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Checklist for remote working during the novel Coronavirus pandemic

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, COVID-19 or the novel Coronavirus has been wreaking havoc across the globe. Numerous major events have already been canceled due to obvious outbreak concerns.

Major sporting events, social gatherings, and concerts have already been canceled. Ironically, even a conference covering Coronavirus got canceled just a couple of days ago. This is how alarming the situation has gotten.

Even though the general public is taking the COVID-19 pandemic pretty casually, it’s an alarming outbreak that’s forcing public health officials to think differently in order to control and combat the ordeal.

Due to the ever-evolving nature of the Coronavirus epidemic, policies around work from home possibilities are being constantly revised as employers cope up with public health notices and statistics. After all, no company wants employees to come to work if they’ve been exposed to the virus.

But working from home isn’t as easy as one might think. Especially for people who are accustomed to working in a 9 to 5 office environment. Me personally, I’ve been working from home for about a week now. To be honest, getting started was an utter nightmare. So many thoughts go through your head.

  • Will I be able to log in on time?
  • What about team meetings?
  • How can I securely access the company network?
  • What if my internet goes out, will I lose all my work progress?
  • What if I accidentally click on something that can harm my company?

Now if you’ve just transitioned into a work from home environment, I’m sure you can relate. So in these challenging times, I have created a simple get started guide in collaboration with tips from real-world experts to help you securely and efficiently work from home during the uncertain Coronavirus epidemic.

1. Use a secure connection

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First and foremost, you should start with a secure end to end encrypted connection. After all, most cyberattacks take birth from compromised networks. According to statistics, cybercrime is expected to cause $6 trillion in damages annually by 2021. So, you should start by using tools like VPNs to carry out your routine work.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

According to Greg Scott who is a self-proclaimed pioneer in working remotely, The only viable choice here is a VPN (Virtual private network). And I agree, a VPN can, in fact, mitigate risks of remotely accessing company networks.

Mark suggests using remote desktops. It may sound obvious, but the first thing to consider regarding remote work is the hardware that the staff has access to. If they have deployed desktops, people will not be able to access these from home. A great solution for this is a remote desktop solution, delivered via the cloud. This means that staff aren’t tied to their corporate desktop, and can securely log in to their “computer” from any device. We recommend Amazon Workspaces for remote desktop delivery.

According to Mark, one of the most secure ways to connect remotely to company networks is through a secured remote desktop solution which includes the following: 

  1. Industry-standard TLS 1.2 with AES 256-bit encryption
  2. Single sign-on (SSO) capability, ensuring employee passwords meet compliance and security requirements
  3. Device authentication
  4. Multi-factor authentication
  5. Human-readable logs, session recording, easy monitoring and reporting

François believes that remote workers pose a great cybersecurity risk. He suggests that using a VPN is a great way to create a secure connection to the corporate network. However, VPNs are prone to security threats. Adding two-factor authentication (2FA) on all your RDP sessions is an additional layer of security against unauthorized access to your systems. François has also created an interactive infographic explaining how to overcome the cyber risks of remote working. 

  • Luka — Editor-in-chief at DataProt

Set up a secure VPN for all remote employees to use, each with their individual permissions and access levels. Each employee logs into their own private account when they startup their laptops as they would any other day logging in at the office. Using a VPN ensures the privacy and accountability of all of the remote employee’s online activities.

  • Jake Rheude— Associated with Red Stag Fulfillment
Jake, who has been managing a fully remote team for 4 years, suggests being mindful of the applications you use. Whether you use a work laptop or your personal laptop, be mindful of the information that you’re sharing or inputting via that device. Use a more secure, privacy-conscious browsers such as Brave, or a search engine such as DuckDuckGo. Any of these tools will make working from home as secure as possible and minimize the vulnerability of being outside the measures you have in the office.

2. Use team collaboration tools

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So, no matter if you’re working from home, you will need to collaborate with your team from time to time. I know how important it is for me to get timely approvals. I highly suggest using Slack. It helps me stay in touch with my team in real-time.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

Maintain team collaboration and ensure work and efforts are not compromised – with its channel bonding technology, Speedify can combine 2 or more Internet connections together at once. Again – it’s not load balancing, but channel bonding. And it’s the only solution available as a software app that uses that technology. So, if one connection fails or gets slow, Speedify intelligently redirects traffic to the faster one, so users always get the best Internet.

Jay brings attention to what we all have experienced at one time or another — application performance problems. According to Jay, many applications that are fundamental for remote work such as Unified Communications, VoIP, video conferencing, and other cloud applications all rely on a stable and fast Internet connection between your remote work setup and the data centers hosting those services in public and private clouds. Having a router capable of advanced QoS (Quality of Service) and broadband bonding can significantly improve the performance and reliability of your Internet connection. These so-called SD-WAN home office routers will, therefore, boost the VPN performance that is carrying all those important applications.

Alexis suggests using video conferencing as often as possible. Especially for difficult or complex conversations. Facetime is your friend here.  If you have information to disseminate (like status updates) go ahead and use email and Slack. But if you need to have a conversation, real-time, synchronous conversation, with video, will help ensure there are fewer miscommunications and that we are still seeing our coworkers as full human beings.

3. Go cloud to avoid losing work progress

use-cloud-technology-during-work-from-home

If you’re like me and have lost your work progress due to software glitches or your computer dying on you, you must move your work to the cloud ASAP. There are numerous cloud services you can go for. I personally use Google Drive. It fast, safe, and dead easy to use.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

  • Mike Treacy — Director of Support Services at Onix

Mike Treacy suggests that cloud-based solutions give companies the advantage to have employees working remotely even in an emergency situation. Mike suggests that using G Suite is the key to protecting your work and accessing it remotely. He further adds that integrating a suite of cloud-native productivity apps can ensure that your valuable work and documents are never lost due to abrupt crashes.

  • Zach Capers — Zach is a Sr. Analyst at GetApp

Zach suggests that the simplest way to ensure your work is not compromised is to deploy multi-factor authentication for all business applications, preferably using an authenticator app on your mobile device. Multi-factor authentication prevents most of the threats to business data posed by phishing schemes, weak passwords, and compromised credentials.

So, what are the challenges?

Even though work from home scenario actually seems pretty cool, however, it’s far more challenging and risky for both employers and employees. For example, When employees are sent outside their normal working environment, managing, securing, and patching thousands of endpoints can sprawl out of hand quite quickly.

For an IT department, this means losing control. After all, there’s no sure-shot way for a security team to determine whether an employee has secured their home Wi-Fi network. There’s no way for someone from the security department to determine in real-time that someone’s device has been compromised.

For many companies that have totally adopted SaaS and cloud technology, managing a remote workforce can be relatively easy, however, for companies that still have their systems running on internal networks, remote work can be a total nightmare.

For instance, employees stuck in companies with weak infrastructure still find themselves dealing with annoying endpoint security protocols and potential attacks. Since IT departments in some companies don’t have the right tools, fixing even the slightest of issues requires them to remotely access an employee’s computer which is not only quite time taking but also risky.

Fortunately, most companies are handling the whole Coronavirus work from home situation quite nicely. Although haphazardly, most companies are working on establishing risk-assessments of remote workers and their computing setups before allowing them to work from home.

So while there’s no telling how long the Coronavirus epidemic will last, the whole fiasco has certainly changed the way we think and we work.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw