6 tips for smarter telecommuting during COVID-19

by Apr 9, 2020General Tech

Many companies are fortunate to be able to rely on remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But not all of them are doing it as efficiently as they could be.

At a time of so much uncertainty, it’s essential that remote teams stay productive and that their work remains secure.

We’ve put together the following tips to help ensure a seamless transition to telecommuting.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH TELECOMMUTING

Businesses have been forced to rapidly adapt their disaster recovery planning for coronavirus. The CDC’s social distancing guidelines effectively restricted the use of traditional office workplaces. And stay-at-home orders across the United States have required that nonessential workers stay put.

The problem is: not all businesses were ready.

For many companies, a directive to “work from home” is not as simple as telling employees to do their jobs from their dwellings. Numerous questions arise:

  • How will workers actually perform their jobs from home?
  • Do they have the technology they need?
  • Can they use their own devices, or will devices be provided?
  • How will workers share their work and collaborate with others?
  • How will data be stored and protected against threats like malware or accidental data loss?

 

While every business will have its own unique needs, we recommend the following solutions for optimal efficiency, communication and security.

 

SOLUTIONS

  1. Employer-provided devices

If employees need to do their work on a computer, that computer should ideally be provided by the company. This gives you greater control over the security of the device – especially if it’s configured in the same manner as existing on-premise devices.

For example, an employer-provided laptop can help ensure the following:

  • The right operating system for compatibility with the company’s critical applications
  • Pre-installed software that users are already familiar with
  • Pre-configured security settings and network access controls
  • Whitelisting settings to prevent users from installing their own software
  • No user confusion or ambiguity about which devices to use or how to obtain them

Admittedly, not every company will have an endless supply of extra computers to give to every employee in a situation like this. But still, that doesn’t mean you should leave it to users to figure out for themselves.

If time and resources allow, acquire these devices for your remote workers and set them up with the same safeguards as your existing computers before handing them over to employees.

 

  1. Network access / remote desktop

As always, users generally should not be saving any files directly to their devices. It creates too much risk that the data will be accidentally lost or compromised.

Instead, users should be able to save their work directly to the company network. This ensures the following:

  • Data is stored securely on company servers
  • Data is centrally located on the networked server, where it can be accessed by other workers who need it
  • Data is properly backed up (as opposed to unprotected if it sits only on the user’s device)
  • Data is properly scanned by any antimalware solutions that are active on the server

If files must be saved to the user’s device, be sure that the device is protected by its own endpoint antimalware and backup solutions.

If the device cannot be attached to the network, consider using remote desktop or other virtualization options. This will allow users to access their office computers in a virtual environment, giving them access to their regular applications and network file directories.

 

3) Internet

How will workers actually connect to your network or access email, SaaS systems and the Internet in general? Users may already have Internet access in their homes, but is it good enough? Who will pay for it? If the user’s home Internet usage will now largely be used for work purposes during the day, then the employer should probably be helping to cover the expense and ensure the connection is fast enough.

The issue of employee compensation for Internet costs is ultimately a decision that each business will need to make on its own. But the larger issue of ensuring Internet access is the key consideration here.

 

Things to consider:

  • Speed and reliability of the Internet connection
  • ISP choices in the employee’s city
  • Fallback options in the event that Internet goes down

Don’t take it for granted that all employees have their own high-speed Internet in their homes. If employees are required to work from home, companies need to ensure they can stay connected.

 

4) Collaboration & File Sharing

With workers spread out all over town (or all over the globe), it’s critical that they are able to efficiently collaborate with each other. More specifically, they need to be able to send, share and edit files easily, wherever they are, often simultaneously.

Numerous file-sync and share (FSS) solutions are available to make this collaboration so much easier. We like Datto Workplace, because it’s purpose-built for business. It allows your remote workers to seamlessly share their work and collaborate with each other, from any device. Files, such as Office documents, are synced to the Datto Cloud, allowing users to work on them from multiple locations, without needing to worry about version control.

If you’re evaluating FSS solutions like Datto Workplace for your remote teams, here are some things to look for:

  • Security and availability of the cloud infrastructure where your data is stored: uptime, file encryption, authentication SOC 2 compliance, georedundancy, etc.
  • A centralized management system that allows admins to track all user activity, devices and data
  • Integration with common business applications, such as Microsoft Office
  • Ability to easily restore files that are accidentally deleted or compromised

It’s all about productivity, and time is especially precious right now. With so much economic uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, businesses can’t afford to have their remote workers wasting time with outdated file versions, accidentally losing data or simply not getting things done because of an inability to collaborate.

File-sharing platforms like Datto Workplace can help teams stay productive, and work as a team, while everyone is working from home.

 

5) Digital communication

Zoom is all the rage right now, but it’s just one of many video conferencing solutions available to businesses.

We already talked about the importance of enabling teams to efficiently collaborate while working remotely. Communication is a big part of that. Video conferencing provides an effective means of holding team meetings. It also has a more personal feel, making it an ideal method for teams to “check in” with each other when email and phone won’t do.

More expansive audiovisual integrations are also an option for businesses that want to maximize their virtual meetings. Examples include:

  • Enterprise-grade A/V conferencing technologies: full-featured capabilities beyond that of web apps like Skype and Zoom
  • Integrated digital whiteboards: ability for users to give visual presentations and digitally share notes and sketches directly with remote participants

At a bare minimum, clear lines of communication need to be maintained among your remote teams. Businesses must be able to reach employees, and employees must be able to reach each other. If office workers traditionally relied on the office phone system, for example, then you may want to ask users to provide their home/cell phone numbers, so that this communication can continue with little disruption to the workflow.

Additionally, chat systems like Slack and Microsoft Teams can provide an efficient way for users to message each other, provide status updates, comment on each other’s projects and so on.

 

6) Software as a Service (SaaS)

If your business wasn’t already leveraging SaaS applications to streamline operations before the coronavirus crisis, now is probably a good time to consider it. Cloud-based services allow users to work from anywhere, storing data in the cloud, which is synced and accessible to other users.

We already mentioned a few examples of SaaS tools, such as Datto Workplace, Slack and Zoom. But there are endless others, providing solutions for nearly every aspect of your business: sales, account management, marketing, project management, logistics and so on.

To be clear, these solutions are not new. But for businesses that are used to doing these tasks via in-house systems and are now scrambling to figure out how to do everything remotely, moving to SaaS is a no-brainer.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating SaaS products:

  • Is it secure? How is your data protected?
  • Is the provider reputable and/or established? What other businesses/industries use the platform?
  • If data loss occurs, are there any backup/recovery options?
  • Is the system scalable and/or cost efficient when considering the number of employees who will need to use the platform?
  • Can you easily import data from your existing solutions into the SaaS application?

Also, keep in mind that any data you store in a cloud service is likely never being backed up by your business’s data backup solutions. And if data loss occurs due to user error, the vendor may not be able to help you out.

Third-party SaaS backup solutions can provide an additional layer of defense for such scenarios. For example, Datto’s Backupify service enables you to backup data within popular cloud platforms such as G Suite, Office 365 and Salesforce.

 

Need some guidance?

If you need assistance with your disaster recovery planning as it relates to remote-worker solutions, data protection, backups or IT infrastructure, please contact our business continuity experts at Invenio IT. Call (646) 395-1170, email success@invenioIT.com or request a free demo of our recommended backup solutions.

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Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!