In IT Security, Managed IT Services, Remote Workforce

Technology is a positive and enabling part of the modern enterprise. As well as providing new tools and platforms to promote and sell services and products, it has given employees new ways to communicate and work.

The use of digital working has been no more important than during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote working has meant that even more innovative technologies have been relied on, to enable employees to continue working as normally as possible, away from the office. An interesting outcome of this has been improvements in productivity. A study by the OECD says “Telework can improve firm performance by raising worker satisfaction and thus worker efficiency”.

To make the most of the situation, firms must support their workforce through technology to continue to be productive and even improve productivity. The era of IT managed services has allowed firms of all sizes to have great IT management. However, IT Management in such an unprecedented situation, like the Covid-19 pandemic is a challenge.

Here are 8 of those challenges that IT managed services surmounted to keep remote employees working smoothly and securely.

8 IT Management Challenges and How IT Managed Services Helped

During the pandemic, several areas of a business that relied on technology saw critical challenges. The expertise offered by outsourcing these challenges to IT managed services meant that businesses could continue operations in these most difficult circumstances:

Challenge 1: Migrating local servers to cloud services/ servers

Remote workers need remote access to IT resources and apps. This means an enterprise has to migrate local, internal access, servers to the cloud. The big challenge is business continuity. The Covid-19 pandemic was a fast-changing situation and moving local servers to cloud servers had to be done swiftly to avoid critical workloads stagnating. Several considerations had to be made including maintaining user experience so little if any, user training was needed. Complications over file structure and mapping also had to be resolved. Two key server challenges that the pandemic presented were:

Local server to cloud replication: Ensuring that remote employees had a continuous and replicable experience in their use of file servers during and after the migration process.

Maintain user experience: People are creatures of habit; it is important to maintain a known environment. This environment included the mapped drive structure employees are trained to use. This also meant that employee Active Directory and NTFS permissions had to be fully integrated.

App to cloud: To reduce training issues, apps that are based on the local server needed to be either made accessible via a VPN or moved to cloud servers (if applicable).

How Managed IT Service Providers (MSP) help: Managed IT services have extensive experience of dealing with these issues before the pandemic, could quickly and seamlessly move local servers to the cloud to maintain productivity.

Challenge 2: Upgrade firewalls and VPN systems

Cybersecurity challenges were a critical part of the Covid-19 pandemic. Home working meant that employees were not necessarily using encrypted channels to share data and communicate.

One of the key ways that an organization can protect employee access and data sharing is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN provides an encrypted tunnel between the employee and the internet. VPNs, in the context of remote workers, must be configured as “Always On” to avoid security gaps.

Firewalls are the other side of the security door. When the pandemic struck, many firms suddenly had multiple location access requests from a home-based workforce. Firewalls are often configured to use ‘geoblocking’ to restrict access from different locations. This policy had to be addressed and upgraded to accommodate remote workers.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: Setting up and configuring security tools across a disparate workforce is complex. An MSP has the expertise to make this task seamless.

Challenge 3: Implementing a VPN alternative called Splashtop

Splashtop is a Remote Desktop solution that is an alternative to a VPN. However, it provides the same level of security as a VPN with all remote desktop sessions encrypted. It also applies additional layers of security using device authentication, two-step verification, and multiple 2nd-level password options. Certain enterprises prefer the reliability, ease of use, and “on-demand” nature of Splashtop for remote work.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: Splashtop is an application that is SaaS and suitable for delivery using a managed IT service company.

Challenge 4: Hardening Office 365 security

The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out an alert on Office 365 use during the pandemic. The alert said:

As organizations adapt or change their enterprise collaboration capabilities to meet “telework” requirements, many organizations are migrating to Microsoft Office 365 (O365) and other cloud collaboration services. Due to the speed of these deployments, organizations may not be fully considering the security configurations of these platforms.”

The alert specified several security measures to harden an Office 365 environment. Measures included:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) for administrators
  • Assigning roles using Role Based Access Control (RBAC)
  • Implementing conditional access rules and policies
  • Collecting audit logs
  • Ensuring that all users used MFA
  • Suspicious behavior (ATP) alerts were set up.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: MSPs have the security experience needed to make sure that an Office 365 environment is secure, and vulnerabilities removed.

Challenge 5: Enabling MFA/2FA across all apps and all customers

Google research found that during the pandemic,18 million malware and phishing emails along with over 240 million COVID-19 themed spam email messages were being sent every day using Gmail. The use of MFA for employees using Office 365 helps reduce the risk of phishing and this method extends to other apps too. Any application that supports 2FA or MFA should be enabled to ensure that phishing is mitigated. Similarly, any customer facing apps should have 2FA configured.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: MSPs have the security expertise to enable and manage MFA.

Challenge 6: Migrating local file servers to SharePoint

SharePoint is a very useful platform for remote working. It offers a centralized portal where workers can communicate and collaborate. Features include integrated Microsoft Teams, a corporate news area, and file sharing and synchronization. Migrating local file servers to SharePoint can be time-consuming and easy to make mistakes.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: MSPs understand how to seamlessly migrate local files to SharePoint with little disruption to work.

Challenge 7: Configuring and securing remote/ home networks for end users

Home networks are generally not designed for the high security requirements of businesses. Home routers, for example, have been the target of cybercriminals who look for easy access to home networks. In 2019, over half a million home routers were victims of VPNFilter malware used to steal login credentials and other data. A home network is made secure using multiple layers of security that protect endpoints, cloud access, and the wider network.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: MSPs can ensure all of the necessary expertise on tools and measures to make sure that the same levels of security in the office are reflected in a home work environment.

Challenge 8: Upgrading clients and end user internet connections for faster remote connectivity

A remote workforce must be as productive outside the office as they were inside. A key part of keeping employees productive to make sure they have the best connectivity available. Making sure that a workforce, no matter where they work from, has optimized connectivity is an area that was a challenge during the pandemic.

How Managed IT Service Providers help: Using an MSP allows an organization to keep costs within budget whilst ensuring that internet access is fast and reliable.

 

If you experience any of these challenges we can help! Please contact one of our extraordinary techs to discuss ways we can improve and secure your remote workforce and IT management. (858) 346-1456 Ext. 1 or email us at [email protected]  

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