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Technology - Lifting the Barriers of Remote Work, Or Not?

By Neil Failla posted 11-02-2021 17:16

Please enjoy this blog post authored by Neil Failla, Operations and Managed Services Manager, Cornerstone Information Technologies, LLC.

When the pandemic began in 2020, firms were faced with the reality that workers would no longer be heading into the office. Instead, they would stay right at home, the new “office." Firms that were prepared--that had remote technologies like secure access Virtual Desktops; Virtual Private Networks (VPNs); Cloud based applications; and stacks of consistent imaged Laptops/Tablets available -- have fared better than those who were lagging the technology curve.  Over the past year, the race has been on to deploy hardware, applications, and support that can help make working from home feel like working in the office.

What firms are still faced with is how to effectively manage the technology challenges faced by remote workers: inconsistent hardware; unpatched Operating Systems and applications; and the lack of proper security training. If a firm decides not to deploy company hardware, the IT staff will have to deal with issues that come with the variety of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) devices.

The greatest hurdle is threats to Security. Cyber threats have ratcheted up at an alarming rate leaving employees who have not had regular security training and random testing unable to identify malicious emails, IMs, mobile texts, and even phone calls. The number of records exposed by data breaches is in the billions. Malware & ransomware are increasing by hundreds of percentage points, escalating the costs of Cybercrime into the hundreds of millions of dollars. While technology can lift many practical barriers for remote workers, security barriers must be implemented to keep remote work environments safe.

The key is to address these concerns with effective technology solutions; there is no shortage of products out there that can help.  For the firm, securing the ever-growing LAN/WAN perimeter both back at the office and at home with the remote folks is a primary concern.  Next-Gen firewalls, Geo blocking, Content Filtering, SIEM (Security Incident and Event Management) tool, DNS (Domain Name Server) Security, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) are solutions for the secure office, so the remote workforce can work. 

For the remote employee, deploy layers of threat protection on imaged laptops & desktops that are airtight with a security package. Either with your house IT staff or partnering with an MSP (Managed Services Provider) to deploy an RMM (Remote Monitoring & Management) tool for monitoring and regularly scheduled maintenance, SIEM agents, DNS security/content filtering agents, AI based Antivirus, and MFA/Biometric authentication. If using Microsoft Azure, Conditional Access policies can lock down and secure the data in the cloud.  

Smart planning in deploying the necessary solutions can keep firms moving forward with confidence in the ever-changing landscape. Keeping the end user productive with safe and secure technologies makes the difference.  After addressing security issues, ensuring home users have a proper workspace with quality computers, multiple monitors, spacious desks, and comfortable chairs in the absence of a “real” office will make a difference.  Subsidizing home internet services to allow the procurement of faster networks will increase productivity at a nominal cost. Keeping the same or even higher level of worker satisfaction is a win-win for all.

Barriers can be helpful in several situations, technically for security, or environmentally to secure property and life. With some firms planning a full return to the office, there will still be work from home at some level.  With many firms continuing with a hybrid option, lifting the technological barriers without compromising security must be the end goal.  Firms need to be productive and profitable regardless of where their attorneys and staff are sitting.  With a plethora of excellent technology options available in the marketplace, the true barriers are lack of knowledge, experience, training, and budgets.