The IT Checklist: The 7 Checks for Large-Scale Remote Work
Companies around the world are shutting down their physical facilities in response to COVID-19, and are now looking into going fully virtual, at least for the near future. Everyone has questions about how best to conduct their business during this outbreak.
As an IT executive, you may be wondering how you can help your leadership to get their employees online and encourage a productive work environment in the face of the Coronavirus threat?
Fortunately, you now have a lot of options available, from video tools to collaboration platforms, corporate virtual private networks and changing work methods.
Yet, many companies have some work to do to bring their technology up to speed. Setting up your infrastructure to support the new remote work method requires some thought and testing so that you can confirm the stability of your tech stack in advance rather than once it has become a show stopper.
Here are some options, and tips for each.
It's clean-up and streamline time
Start by standardizing the tools that your employees use, ensuring that all team members have the tools they need to work and collaborate. If, up to now, you could somewhat ignore discrepancies in your tech stack, with one branch using GoToMeeting and another useing Zoom, when the entire company moves to remote work, having a dispersed toolset could slow down the daily operation and stand in the way of team collaboration.
It is time to select a standard tool for each function and explicitly communicate it to employees. Such a standardization process could also help with overall savings by removing duplicate purchases and consolidating your subscriptions into the license tier that suits your volume and level of activity.
One way to communicate the list of tools available for your employees is by placing them all in one shared depository like the Apps Catalog, through which employees can request access to any such apps from afar, in real-time. Providing this option will also contribute to your ability to monitor and control your tech stack on an ongoing basis.
Subscriptions - one size doesn't fit all
Already in the last few days, we’ve seen a 30% increase in the use of video conferencing and collaboration tools among our customers. The use of Zoom, Slack, Notion and other SaaS applications that help teams work effectively from remote locations is on the rise.
Now is the time to look at the level of subscriptions and tiers of all these critical corporate applications, and adjust them to your new needs.
Does your CEO plan an all-hands, all-remote meeting? That may become an urgent need in these challenging times. Video calls are usually limited to 100 participants, would that be sufficient? You may want to check your current subscription plan and upgrade in advance.
Other executives and team leaders would need to use the online video platform of choice to manage their teams and conduct daily meetings. Do they all have the access to the right tools? And what about their team members?
Online video platforms offer different product and subscription tiers with limitations on the length of the call and the number of attendees. Make sure all users have the right subscriptions to meet their new daily needs. You may need to upgrade your corporate subscriptions while enjoying enterprise-friendly pricing.
Remove VPN access roadblocks
In the coming days and weeks, your corporate VPN (virtual private networks) that was designed for use by subgroups of employees, may have to handle the strain caused by hundreds and thousands of telecommuting employees working remotely. Will it make it?
Step 1 would be to equip all corporate laptops with VPN to connect remote workers to enterprise networks and servers (if you haven't done so yet) and train all your users on how to get connected and when. VPN .
Step 2 would be to verify that all users got, in fact, access to the corporate applications they need to perform their daily work, whether these are on-premise tools or SaaS applications.
Step 3 would be to put the system to the test. Your stress tests will reveal if the set-up and the technology are up to the challenge of supporting a large remote workforce.
Redefine access anomalies
Back in the days when you set your security tools and policies, they were designed to support remote access of users subgroups at best. Excessive access wasn't in sight and naturally would have been tagged as a risk that needed to be blocked.
Earlier this week, one of our customers reported that when their 500 employees tried to access their office network on their work-from-home drill, their Intrusion Detection System kicked into action and blocked them all as this activity of 500 unique IPs was marked as a suspicious activity.
Now is the time to revisit those procedures and make sure your SSO, IdP, threat detection tools and any other security app that is involved in monitoring access to your corporate assets, will allow remote access of your entire workforce, all at once.
Is your wifi strong enough?
At your corporate facilities, you've gone the extra mile to make sure the internet bandwidth can support your daily traffic. But how would that help when all your users connect from home?
Ask your users to check their home wifi connection and if necessary, upgrade it. As more companies encourage their employees to work remotely, the availability of such services will become sparse.
The situation may become critical when your employees are used to uploading large files, media files and others, on a daily basis. In such cases, you may need to provide alternative file sharing options to support their needs.
Having a distributed workforce for an extended period of time may lead to boundless creativity and freedom in work methods and tool adoption. New applications introduced by different users may change the balance that you are trying to achieve. It is, therefore, recommended that you keep an eye on your tech stack and regularly monitor it. Luckily, there are SaaS Management platforms that can do this for you: automatically identifying and notifying you when new applications are connected to your corporate network or closed, or when prohibited applications making their way back into your tech stack.
Set consistent communication methods
Even after you've gone through the long lists of To-Do's, tackled every known obstacle and prepared your infrastructure and users for the remote work shift, there may still be dark corners you haven't thought of and new, ad-hoc situations that will surprise you and your users. Technical challenges aside, you would want to establish a clear and open communication channel to ensure you are the first to be informed of any such problem so you could address it quickly to allow for continuous teamwork.
The bottom line
We are all treading in unknown territory but if one thing is clear it is that keeping your users connected and collaborating is key to the company's productivity in times like this.
To make it easier for you to keep up, here is the quick list of things you should consider for your remote team:
- Standardize your tool set, consolidate and remove duplicate apps
- Fix the subscription levels of critical corporate applications to your current needs
- Remove VPN access roadblocks
- Redefine access anomalies
- Confirm sufficient remote wifi connection
- Continue monitoring your tech stack
Uri Nativ has over 19 years of software engineering experience as both an engineer and a hands-on manager. He founded the Klarna Engineering center in Tel-Aviv, holding the position of VP Engineering & Site Manager. Uri has broad experience building B2B enterprise products from his days at VMWare, EMC, nLayers, and Sanctum.