The Transition into Working Remotely
Over the last month and even more so in the last week, most of us have been transitioning to a work at home environment. For some this might be freeing, and for others it might be a challenge! For those of us who are also juggling children doing school from home and maybe even have a spouse working from home, the challenge is real!
I think it is important to remember that this whole thing is a PAUSE. It is a pause that gives us a chance to slow down, evaluate our lives, and hopefully make them better. Consider the strength of your relationships with neighbors, family, spouse, and God. This just might be time to make some changes for the better.
This is a PAUSE, but we also must adjust to the changes for the time being and learn to be effective in this environment. So how do we do this work at home thing successfully? Let’s look at both the technical side of things and some tips on leading in a remote work environment.
1. Technology & Security
If you need to access the files or the software physically at your office, or even on the cloud, you may have been hearing more about VPN and remote access than you would like. Using a VPN is a common way to attach yourself securely to a network across the internet. It stands for Virtual Private Network and essentially creates a hidden tunnel through the Internet. The issue with VPN is that it can only go as fast as your Internet at home and the internet connection at work allow. The slowest of these will be the fastest you can go.
When a VPN is not fast enough to run software, there are options for remote control. Some remote-control software is web based like LogMeIn or GoToMyPC. In some ways, they offer an extra level of security, because they separate your home network from direct access to the work network. We are recommending using tools like this, when home users need to use their own non-company devices. They create a needed level of separation.
Another option is to use the VPN, and then use Windows Remote Desktop to access a PC in the office, or to connect to a RDP Server to handle this connection. These options basically give you a desktop at the office to work on, and only hand an image of what is going on back to your remote PC. This speeds up programs that require more bandwidth than the Internet can provide.
Regardless of how you are accessing things remotely, SECURITY is of utmost importance. To do ANY sort of remote access, make sure that your company has a password policy in place that requires complexity and frequent changes. Very often, we have seen non-complex passwords hacked and security compromised. One other good tip is to logoff VPN and remote access software when not using it. Not having the connection active except when using it limits the possibility of a hack. There are a myriad of other security concerns that should be considered, but one more is that your VPN software is up to date. The older style PPTP VPN has become too easy for a hacker to compromise. If you haven’t re-evaluated your VPN strategy in a while, it may be time to do that.
2. Collaboration Tools
We’ve addressed remote access tools and VPNs, but collaboration tools are also important when working remotely. These tools setup secure company chat, video conferencing, sometimes file sharing, calendaring and more. We’ve probably all been using these tools, if not for ourselves, when doing webinars and vendor demonstration calls. Consider Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Webex, or Google hangouts.
All of these have different features that might be best for you. If you are already on Office 365, you may have access to use Teams, as part of your current package. It is worth checking out! Even if you don’t, Microsoft is offering Teams and Google is offering Hangouts for free for a limited time.
See these links: https://bit.ly/33WNs2S (you have to scroll down a bit to get to the free stuff)
If you need a file sharing tool, and are already on Office365, you can use OneDrive or Sharpoint for this. In addition, consider secure sharing through a high security tool like ShareFile or HighTail.
3. Staying Connected with the Team
Many on our team at CTaccess have been working remotely during this time, and we are learning how to make it more effective as time goes by. Most of us need structure to our days and need human interaction. To provide that, we have been doing departmental virtual stand-up meetings twice a day and are doing whole company meetings twice per week.
For instance, the sales team checks in via Microsoft Teams video chat each morning at 8:15 and then again at 3:00 in the afternoon. It is interesting that having a chance to talk is quickly becoming a welcome thing! We ran our first whole company video stand-up with Teams but will likely be switching to GoToMeeting, because it displays more video feeds at once. It was a welcome sight to see everyone’s faces by video!
We are working in a different environment these days. I’m left wondering if some may stay working from home after all this ends. As for me, I miss the pace and interaction with others in the physical office. Let’s hope things all go back to normal soon!
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.