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IT Support Pitfalls for Remote Workers – and IT

Working remotely is a growing trend because of the recent pandemic virus that has kept hundreds of thousands of office teams seeking alternative solutions for performing their jobs.

Mobile workforces have changed the way many companies conduct business, with sales, support, and service employees already transitioning to this “new normal” way of working. Technology provides enhanced tools and methods of communicating effectively regardless of physical location:

  • Tablets, powerful laptop computers, and smartphones
  • WiFi connectivity that is increasingly available from home workspaces or public areas
  • Video conferencing tools that enable face-to-face collaboration around the globe

Along with the advancements and flexibility provided by these new technologies and the benefits realized by both employees and businesses, come new challenges for IT support personnel in assisting remote teams. Stopping by a coworker’s desk to help resolve a problem is no longer an option.

Security Issues for Remote Workers

Working in an office environment, staff computers are protected by several layers of security:

  • Firewalls that prevent cyberattacks and weed out malware
  • Enterprise antivirus protection
  • Internet controls against access to unauthorized or potentially hazardous websites
  • Email filters that identify and isolate spam content

Moving off-site from such protection requires new approaches to provide acceptable levels of security for the organization and employees working remotely. Managing network accessibility and providing the necessary protections must take several conditions into account:

Network Security

Remote workers still need access to corporate information and applications to remain productive and conduct business as if located in their normal office space. Most will use home wireless networks or even public WiFi or connection from job sites or customer locations.

Security of these remote networks could be questionable at best, with unauthorized users monitoring data traffic including login information and passwords. The solution is implementing a virtual private network (VPN) that ensures data privacy and encryption. Using VPN services must be required for remote workers to access network resources both from home or anywhere not on the local business network.

Physical Security

With an available computer now present in a home office, it can be tempting for other family members to use the resource for playing games, doing homework, or video streaming. Everyone must consider the computer off-limits for anything other than business use. Connecting a flash drive or installing non-business software can introduce malware or viruses to the system, which can transfer to the business network.

Email Hazards

Working from home, business teams will not have the same protection from email scams as when they’re sheltered behind the office firewalls and email filters.

Make remote employees aware of email best practices that will minimize exposure to email-based attacks:

  • Never open email attachments from unknown sources
  • Do not click links embedded in emails, unless you know the sender and are confident in the content
  • Even when you know the sender, it pays to confirm the link came from them, before clicking

Many email attacks include compromising the victim’s contact list, so emails from a known contact could still be spam or malware.

Software Protection

When working remotely, IT support technicians should specify authorized installation software for monitoring for viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Software protection should automatically update, so that virus and malware patterns are current to minimize vulnerabilities.

Supporting Remote Workers

For some businesses, remote work teams include IT support teams and network managers. This often creates an additional time gap from the time a user requests help until an available resource can respond to resolve the issue.

IT troubleshooting can be more challenging when workers and technicians are working remotely. Without direct connectivity, accessing the remote system may be more difficult, especially if the problem relates to the remote computer not connecting to the network.

Additional problems arise when applications do not work effectively – or at all – from a remote work environment. Some programs will not function as efficiently when not directly connected through a server on the network, or displays may not appear the same on remote equipment such as tablets or smartphones.

IT Support Solutions for Remote Workers

Remote work teams present new challenges for IT support personnel:

  • Ensuring security for business computers and the organization’s data and applications
  • Responding to support requests on a timely basis
  • Troubleshooting remote applications and technical issues efficiently

A managed IT approach addresses each of these challenges effectively. Turning to managed IT transitions much of the demand on internal IT resources to the service provider, including:

  • Technical and hardware support and management
  • Managed network services for problem analysis and IT troubleshooting
  • Managed communication services and phone systems

Smile Business Products, Inc. (Smile BPI) provides complete managed IT solutions for our clients, as well as office hardware products from leading manufacturers.

Contact Smile BPI professionals for a complete evaluation of how managed IT can resolve support challenges for your remote work teams.