterrupted and reliable communication and collaboration to share ideas and work on the common resources to reduce rework and shorten turn-around-time.
- How to secure your data while you let your staff access it from outside the office premises?
It needs a strategy and processes that you want to chalk out for securing your business information.
How to facilitate your employees work from home?
Around 77.7 % users across the globe use Windows OS on their desktops and this blog offers the solution to this majority of the chunk. With a prerequisite of a reliable and stable internet connection available with your employees’ residences, you can enable your staff to work from home by allowing RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) access to your office network and their machines in combination with VPN (Virtual Private Network). Alternatively, you can resort to Cloud solution which we will discuss in our upcoming blog.
What is RDP and VPN?
RDP is a network communication protocol developed by Microsoft. It helps a user to access and control a computer from a remote location, in this case, his residence. VPN is the creation of a smaller private network (in this case, your company’s network) on top of a larger public network such as the internet. Thus, the computers on your office’s VPN will be able to connect as if they are physically connected to the same switch. VPN permits applications that only work on a local network, to work on the internet. Thus, your employee when connected through RDP and VPN can access resources such as folders and other servers that are shared on this network. Thus, the combination of RDP and secured VPN offers you the much-needed data security.
How to Select a VPN?
Cybersecurity is today’s primary concern for any business, big or small. Statistics suggest that 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses. Thus, a robust and secured VPN is a must for keeping your Internet connection, company network and digital assets secure while facilitating your staff working remotely. There are a variety of VPNs available in the market. Some of them are free, while some charge fees. Some of the service providers that offer VPN completely free or free during the trial period are ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, Windscribe, Hotspot Shield and hide.me. For some of those that are payable, the details are as follows –
|NordVPN||$3.49 / month|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67 / month|
|CyberGhost VPN||$2.75 / month|
|Surfshark||$1.99 / month|
|Private VPN||$7.67 / month|
(Note – All prices are verified on May 7th, 2020 and subject to change in future)
How to Set-up RDP and VPN for Your Staff?
While setting up an RDP-VPN combination for your employees, you need to take into account the following points.
- Setup firewall – A robust firewall is imperative for data security. You can research and decide on the best firewall for your business based on the offerings and pricing. Some of the popular firewalls include Cisco ASA, Sophos, SonicWall, Palo Alto Networks, WatchGuard and Firewalla.
- Office Network Configuration – Not all of your staff will require a VPN. For instance, someone who needs to work mostly on emails, do not require a VPN. Thus, identify who will be needing the VPN access along with the permissions they should be granted. This is extremely important not only from the information security perspective but also from the bandwidth point of view as more the number of users connected, lesser will be the bandwidth available to the individual user. Also, you need to identify a person or team that can help in case of any technical issue while accessing the remote desktop and VPN.
- Employee’s computer configuration – Either your organization has provided your staff a computer, either a laptop or desktop or you are expecting your staff to use their personal computers or laptops for carrying out their work. If your employee is planning to use his personal computer, you need to ensure that the needed software is installed and working on the machine with the given credentials.
How to enable efficient and reliable collaboration and communication for your staff?
Email and phones are the prerequisites. You can provide your employees with the credentials to access their corporate emails from their residences. It can be achieved through webmail if they don’t have their corporate laptops on which they have their mailboxes setup. Also, email is a slow communication and thus, they will need a phone connection for attending meetings or discuss ideas and other work-related matters. However, it will also attract call charges. Cloud technology offers a cost-efficient, reliable and effective solution for this problem which we will discuss in our upcoming blog.
How to secure your data while you let your staff access it from outside the office premises?
With employees working from home, securing your business data is one of the primary challenges for you. Most home networks are not secure. Most broadband-connected homes have over 20 connected devices including laptops, phones, modems, Wi-Fi access points, doorbells, cameras, TVs and more and not to mention many of these devices are neither secure nor updated regularly. For the same reason, businesses should have stringent policies in place for information security.
One way to ensure data security is by ensuring that the remote systems have the latest anti-virus and malware that is updated regularly and enforcing controls for preventing your staff from accessing the malicious sites from home. Besides this, you need to restrict the user permissions to the relevant assets. You can do this using Windows User Permissions. Alternatively, you can opt for disabling file sharing and copy options through Windows Control Panel.
Social distancing and remote working are the needs of the time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides the above-mentioned options, we will discuss more alternatives for efficient work from home for your staff in our upcoming blogs.