With working from home becoming part of the status quo for many organisations, Syrex, a leading provider of virtualised and hybrid network infrastructures and solutions, highlights the main areas which a business must consider to ensure its remote employees are protected and empowered to be as effective as possible.

“Events of 2020 have fundamentally shifted how companies view working from home. They have seen that not only is it possible to do so, but it can also significantly boost productivity.”

“Of course, some businesses might not have been sufficiently prepared to embrace this and had to rush to get staff up and running as quickly as possible. But in doing so, they might have missed a few key elements to mitigate any potential risks to data security and business disruption happening in the future,” says Ralph Berndt, Director of Sales at Syrex.

At the most basic, any remote private office requires reliable connectivity. And while fibre is always preferable given its speed and affordability, it might not always be possible to have fibre installed especially in remote areas. This is where the likes of wireless and LTE solutions become invaluable to provide alternative options

The second element is providing employees with secure virtual private network (VPN) connections to the office network and the cloud-based applications which the organisation relies on. Given how sophisticated threat vectors have become during these uncertain times, multi-factor authentication must be implemented to protect employees (and the company itself) from potential hacking attempts. In this way, the hacker must not only be able to identify the password to get into the employee’s laptop, but also have access to a secondary device like the person’s phone or tablet to confirm a one-time password.

“South Africans have gotten used to multi-factor authentication especially when it comes to their online banking and shopping. It therefore makes sense for their company to adopt this as a reliable way of protecting the office network,” adds Berndt.

As part of this, cybersecurity must be completely integrated into the remote office setup.

“Continual security awareness training including educating staff about the latest social engineering techniques become critical especially when people are working outside the relative safety of their enterprise security network. Every employee must have endpoint protection on their mobile devices and laptops as well as be shown how to protect their home offices,” adds Berndt.

Companies must also ensure their employees have the required hardware and software to continue doing their work while operating remotely. This can include providing them with new or refurbished laptops and desktops, physical or software-based phone systems, and even routers and modems.

“Just as companies might have been caught off guard when it comes to the acceleration of remote working, so too are not all employees ready to manage this process. They might not have internet at home or use outdated computers. The business must therefore perform a comprehensive audit on each employee working remotely when it comes to their connectivity, hardware, software, and security.”

The final component in the readiness for remote working is communication and collaboration. Whether it is using the likes of Microsoft Teams for internal and external meetings or SharePoint to collaborate on documents in real-time, companies must harness innovative solutions that still facilitate effective communication and workflows. Equally, a hosted PABX solution can allow users to make and receive calls just as if they were sitting in the office.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinvented how companies digitally transform their operations. Now, the focus is very much on equipping remote workers with the skills and tools needed for a more dynamic work environment,” concludes Berndt.