Part 3 of 4: Migrating to a Remote Workforce

Step 2: Optimal Remote Access

For many, working remotely is an adjustment and employees will rely on technology to stay connected and productive. Easing the barriers for employees to assess needed applications, documents and other tools will ensure a smoother and less stressful transition.

Remote Application Access – Most contractors are using a combination of Cloud/SaaS-based as well as traditional on-premise applications. Companies who have migrated from on-premise Exchange to an Office 363 E3 or E5 plan have a significant advantage, particularly due to the breadth of additional applications that are included.

Typically, ERP (Accounting and Job Cost), Estimating and Virtual Design in Construction (VDC) are the main back-office tools that are still being deployed on-premise along with Network file shares and Active Directory. Making these available remotely will likely require a combination of VPN access combined with a remote desktop session (e.g. Citrix, RDS or similar technology). Scaling up on-premise data centers to support the additional users while still providing the necessary redundancy may be challenging, given certain equipment shortages in the supply chain. It can also be expensive to pay a premium for certain supplies. The availability of VAR’s to help with implementation can also be challenging.

Now is a great time to leverage the capabilities of Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) vendors that can provide a DR environment to support your initial needs and, in the future, provide a better ROI than building out the current data center.

Optimize Access Speed – The speed of file access can greatly impact end-user productivity. Many contractors who have leveraged VPN technology to provide remote access to corporate systems for WFH (work from home) users are discovering that network connectivity is significantly impacting the time it takes to find, access and save files.

To combat this, IT needs to look at solutions that can cache files locally on an end-user’s device and manage the syncing of changes automatically with a central repository. SharePoint (provided as part of Office 365) can support this, but large files can still be challenging.

Solutions such as Egnyte, Nasuni, etc. provide similar functionality, although cost more. Ideally, contractors would leverage an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution to provide a comprehensive set of tools that support local caching/offline access to content, better indexing and search tools, record retention, archiving, workflow, scanning, imaging and collaboration capabilities. In all, ECM provides a much better ROI than some of the alternatives.

Without providing tools like ECM, end-users will rely on email to collaborate. This would greatly increase mailbox size and put a strain on this technology platform. With the increase in email scams, particularly through file attachments, adding additional email traffic increases the risk of a security breach.

Security – Deploy Two Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication (TFA/MFA) for application access, implement Security as a Service or SIEM-based tools that can monitor logs and identify malicious network traffic or activities quicker. The COVID-19 crisis has prompted an increase of scams and emails offering live maps that may be phishing attacks in disguise. It is important to educate employees on potential risks and establish guidelines around cyber security and social engineering awareness. Regardless of how good your security tools are, the weakest link is still the individual who may unknowingly compromise security. The more security awareness training you can provide your staff on a consistent basis the better. This would include the ability to identify phone scams as well. Tools such as KnowBe4 provide very comprehensive training for employees.

Help Your Employees Get Online with Connectivity Tips – Sufficient bandwidth at end-users’ homes becomes even more critical when everyone (including children and a partner) is at home competing for network resources. Online learning, increased video streaming, gaming, video/web conferencing and VPN activity all going on at the same time are straining WFH internet connections.

Help your employees optimize and improve their home services. Distribute bandwidth guidelines with minimum requirements that employees can use to evaluate their current services. The company will need to address the policy around cost reimbursement.  

Home router software may need firmware updates or need to be rebooted regularly to maintain optimum efficiency. Many in home Wi-Fi networks may not have a sufficiently strong enough password to prevent unauthorized access. In some cases, deploying managed networking equipment, such as Cisco Meraki, may be required to provide better management and visibility over network traffic and streamline VPN access. Depending on where the user is working in their house, they may not have sufficient Wi-Fi coverage and will need advice on how to extend coverage by using Wi-Fi repeaters or Powerline devices.

In order to guide you through this process, Burger Consulting Group has developed this four-part series sharing the approach in which you can migrate your remote workforce.

If you need help navigating the landscape of solutions to get your organization setup, reach out to Burger Consulting Group at info@burgerconsulting.com.  Click here to review the additional services Burger Consulting Group provides.

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