As we close out 2021, many of us will be feeling un unshaking sense of déjà vu as we pack up our office space ready to work from home, once more. Regardless of how we personally feel about working from home; many find it liberating, while others despise it, it does throw up some interesting questions for IT professionals as well as business owners. There is no doubt it poses some unique challenges for employers; how does one best keep track and oversee employees as they work from home? How can collaboration continue as efficiently as if everyone is at the office? And perhaps most importantly, how can a business stay secure when everyone is working remotely? 

Here are some tips you may find useful if your workforce are transitioning back to working from home. 

  1. Working Securely From Home 

Encrypt your devices 

Here at Under One Cloud, we make sure the devices we centrally manage are encrypted, activating features like BitLocker; the volume encryption feature included with Windows devices (or analogous features for other operating systems). These function to prevent anyone from accessing the contents of your lost or stolen devices without your password or biometric logins. This is particularly important if you have a remote workforce, as it may be impossible to account for all your company’s devices. 

Make Sure Your Operating System is Up-To-Date 

We all have the tendency to put off OS updates, as they always seem to prompt you at the wrong time, so its easy to kick the can down the road. Try to avoid this, as Microsoft and Apple are always implementing bug and exploit fixes in with these updates in order to keep up with cyber criminals. Leaving your OS not updated even for a short while increases your vulnerability for being attacked. 

To minimize this risk, ensure all devices apply security patches as soon as possible, ideally via automatic updates.  

Here at Under One Cloud, we push these updates through on all our managed devices, relieving business owners of the worry that employees are not keeping up with these updates. 

As well as your OS, try to keep all your software up-to-date, as operating systems aren’t the only thing that can be exploited. Web browsers are a common target, for example. For the same reasons outlined above, it’s important to keep any installed applications up-to-date.  

Most modern software will check for, and apply security patches automatically. For everything else, check for the latest versions as often as possible. Even better, consider using a secure Software-As-A-Service application over installable software as it cannot become out of date and the management of security is in the hands of the provider rather than you. We always advise our customers on what subscription would be most cost effective and secure as a matter of course.  

Enable Auto Locking 

This tends to come as standard, but it is definitely worth enforcing this across your workforce, to prevent people leaving their machine’s open and logged in for any extended period of time. 

We enforce this on all our managed devices. 

Have a Strong Password 

This should go without saying, but it is still arguably the most common way in for cyber criminals. Avoid any personal information in your work passwords and never have your name and NEVER have Password or Password123 etc.! 

Choosing a strong password prevents all manner of attacks, such as brute-force attacks. Having a string of letters, both upper and lower case, as well as numbers and special characters is best. 

Finally, change your password every month or so. This is absolutely best practice and it is always what we advise with our customers. 

Even better than all that, use a password managerWe at UOC use ‘1Password’ for example. They help you create strong passwords and remember them, as well as share them with family members, employees, or friends securely. They also make it easy to use a unique password for each website you use. 

This is a important because if you reuse the same password and it is exposed in a data breach, which has happened to countless businesses over the past couple of years, your other accounts will remain safe.  

Most password managers will also allow you to store secure notes, credit card details, and other types of sensitive information. 

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 

Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method where access is granted only after successfully presenting two pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism.   

MFA can dramatically reduce the risk of successful phishing emails and malware infections because even if the attacker is able to get your password, they are unable to login because they do not have the second piece of evidence. To successfully login, they would need access to whatever is generating your one-time code, which should be an authenticator app or security key. 

The first and most common evidence is a password. The second takes many forms but is typically a one-time code or push notification. 

We always advise this for our customers and help every employee set it up and learn to use easily.  

Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) For You And Your Staff 

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, enabling you to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if you are directly connected to the private network. They do this by establishing a secure and encrypted connection to the network over the internet and routing your traffic through that. 

This is particularly important if you por any of your staff are on the road, as you should Never work from a private network without, like a coffee shop or hotel’s, without using a VPN. 

We regularly set up and manage VPNs for our customers and train all members of staff to learn how and when to use one.  

  1. Monitor and Collaborate Effectively From Home 

As a business owner it may be a challenge to monitor employees and collaborate in a way you normally would. The key is to stay in touch regularly throughout the day.  

We recommend taking full advantage of what Microsoft Teams has to offer. This really has become a one-stop-shop for staying in touch remotely, as well as scheduling, planning and collaborating with your whole work force.  

You can set up channels for instant messaging one person, a group of people, a department or any combination you like to track progress, plan for the day, week or month, or just chat away to people like you would in the office, either via the channel’s chat window or using voice and video calling. You can also share files, share videos, set up groups, schedule meetings and pretty much anything else you want to do to keep your company going through these tricky months ahead and beyond. 

We here at Under One Cloud will be releasing a lot more content for how to use Teams to its full potential… watch this space! 

SharePoint is another tool at your disposal 

Using SharePoint for your business allows you to store all your companies’ files and data in one central location, which is cloud based, so as long as your employees are storing all their work within your company SharePoint, there is almost zero risk of your data being breached or stolen from their physical machines, as it is being stored in Microsoft data centres, which is one of the safest places in the world to store digital content. 

Of course, using SharePoint also allows you to create specific sites and groups which you can the delegate permissions to, as per the requirements of your business. 

We manage our client’s SharePoint sites and make sure it is being used to its full potential and give all our customers full training so they can use it easily and safely. 

Microsoft Planner 

This is a great little tool that we use and recommend to our customers. It allows you to create tasks, delegate them across your workforce and track progress in one specific location. You can set deadlines, so that you know that your employees know and can see that they are expected to keep up with the demands of your business. You can then see in one central location all the tasks that you have sent out to your employees and can keep up with any progress, problems and questions all in one nifty little tool. 

We will be creating more blogs and video content in due course with even more tips and tricks for using tech as your friend through these difficult months. But for now we hope this can go some way to helping your business flourish, from home or the office. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Under One Cloud!