Technology has always altered the way we work, either as individuals or as part of a team. However, it seems as if circumstances have brought the workplace squarely into our own homes at a scale never seen before, with technology enabling our ability to do so. The professional world has gone through unprecedented changes these past few months, and the biggest shift has been towards Work from Home, or “WFH” as many call it. In this blog post, we will highlight WFH best practices, risks, and key concepts for IT Admins and business owners to consider when using productivity solutions such as Microsoft 365 (Office 365) and Google G Suite. Future blog posts in this series will delve into these productivity solutions in greater detail and provide specific examples of best practices in action.
The Virtual Office Space
Like the transition from on-premises hardware to the cloud, the physical office space we all commuted to is no longer an “on-prem” solution. WFH remotely means our offices have, in a way, become virtualized. Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite provide the communication, collaboration, and productivity tools to get work done regardless of location and device. SaaS productivity solutions enable a digital focal point that employees can connect to securely, becoming a virtual office space beyond meetings, emails, and filesharing.
SaaS productivity platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite enhance collaboration and provide capabilities that were not possible even when in the same physical space. Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite both have real-time multi-author collaboration features that allow multiple workers to simultaneously edit documents and see each other’s changes in real-time.
Both platforms can even replicate the classic whiteboarding and brainstorming sessions that facilitate a team’s ability to solve problems and innovate. Microsoft Teams has Whiteboard, and Google G Suite has Jamboard. IT Admins and business owners should consider training and educating their workers on using these features, as many employees may rely on the social collaborative process to drive success.
Project Management and Organization
Businesses often structure their offices to help facilitate teamwork on shared projects, usually by keeping project members nearby. IT Administrators can help replicate this by creating dedicated project channels in Microsoft Teams and Google Chat or Google Groups for Business. Access can be limited to project members, and such dedicated channels can be used for discussion, brainstorming, filesharing, and scheduling regular syncs.
Project Management tools such as task tracking and scrum boards can be replicated digitally, so IT Administrators should work closely with Project Managers to come up with an ideal solution and then educate employees on how to stay organized. We will dive deeper into this topic on future blog posts and provide examples, so stay tuned.
Access and Security
Security is an especially critical concern now, as remote access can easily become the ideal vector for a cyberattack. Workers are now utilizing their potentially unsecured home networks with default-passworded routers to connect to corporate intranets. Employees may use compromised or unsecured personal devices to work. Even more concerning, an employee’s family member may be able to gain access to sensitive systems or materials.
Because IT Security Administrators can no longer rely on blacklisting and limiting access to malware-ridden websites, as they do not control the home networks that remote workers are connecting from, user activity and behavior now present the largest security risk. Access and security solutions such as Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), as well as corporate-provided Wi-Fi hotspots, can help IT Security teams improve security while also limiting the number of passwords that employees need to have written down on a sticky note. IT Security teams can also establish VPN tunneling protocols to facilitate the safe transfer of sensitive web traffic through corporate networks.
In addition, we are seeing dramatic increases in cyberattacks such as spear-phishing and ransomware. Getting an email from the CEO asking for $700 in gift cards can be remedied by a quick in-person chat. But with spoofed emails and remote work, it can be even more challenging for employees to identify such attacks and avoid the consequences. Connectivity via home networks means that the endpoints are at far greater risk, so reinforcing training and education in these areas is critical for IT Security to maintain safe employee behavior and activity.
It may seem trivial but maintaining the virtual equivalent of employee culture can help workers feel connected to their teammates during this transition. Establishing virtual lunchrooms or weekly happy hours can provide much-needed downtime and bring workers together. Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts offer the virtual space for social time to ensure some degree of employee culture is maintained. Establishing text-channels to discuss non-work topics can be another way to establish a virtual water cooler as well.
With work becoming remote, siloed, and increasingly digital, business continuity is even more critical than ever before. IT Admins and business owners likely have a need for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, or low-cost backup solutions, but how does that work for SaaS productivity solutions such as Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite?
The Shared Responsibility Model indicates that while SaaS providers maintain the physical infrastructure and connectivity, it is ultimately up to the customer to maintain their critical information and data. Users may be storing critical files in their emails, on their hard drives, or on SharePoint and OneDrive.
Given the multitude of reasons local data may become inaccessible, businesses should ensure their employees are using cloud-based storage to ensure all device-stored data is accessible online. However, this is still only half of the concern, as cloud-based data storage may be one bad config away from disappearing.
Historically, data backups have been incredibly expensive as your on-prem storage effectively needed to be doubled. Cloud-based backups have become far more accessible, affordable, and streamlined for specific backup needs. However, how can businesses back up their SaaS productivity-based data from services such as Microsoft 365 and Google G Suite if such services already exist on the cloud? Many SaaS customers assume that if it’s already on the cloud, it must already be backed up. Unfortunately, this likely isn’t the case, so IT Administrators should verify with their SaaS providers and establish a robust cloud backup solution for their data.
Dropsuite is here to help close the data protection gap.
With Dropsuite solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 Backup, customers can ensure their critical documents, emails, and data are backed up, GDPR, HIPAA, and FINRA compliant, as well as protected by military-grade 256-bit AES encryption. Data has become the lifeblood for many businesses, and Dropsuite is here to ensure your data is protected and maintained, even when the unexpected happens.
Dropsuite not only backs up your emails, documents, cloud storage, and chat communications, but we can provide such services at an affordable cost, and with relative ease. Dropsuite is here to help ensure your business-critical data is backed up and secure for your whole organization, including your newly remote workers.
Learn more about Dropsuite backup solutions and stay tuned for the next blog post in this series where we dive into best practices for Microsoft 365.