It’s no secret that Covid-19 has profoundly changed the way companies are operating business in 2020. Thousands have furloughed employees, shut down offices, and moved to remote work while we wait for this unprecedented pandemic to ease up.
We recently wrote an article outlining some work-from-home tips for anyone who has been forced to make this lifestyle change in recent weeks. In this post, we are speaking to a different audience: the CEOs, business owners, and managers of the world who must coordinate new WFH policies to the best of their abilities.
In an effort to unveil some expert tips, we sat down with longtime 10xer, Andrew Wilcox, to discuss some high-priority technical needs for companies settling into this new normal.
The overarching theme here is that enacting a remote work policy is not as simple as it sounds. By rapidly changing operations, companies expose themselves to data breaches, inefficient workflows, poorly integrated product stacks, and more. Nipping these risks in the bud early on is critical for success in this shifting work landscape.
Facing Covid-19 Challenges with Freelancers
A 10x freelancer can help a company combat the above challenges more quickly than say an own overworked IT department or a bureaucratic IT firm. Or they can just as effectively fill in the gaps, working in tandem with a company’s IT department that only has the capacity to handle some of what needs to be done.
Our roster of freelancers are vetted, remote experts and proven to get urgent work done with top class results. For these reasons, turning to independent contractors at this time of uncertainty is perhaps the fastest way to get a secure WFH infrastructure up and running.
Let’s dive into our 7 various solutions to building a better, safer work-from-home infrastructure, as outlined by Andrew. He, like most of our freelancers, is an expert when it comes to the implementation of these solutions – we couldn’t have asked for a better person with whom to discuss.
* Note that some of these solutions work in place of others. This post is designed to help you decide the one or two critical actions that will make your WFH experience 10x better.
1. Audit networks for remote access security
In the wake of coronavirus, hundreds of companies are scrambling to open up their networks to a remote workforce. Remote login software, like LogMeIn, is a common example of a quick and dirty solution.
As Andrew points out, it’s worth your time and effort to find a professional who can audit your implementation of this solution. The number one concern here is making sure it’s been done securely and in the right way.
A best practice when using software like this is to always make sure employees are given the correct amount of access to company data, applications, information, etc. There is no reason to grant more access than necessary – you’ll just be increasing the chances that a stolen laptop or a hacked account gives a predator more access to sensitive company information.
2. Implement two-factor authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication is another common piece to the work-from-home puzzle. This has become a relatively standard security measure – and one you’re likely already familiar with thanks to many online apps that ask for 2FA.
Companies should never allow a password to be the one and only security measure standing between a user and important company information. One extra login step, like having a code sent to your phone, can be the difference between a major data breach and sufficient security.
The severity of the required 2FA varies depending on the company, team, or information being protected. At Google, for example, employees must use a USB key to login remotely. This hardware approach to 2FA is even more secure than say a phone verification. And while phone verification is sufficient for many companies, the extra security of a hardware key can be important to banks, healthcare providers, and others for whom a data breach would be especially damaging.
3. Set up Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
A VPN allows employees to put their personal computers on the corporate network as if they’re inside the building. Many companies have corporate networks in the office that require employees to hop on the local wifi in order to access corporate applications. A firewall exists so you can only access those applications if you’re on the corporate network.
Without a system in place, employees working from home can’t get through that firewall! A VPN tunnels your connection into the corporate network, essentially putting a network on top of the internet. The VPN is password protected, so it can only be accessed by those within the company (so long as the password is set up and protected securely).
Once you’ve tunneled through the internet, your laptop becomes a node on the corporate network. This allows remote employees to get through the firewall and work as if they’re in the office.
4. Implement secure remote employee access to corporate applications
As hinted at above, the main disadvantage of the VPN is the password. That is, if an outsider somehow obtains the VPN password, they now have access to everything. As Andrew notes, this is a common cause of data breaches.
Google has an initiative called BeyondCorp which is an example of “zero-trust security.” This internet-facing infrastructure allows remote employees to access company apps without the use of VPNs. With a zero-trust security system like this, employees can achieve a secure, encrypted connection, even on unsecured wifi.
With this approach, a company essentially turns its internal apps into web apps with public IP addresses. Individual employee access to certain apps can be precisely controlled at any time. There are various layers to this process, which can be read about in more detail here. One more benefit? The slower connection often experienced through a VPN is completely mitigated.
When comparing to a VPN solution, this is unsurprisingly the more expensive and complex option. But by all means it’s a better solution, and one that should be considered by lots of companies going remote.
5. Run your corporate desktop apps in the cloud
Another similar solution is to run corporate apps in the cloud, via a service like Amazon Lightsail. This is essentially the same as a service like LogMeIn, but instead of having employees access their physical desktops, they tap into virtual desktops via a cloud-based server.
This method requires a company to set up their desktop apps in the cloud. Employees can then access their virtual desktops with a VPN from their own computers.
A key benefit here is increased flexibility and control over your remote operations. With a basic remote access service, physical desktops still need to be in full operation. This typically requires someone to be stationed in the office, making sure all computers are turned on and up and running. By using the cloud with a service like Lightsail, there truly is no need for a physical presence in the office.
6. Integrate internal systems securely with remote systems
This is somewhat of a catchall suggestion, as it’s nearly impossible to speak generally about your company’s specific applications that should be properly integrated as you go remote. A basic example might be that you have an internal network and you need to pull data from the network to a public cloud service like Google Drive.
Any number of unexpected (but necessary) integrations might need to be executed as you move to remote operations. The beauty with on-demand talent is these sudden blips in the process can be addressed quickly, whenever they appear.
7. Analysis of best tech to adopt
And finally, this is an added benefit of using an expert to help with any of the above solutions. By involving someone who has a broader knowledge of what’s possible, you may find that you’re locked in on the wrong solution.
For example, any 10x freelancer will begin an engagement by first analyzing whether or not the proposed solution on the table is the right one. And if there is no proposed solution, they can tap into extensive tech experience to help land on the right course of action.
Final Thoughts on Using Freelancers to Help Go Remote
Something we often find with the companies we work with is that we help provide peace of mind when things get hectic. Our freelancers are trusted professionals who work fast and consistently exceed expectations. Having a 10xer on your team, especially during these chaotic times, is a great way to be sure your shift to remote operations leaves no room for your business to be exposed.
Some additional benefits: Our freelancers are ready to begin engagements immediately, and their experience shifting from gig to gig makes them quick learners. They’ve been vetted as the best in the business and they already have years of experience implementing solutions remotely.
The above solutions address some critical challenges facing virtually every business today. Those that get a jump earliest will be best suited to weather the coronavirus storm and any future storms as well.