Over the last few weeks we've seen a global transformation in how we work. Businesses of all sizes, regardless of their usual policies, have had to enable their employees to work from home. While their hands may have been forced, many businesses won't return to ‘normal' once they are free to. In fact, it might be that what we're experiencing is an unplanned experiment into the future of work.
Working from home isn't a new concept, especially for smaller businesses who are leading the charge with a mobile-first approach. Start-ups born in spare bedrooms and garages take this mindset with them as they grow into multi-million-pound organisations. Meanwhile, many larger, older organisations are having to shake off workplace cultures with roots in the pre-home broadband era.
However, remote working doesn't come without its challenges, it's crucial to have the right technology in place, be able to access company networks and tools, and have the right defences against some serious security concerns. Whether you're new to home working, or an old hand, it's important to understand and get ahead of these issues.
Invest in hardware to last
Every business wants to drive productivity and collaboration, but under the current conditions, it becomes even more important; scattered teams and unusual working conditions can cause delays and communication issues. To ensure productivity doesn't suffer, employees need to be equipped with the right technology. In the last month laptop demand has rocketed in response to a greater demand for remote working. The devices your employees use are their primary means of interacting with clients, colleagues and their workloads. Therefore, it stands to reason that the hardware you choose can have major implications for the productivity of your workforce.
Businesses need to ensure they are investing in laptops designed to see their employees through today's working conditions, but also tomorrow's. Reliable connectivity and performance are critical to allowing employees to connect with colleagues through the multitude of web-enabled collaborative tools available, overcoming any obstacles of distance and preserving collaboration within teams. However, these should not come at the cost of portability - if and when employees are able to commute again, they need devices which as mobile as they are.
Put security first
The greatest challenge posed by remote working is security. As organisations all over the country hasten to limit disruption to business processes and cash flows, security concerns will sometimes slide down the priorities. In fact, according to IDC, security has fallen into second place in terms of IT investment, with collaboration technologies taking precedence due to crisis. Yet in a world where workforces no longer exist behind company firewalls, security is under threat more than ever before.
Universal remote working presents unique cybersecurity challenges that smaller businesses won't have seen before. The NCSC recently warned of cybercriminal groups exploiting the coronavirus outbreak with sophisticated phishing, malware and ransomware campaigns - playing on people's fears and uncertainty. In the assumed safety of their home, many employees will be more trusting of malicious emails and won't be able to easily ask for help or advice from IT teams. For small businesses, in particular, cyberattacks can have a devastating effect as they often lack the in-house expertise or the resources to recover quickly. As more devices access potentially sensitive corporate data away from the office, this opens up the threat vector for cybercriminals to compromise networks.
In the first instance, businesses need to ensure employees are equipped with the right tools and security features to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. A robust ‘perimeter-less' approach to cyber security is crucial, this includes access and policy controls, identity data protection, multi-factor authentication and remote device management.
Meanwhile, devices with facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, reducing the risk of unsolicited login to the device. Other defences include zero client solutions, which ensure devices themselves do not retain sensitive information. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system. If a device is lost or stolen, this information remains secure.
Look to new technology to ease network strain
The challenge for any business adding connected devices and solutions to their network, is the amount of data these devices will create and how they manage and process this data effectively and securely. Unsurprisingly, the rise in new remote users as a result of the coronavirus has stepped up and SMBs perhaps have the advantage over larger enterprises here. Often younger, they are less reliant on legacy systems, and can more quickly update infrastructure when necessary.
Nonetheless, completely overhauling networks can be time and resource-intensive, especially for SMBs with limited resources. For those who can't "rip and replace", edge computing offers a viable solution to resolve this - at the same time creating new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence. Processing data at the edge, where it is created, reduces strain on the cloud so users can be more selective of the data they send to the network core.
There's no doubt that the current global situation has bought us into a new phase of remote and mobile working. As with any business change, there are a number of stumbling blocks to think about - particularly when it comes to employee devices, bandwidth availability, and cyber security. More so than ever, no matter the size of your business, it is imperative to navigate the challenges of remote working.
Find out more about how dynabook can help your business create a productive and secure remote workforce:
 IDC, COVID-19 Brings Laser Focus on ROI to Digital Investments