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Blog · 27 Mar 2020

Remote working: it might not be a case of ‘scale and go’

As the Coronavirus pandemic accelerates the move to working from home, we share some of our ideas on how to set up robust remote working.

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Principal cyber security sales engineer, BT

As companies grapple with maintaining business in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, the ability to work from home has taken on a new level of importance.

For those who already have some form of Remote Access Service (RAS) in place, implementing the shift to homeworking might not feel like a huge task.

The reality, though, is that it’s more than just adding users to an existing service, or giving people access to your data from home. We’re dealing with a massively disruptive and fundamental change to working practices that could become the new norm for a while. It’s important to try and plan ahead as soon as possible, but it’s unlikely to be something you’ve got budget for in your BAU spend. More investment will inevitably be needed.

Remote working assumptions can be dangerous

In the last few weeks, we’ve been having business-critical conversations with several global enterprises about homeworking. Many are making the understandable assumption that, because they already support some remote access, they can scale as needed. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

It’s worth checking your current solution to understand its capability. At the same time, explore what the potential knock-on effects would be on the rest of your infrastructure - your internet connectivity, data centres, firewalls, routers, servers and applications  Not many internal infrastructures are set up for mass homeworking.

Further down the line, it’s worth considering whether you have the right processes in place to support your remote users on a long-term basis. For example, delivering new software to people’s equipment, supporting them with their queries, etc. This level of planning may not be in your day one considerations, but it’s worth having on your radar as soon as you can.

‘Making do’ may not be sustainable

Businesses are obviously keen to get homeworking up and running as soon as possible and this can lead to makeshift solutions that may not be possible to sustain. For example, we’ve had organisations reach out to us because, without an automated approach to classifying network traffic, they’re needing to manually disconnect users from their network to give priority access to their business-critical staff. That’s not something they can, or want, to sustain.

The collaboration and communication tools we use today are going to be tested like they’ve never been before. Businesses and technology providers are going to need to work together to help cope with the increased demand on broadband services from video conferencing, streaming TV, gaming, etc, through these unprecedented times.

Another important consideration during the surge in homeworking, is security. As companies increasingly rely on remote connections, they need to help their employees understand the potential risks, as for many of them, being home-based for work is unchartered territory. Such changes can make people behave differently to how they would in an office. During times of crisis, rational thinking is more important than ever. It’s vital to get your people thinking clearly so they act as another layer of cyber defence.

Security solutions that apply granular controls on what apps and data end users can access based on who they are, where they are, and what device they’re using could make all the difference to an organisation’s future, as hackers and scammers look to exploit these new ways of working.

And in the longer term, given the inevitable impact of a worldwide increase in remote working, companies should look to revisit and potentially update their risk profiles and existing threat management capabilities.

Proactivity is the key to effective remote working 

As with any significant business change, applying sound, diligent planning is crucial. It’s a tough ask when things are moving so fast, but if you can create some space to think ahead, making sure you have the right people and expertise in place, it could make all the difference to  meeting your remote working goals and looking after your organisation and employees.

Since the outbreak, we’ve helped a number of customers across the globe with their remote access challenges. If your organisation is being affected or you’re worried it could be soon, please reach out. Whether it’s practical help or reassurance, we’re here to help.

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