By Joy Beland

I haven’t been shy about our push to encourage a remote workforce while making sure their access to company data is secure.  In our office, we have a policy allowing for one day each week being designated a remote work day, for every member* on our team.  So, the challenges of this initiative are always front and center, and teach us something new every day.  Here’s the top five things we’ve implemented for our remote workforce program to be successful.

  1. The best change we’ve made is to get our data into SharePoint, accessible from any device and any location. We tied the Office 365 credentials (giving access to Email and SharePoint, amongst many other things) to two-factor authentication, requiring a PIN on a mobile device in addition to login credentials.  The need for the 2-factor authentication PIN is disabled if the access request comes from our office computer network, meaning if you are at your desk here in our office, you only need to log into your PC to have full access to SharePoint and Email.

     
     
     
     

  2. We took it a step further and deployed 2-factor authentication for every other application we use. Whether it’s our service delivery and time keeping software, our online QuickBooks financial software, our remote access portal to our client computers and servers, or our LastPass password management software – everything we do has to be run through a 2-factor authentication program on our smart phones, so the six-digit PIN from a phone must accompany a user name and password.

     
      

     
     
     
     
     

  3. Speaking of making remote access more secure – there is something worth mentioning as its own item – LastPass password management software. I mean, the last thing I want as a business owner, is for a staff member to be saving company passwords on their home computers, mobile devices, or laptops.  The biggest advantage LastPass offers my staff, is secure 2-factor authenticated access to every password they need, from anywhere they are.  The biggest benefit to me as the business owner is immediate control of those passwords for every staff member.

     
     

     
     
     
     

  4. No one wants all their eggs in one basket, so we made sure our SharePoint data, One Drive (personal files) and Mailbox data is backed up every day with a 3rd party tool. We added to that, advanced email threat filtering and spam control, so that our staff members don’t have to sort through dozens or hundreds of junk emails each day.  Only those legitimately on the border of Junk or Not Junk get listed in a daily email digest for the staff, and with one click you can both whitelist that sender permanently and release the email to your inbox.  With today’s Ransomware having the ability to encrypt entire mailbox stores (yes, I’m talking about Office 365 and Google Apps mailboxes – a new thing!), we want to be extra careful to scrub all email and to back it up.  We love our new vendor we are working with for this solution.

     

     

  5. Finally, we have jumped in with both feet to Mobile Device Management software. We encrypt the hard drive of every laptop and desktop we use.  Then, there are two types of packages we choose from to manage these devices plus mobile phones, based on the network mix of Mac or iOS devices vs. Windows and Android operating systems.  In either scenario, we remotely deploy applications, lock down user access, remote wipe a device, see where the device is located, push down critical updates and security updates, and much more.

 
 
 
 
 
 
My staff will tell you, they are pretty happy with the flexibility to work remotely.  And, we are all proud of our initiative to be leaders in remote access security.  If you are curious, feel free to stop Nick, David, or Lamar and ask them their thoughts.  Or let me know if you’d like a quote for adding any of these solutions to allow for your workforce mobility.  After all, we’re an IT firm.  If we can’t do remote right, who can?

*Our company policy is to provide one ½ day of remote work allowance per week after one year of employment, and two ½ days of remote work allowance per week after two years of employment.  Just in case you’re wondering what works well for our team.