Technology has changed the way we communicate and do business. In a relatively short period of time, the rapid advent of the Cloud, social media and online apps have unlocked infinite ways for businesses to work smarter, collaborate better, achieve efficiencies and boost productivity. It has freed companies up to become more agile by allowing remote ways of working which mean they can stay connected with their people and their customers at all times, from wherever they are. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity, a stronger company culture, less stress and a decrease in overheads.
However, remote working is not a ‘magic bullet’ that guarantees all of these things. In order to get them, you need to carefully implement and manage your organisation’s remote working practices in order to unlock the full benefits.
The business benefits of remote working
There are many essential, day-to-day business activities that can be carried out remotely using the right technology. These include sending and receiving email, securely connecting to the network to access everything you need in the office, conducting meetings using an online meeting space or teleconferencing service and diverting your office phone to any location.
Files can be shared and worked on at the same time using a Cloud-based solution such as Microsoft OneDrive. There are also thousands of productivity apps which enable your people to carry out specialist tasks from wherever they are. In fact, with a telephone, laptop and broadband connection, there’s not much that you can’t do remotely that you usually need to be in the office to do.
Remote working can bring a number of benefits to your business, such as:
- Improved collaboration – With the right solution, collaboration becomes effortless. Cloud technology can connect your workforce across multiple sites and is not limited by geography.
- Enhanced efficiency – Remote working can enable you and your staff to make the most of previously unproductive time, such as during train journeys or hotel stays.
- Additional flexibility – You can work whenever and from wherever you want.
- Lower overheads – Fewer staff onsite may mean you may need smaller or less expensive premises to accommodate them.
- Smaller infrastructure – Cloud-based solutions remove the need to invest in and maintain expensive servers, networks and IT infrastructure. All you need is an internet connection.
There are, however, a few management issues to bear in mind. For a start, it’s harder to manage teams of people working remotely. You need to trust your staff to work unsupervised. Cyber security when working remotely is also key. The onset of legislation such as GDPR places a huge burden on business owners and IT directors to keep their data safe, but staff also have a part to play in keeping their equipment, files, software and connections secure.
How to keep your business secure when working remotely
In order to keep your business secure, there are a few key things to consider. Remote working usually involves transferring important data across an internet connection. If you have poor cyber security measures in place, your connection and information could be vulnerable to attack by hackers. Therefore, it’s important to make sure all your company computers have up-to-date security software, including a firewall.
Your staff should only connect to your company extranet, VPN or email using computers and secure connections which you trust. Using encryption to scramble sensitive data is essential, as this will make it unreadable, even if intercepted. The use of strong passwords is also key and you can set up policies and systems which ensure passwords are a certain length and contain a good mix of letters, numbers and special characters. If your systems allow, you may also be able to protect your VPN with additional layers of security, such as two-step verification or smartcard logins.
It’s important to remember that devices like laptops and mobile phones can be easily misplaced or stolen, which can be disastrous if they contain confidential information. Some laptops have encrypted hard drives, which makes it hard for unauthorised users to access the data. All your devices should be password-protected and any crucial data should be stored on a central server rather than on individual devices. Staff should also always log out of social media accounts or other apps whenever they are not working. And often, the data on a device is more valuable than the devices itself, so you should always back up your data.
Remote working cyber security tips
Business owners and staff all have a responsibility to follow cyber security best practice when working remotely. Here are a few things that everyone should bear in mind:
- The device being used can be a weak link in your security, so make sure your remote employees use only company-issued computers rather than personal devices when working.
- Your cyber security and remote working policies should include guidance on equipment use. For example, employees should not carry their device in an easily-identifiable laptop bags, or leave it visible or unattended in public places or cars.
- Make sure you have good insurance cover in place and, if possible, keep a number of spare devices for temporary or emergency use
- Be wary of social media. Don’t leave your device logged in. Never click a link in a social post until you are sure it is from a safe or legitimate source.
- Invest in the best encryption. It will save you money in the long run.
- Be strict. It’s important to ensure your security policies are being followed by everyone within your organisation, from top to bottom.
- Be honest. Any data or security breach should be reported straight away. If it’s not, it could do irreparable damage to your organisation, bottom line and reputation.
How Wytech can help improve your cyber security
With extensive experience of IT cyber security, we can help your business work remotely and securely. We provide a fully-managed IT security service for your business, working with a range of market-leading vendors to tailor a bespoke system to your organisation’s specific needs.
As a Sophos Silver Partner with Cyber Essentials accreditation, we can also help you to create acceptable use policies, corporate IT guidelines for your staff, and provide monitoring and reporting on employee internet and email usage to help ensure your remote workforce is as effective and productive as it can be.