Working remotely has become the new normal for millions of employees across the world. As COVID-19 pushes businesses to adapt, IT departments must provide access to work applications and data and help them to collaborate effectively with supervisors and coworkers. Ramping up a fully equipped remote work environment can be a major challenge for IT departments. Have you ensured your workforce has the right remote working tools for the job? We take a closer look at what is needed.
Remote working tools and applications for your workforce
To help you navigate this new virtual office reality, we’ve compiled a list of key productivity applications and remote working tools that employees will need to do their jobs.
Remote collaboration tools
Virtually all organizations depend on digital collaboration tools to work with supervisors and coworkers. They’re even more critical in today’s work-from-home environment. Cloud and web-based tools such as instant messaging, web email, and video chat tools are essential one-to-one communication tools and are often platform agnostic. Collaborative suites combine these basic tools with collaboration tools ranging from team discussions and video conferencing to screen sharing and collaborative document creation and editing. For example, WebEx has video conferencing, whiteboards, screensharing, and instant messaging. Slack and Microsoft Teams are also popular remote collaboration suites.
Productivity application suites combine work tools such as word processing and spreadsheets with collaboration capabilities. For instance, Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 provides email and calendaring, Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as collaborative services such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online. All of these tools are integrated to create a seamless experience for your remote workforce.
Device & application security
Cyber-attacks are rapidly rising and weak IT security on remote devices puts your organization at risk. Security for remote employees is a critical element of a mobile workplace. The first step is to make sure all remote employees have basic security protections on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This includes antivirus software and a firewall. In addition, you’ll want to equip them with enterprise-level protections necessary for secure remote computing. The key security tools you’ll need are:
Identity access management
Cloud-based identity access management (IAM) solutions can ensure that users are only allowed to interact with IT environments that they have authorization to access, including applications, data, and networks. IAM offers IT control over what end users are allowed to do such as read, download, or edit a document. IAM solutions use role-based rules to determine what each worker, job type, or seniority level can do. Two examples of IAM are IBM’s Cloud Identity and Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Software as a Service.
Beyond user IDs and passwords, multi-factor authentication devices and apps can greatly improve security. Authentication fobs are hardware devices that generate random pass-codes for employees logging into a work application. Alternatively, employees can download a smartphone authentication app to generate the codes. Facial recognition tools, such as Windows Hello, are also gaining traction in multi-factor authentication.
Remote employees need a way to connect securely to their workplace applications. In many cases, this means a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is useful for employees that may need to use public wi-fi networks, or need access to sensitive data. The VPN encrypts the internet traffic and watches for threats. However, not all remote workers may need a VPN. Secure desktop applications such as Azure Remote Desktop Services and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops may satisfy many organizations' security needs.
For securing data and files, our experts recommend using a file-based encryption solution that follows the file wherever it goes. An encrypted file can’t be opened without authorization. Even if the data is stolen, it remains safe. This technology allows you to grant or revoke access to a file even if it’s already on an unauthorized user’s device.
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
To effectively manage the devices an end-user may utilize in a remote environment, you’ll want a mobile security management or mobile device management solution to establish control over company data. This solution enables IT to monitor and control the laptops, smartphones and other devices accessing the corporate network and applications. MDM usually requires a client agent on the remote device and prohibits non-compliant devices from accessing resources. There are many MDM options on the market. One is Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) service for Microsoft 365, which includes mobile device management as well as enterprise security functions like identity and access management and cloud security broker for multicloud environments.
Also read: The Strategic Guide to IT Security
Ensure your workforce has the right remote working tools
Security, productivity and communication tools are vital to keeping your business running efficiently, as you adapt to remote operations. Managed Services providers, like TierPoint, can help you migrate to and manage cybersecurity, productivity, and communication tools for your business. Contact us to learn more about finding the right solutions to enable your remote workforce.