In the aftermath of the COVID-19 spread across the globe, companies of all shapes and sizes — and in nearly every industry — are facing the reality of a fully remote workforce. The unfortunate truth is that this pandemic caught many of these organizations scrambling and flat-footed as it relates to remote connectivity. After all, “business as usual” is hard to maintain when your network is ill-equipped to handle the increased traffic from home-bound employees.
According to the trends, it shouldn’t have been this way. Companies should be more equipped than ever to accommodate remote workers. In the last decade, growth in remote work has increased by more than 90%. Today, nearly 5 million American workers have a morning commute that consists of shuffling from their bed to a home office or the kitchen table.
Looking ahead over the next few months, the future is rife with uncertainties. But one thing we know to be true is that businesses that partner with a managed IT services provider to create and uphold a technology infrastructure are better prepared to adequately support telecommuters. Here are three quick ways IT partners can ready your organization for a fully remote workforce.
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1) Provide an accessible and stable environment through managed network services
They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; well, we say a business is only as good as its network. Whether it’s related to COVID-19 or just a policy shift on working remotely, it’s vital for business continuity that telecommuters receive the same level of access to email, files and databases that was available in the office.
A managed IT services partner can offer a network assessment to evaluate the status of a company’s servers, identifying which are nearing or at end-of-life. These partners can also seamlessly migrate your mission-critical systems from local servers to the cloud, enabling universal access regardless of location. Your partner should also be capable of archiving data and documents in a manner that adheres to regulatory laws and guidelines.
The goal here is not just to follow the letter of the law, but to create an operational and searchable archive should you need to retrieve something at a later date.
Equally as important to moving these assets to the cloud is keeping them up and running, so you must be able to trust your IT partner to offer the reliability your business needs. In the event there is a disruption, the best IT partners have dedicated issue resolution specialists who work with their business clients to restore the application promptly.
2) Offer network security that keeps your employees and data safe
Accessibility and reliability are critical pillars of managed IT services, but those benefits are meaningless without a commitment to security. Safe remote access is available through what’s called a virtual private network, also known as a VPN. This security measure requires remote workers to launch an installed client on their local computer before inputting unique credentials that authorize the user.
A VPN will encrypt any files the user is working in and any data exchanged over the internet to protect it from fraudsters. This is especially important for remote workers who may be accessing the internet over a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network.
Constructing and mapping a VPN is a complex process, which is why information security experts suggest that businesses turn to a managed IT services provider for help. These providers have the knowledge needed to institute a solution with robust forms of security, like Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. IT partners can also install firewalls that block potential threats across the network.
One thing to remember is that there’s a pivotal educational component that businesses must layer into their plans for readying the organization for a fully remote workforce. Both through formalized training and casual reminders, company leaders should stress the importance of launching the VPN client as soon as the employee turns the computer on and prior to using any internet browser. Compliance with this policy could be the difference in exposing data vulnerabilities and defending them.
3) Enable opportunities for continuous communication
It may still be somewhat early in the year, but “social distancing” seems destined to be the slam-dunk winner for buzz-phrase of 2020. Used to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease, as in the case of COVID-19, social distancing has also reinforced how lonesome it can feel for some people to work remotely. But it doesn’t have to be that way if companies are using technology to enable continuous communication opportunities.
Working in tandem with a VPN, there are a number of secure communication channels that a managed IT services partner can establish for employees. Fully encrypted file sharing, video chat and instant messaging supply remote workers with the tools they need to accomplish their work tasks and chat in real-time.
For work product that isn’t necessarily privileged or confidential, but still requires collaboration, there are many out-of-the-box communications and project management tools available. Some of the most popular solutions that remote employees were widely using even before the COVID-19 pandemic include Zoom, Asana, Trello, Slack, Basecamp and Google Hangouts.
Finding the right managed IT services provider
As with any vendor, selecting the right partner that you can trust with IT services can be a complicated process, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you whittle down potential candidates.
First, talk with each vendor about their experience and ask for real-life case studies of not only how they’ve implemented solutions but reacted to problems. Also, make sure the vendor is capable of taking on the full breadth of your needs. Instead of outsourcing multiple aspects of managed IT services to different firms, look for one vendor primed to handle it all. Given the fact that so many companies are making the switch to a fully remote workforce as a result of COVID-19, finding a partner who can get you up and running fast is also key.
AOP provides businesses with custom IT plans and services that are essential for supporting a fully remote workforce. Through relationships with valued vendors like Cisco, Dell and Microsoft, AOP can deliver and maintain managed networks, institute technology-based workflows, protect company data, and archive sensitive materials for businesses in need of managed IT services.
If you’re interested in learning how we can help your business, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you contact us, we’ll set a virtual meeting via Zoom to talk about your business tech goals and how we can work together to reach them. Think of this video chat as your introduction to working remotely! We’ll show you how our team makes it happen, and how you can too.