Weak passwords, phishing emails, and unsecured personal networks and devices are just a few of the risks associated with remote work. As more organizations move to a wholly remote or hybrid work model, they must find ways to provide a resilient IT and operational technology infrastructure for their work-from-anywhere teams.
The Current State of Remote Work
In 2022, remote employees made up 26 percent of the U.S. workforce, a number four times more than those who previously worked remotely. And experts predict that by 2025, as many as 36.2 million Americans could be working remotely.
Clearly, many companies have decided that remote and flexible work is here to stay. They’ve discovered there are proven benefits to doing so, including:
- Greater productivity
- Higher quality performance
- Stronger engagement and lower absenteeism
- Improved retention
- Increased profitability
While the shape remote work takes varies from business to business, one consistent challenge exists across all industries and sectors: how to resolve problems like security risks and compliance issues that could potentially sink a company financially and reputationally.
Common Risks Associated With Remote Workers
There are, of course, some downsides to remote work.
- Remote collaboration is challenging, and employees say they often feel less connected to their companies and fellow team members.
- Cyber risks have long been a concern for organizations, but they’ve intensified due to poor remote work practices such as unsecure personal devices, poor IT support, and lack of employee training.
- Expanded attack surfaces that expose organizations to attacks if they’re misconfigured or if vulnerabilities are allowed to “collect dust.”
- Lack of security talent. Staffing challenges can create delays in adequately securing remote workers.
- Unsecured and vulnerable hardware and networks in home environments leave workers exposed to attacks.
Fortunately, companies can mitigate or eliminate these risks and drastically reduce the chances of suffering a costly and sometimes devastating cyber attack.
Remote Work IT Best Practices
Conventional wisdom says that nothing IT-related is 100 percent secure. But organizations that adopt the latest security best practices can significantly lessen their risks. Here’s how.
- Implement basic security controls. Remote employees should use VPNs (virtual private networks) to access enterprise systems, have antivirus software installed on their devices, and adhere to a strong password policy.
- Strengthen corporate data protection programs. Organizations should know what their digital information is, what information they’re collecting, and what they’re doing to protect their data.
- Establish a robust risk management program and use a risk-based approach to address high-level vulnerabilities and reduce the number of unpatched weak points that hackers might exploit.
- Review existing threat detection and incident response initiatives to ensure they’re current.
- Implement a zero-trust framework and require all users and devices to verify they’re authorized to access the enterprise environment.
- Ensure correct cloud configurations and access and take measures to eliminate flaws, errors, or gaps that could expose the work environment to risk during cloud migration.
- Establish a security awareness program that regularly educates users on potential new security threats and the steps they must take to keep the organization safe.
Lastly, to keep devices and networks secure, consider investing in managed IT services.
Benefits of Managed IT Services for Remote Workers
Managed IT services are fundamentally the same whether an employee is working on-site or remotely. Still, five ways a managed service provider can be particularly supportive when moving to a remote workforce are:
- They provide the additional IT support you need to manage remote workers without having to hire more internal staff.
- They configure firewalls for remote workers to provide a layer of security for users accessing on-site, web, and cloud-based files. These firewalls can include intrusion detection and prevention, content filtering, and prevent unauthorized remote access.
- They set up a VPN for remote workers while ensuring users have access to the information they need to perform their jobs.
- They offer real-time IT support systems that reduce risk downtime and proactively protect your tech infrastructure.
- They help ensure your business is compliant with federal, state, and industry rules, standards, policies, and regulations.
Partnering with an MSP is an easier and more efficient way to secure your remote employees’ connections to your network. It’s also one of the fastest ways to navigate the complexities of industry-related configurations and compliance requirements.
Ensuring Long-Term Remote Work Efficiency
Remote or hybrid workforces are now a norm that opens the door to various security risks. Businesses adopting these work models must empower their remote employees by giving them the IT support they need no matter where they work.
Managed IT services allow your enterprise to address technological asset issues, even in remote settings. And the enhanced security, ample IT support, and seamless collaboration and communication they provide enable your remote workers to work more effectively and help your business thrive.