More employees than ever are working remotely, which is creating new challenges for Connecticut companies’ IT support teams. When users have to access business-critical data outside the office, it presents a different set of challenges to secure and manage corporate data. Every day, there are new internet and mobile technologies that are enabling new levels of remote office computing to increase productivity. However, if the IT support team can’t support and protect remote workers, your business can’t profit from the benefits of telecommuting.
There are more remote workers today than ever before. In 2016, 43 percent of American employees spent at least some time working remotely, which is up 4 percent from 2012. In fact, 31 percent say they spend 80 to 100 percent of their time working remotely, which is up from 24 percent in 2012. Approximately 2.9 percent of Americans, about 3.9 million, actually consider home their primary place of work.
The benefits of telecommuting to business are proven. Eighty percent of employees say they hit “maximum productivity” when telecommuting, and 66 percent of managers say remote workers are more productive. Thirty percent of workers say they can accomplish more in less time when working remotely. Telecommuting also lowers stress levels and increases morale. It also reduces employee turnover.
Considerations for Secure Remote Data Access
To connect remote employees, Connecticut IT support pros have to develop a telecommuting strategy, including how they plan to provide remote access, what devices they plan to support, how they plan to keep remote users’ software and systems up to date, and—most important—how they plan to provide data security.
Companies can use various approaches to secure data access for telecommuters. Many use virtual private networks (VPNs) for secure point-to-point access. More companies also are hosting business-critical applications in the cloud and relying on secure data connections, data encryption, and strong authentication protocols to protect data. Other companies are adopting secure “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, allowing workers to use their own smartphones and mobile devices but only by limiting the data and applications they can access.
However you plan to support remote workers, it’s important to remember that all data traffic has to be secured, whether it is inside or outside the firewall. To be effective, it’s important to follow the same security protocols for all forms of data traffic. Be consistent. That means enforcing the same security rules for all network users.
In the past, it was common for organizations to backhaul data to the corporate network or use multiple strategies for remote network access. It’s smarter to consolidate access. The more data access strategies you need to support, the more difficult managing security becomes.
Implementing Mobile Security
One of the biggest challenges that Connecticut IT support teams face is lack of control over mobile devices. BYOD has become exceedingly popular, largely because laptops, tablets, and smartphones come completely equipped with all the business tools that workers need. That means they need little support from corporate IT. If IT can’t manage those devices, it can’t manage security.
Companies can either issue their own mobile hardware for telecommuters—which means that the IT department has to be responsible for security software, software updates, etc.—or they can secure actual access to the data. It’s virtually impossible to secure mobile devices, even if they are managed by the company, because users tend to access the internet from insecure locations such as coffee shops and WiFi hotspots. The best strategy is to focus on securing data access rather than the hardware.
A VPN can be a very efficient tool. With a VPN client on the telecommuter’s hardware, there is always a secure access point, no matter where he or she logs in from. Any connection through the VPN is private and secure.
Secure authentication is also essential. The downside of using mobile computing hardware is that it is easily stolen or lost. In addition to physical security, such as cable locks, system security should be enforced with two-factor authentication and complex passwords requiring upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Also, consider using data encryption and encrypted storage to protect data in transit.
Remote data security also needs to be part of company training. Telecommuters need to be aware of concerns such as access over public networks and how to avoid data theft. For example, be sure they understand how to establish a VPN connection before opening a browser. Also, be sure they understand the need for best practices such as maintaining software updates and storing data in the cloud rather than on the desktop where it can be lost. If they do have to store data on their devices, be sure they know how to secure and properly back up those files.
Data Security Is a Team Effort
There is no question that the popularity of mobile devices and the proliferation of telecommuting has made IT support that much harder. It’s time you reexamined your security strategies with telecommuters in mind, but you don’t have to take it all on yourself.
Managed services providers (MSPs) like NSI are experts in network security and supporting telecommuters. We can assess your current enterprise infrastructure and identify security flaws that hackers can exploit to compromise your network. We also can help you identify your best security options for telecommuters, whether it’s setting up a VPN gateway or using secure cloud services or a combination.
There are many facets to data security, especially when you start supporting remote workers. The best security options for your organization and its employees may not be obvious. If you enlist the help of experienced security experts, you can develop a better security strategy and remove much of the burden from your IT support team. Good data security is truly a team effort, and you want to have the right MSP on your side.