The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many aspects of how global businesses conduct operations and has fundamentally reconceived and reimplemented the relationship between employers, employees, and the workplace.
To continue to support business functions, that relationship has, since spring 2020, evolved both rapidly and radically from the physical to the logical, and from the local headquarters to the distributed home office. Today, remote work is far more than a possibility — at many organizations, it’s an operational norm.
Having made this accelerated transition over the last year and a half, you now must ask and answer two key questions.
First, is your IT infrastructure that supports remote work sufficient today, and will it be in the future, in key areas such as security? And second, your end users are caught up in a work and life rebalancing act, so how can you best meet evolving expectations while driving collaboration and productivity?
One logical place to begin answering these questions lies in reassessing your organization’s real estate footprint with an eye to cost reductions and worker accommodations.
Suppose, for instance, that your team decides to continue to support the traditional on-premises model, which obviously requires workers to be on premise as well.
Given the dramatic shift since the global lockdown, will workers who return to your office environment get a comparable or better experience than they’ve grown used to? If they don’t, performance may decrease and, at worst, they may seek another job. Nobody needs employee turnover at a time when it's already typically higher than it’s ever been (i.e., the "Great Resignation").
The operational costs of a brick-and-mortar location are also substantial, and the opportunity to reduce them by reducing physical offices and office work, while at the same time empowering users to work under conditions they themselves define and control, is very attractive. Lower costs and higher employee satisfaction are a winning combination for almost any business.
This is exactly why many organizations are increasingly interested in encouraging and supporting the pandemic norm — remote work — especially given the modern reality of high-bandwidth Internet connections and cheap, but fast, end-user computing platforms.
A primary obstacle to remote strategies is meeting the standard requirements of IT security. Instead of having to secure only a few physical offices, you must now support a huge number of home offices. Each home office is a potential attack vector for malware, criminal and state-sponsored organizations, and hackers. Locking down security in a comprehensive and consistent method for a tremendous number of such home offices is no easy feat.
Add to this the complexities of how IT services have also, quite independently of the pandemic, been reimagined and reimplemented, and you begin to get a sense of the true scale of the security challenge.
Like post-pandemic workers, IT services like SaaS-delivered apps have increasingly ventured out beyond corporate walls (and firewalls). They have migrated to increasingly popular cloud hosts, whose capabilities and logical resources can easily and dynamically be scaled in real time to align with changing business workloads and strategies. But because they execute offsite, they can also complicate your organization’s security posture and strategy.
What this boils down to is that you and countless others are now facing the double security challenge of supporting and securing remote workers and remote IT services in a fundamentally different way than only a few years ago.
What’s the best response?
Just as you have reimagined workforce distribution and IT service delivery platforms, you must also reimagine IT security. Seek a comprehensive, adaptive, cost-effective, and yet logically rigorous way to fortify both current and future home offices and IT services to the fullest possible extent — no matter where those workers and services may be located.
Toward developing a new strategy along these lines, consider the following:
• Security should be both smart and transparent enough to minimize user decision-making. While users can and should be educated in security best practices, eliminate as much as possible any opportunity for users to make a mistake. For instance, instead of merely teaching workers not to click suspicious links in emails, organizations should also seek ways to prevent such emails from reaching worker inboxes in the first place.
• Update business continuity plans to address the new realities of both remote work and cloud-based services. In a world where key IT services aren’t always executing in a company-owned computational platform, failover continuity is more crucial than ever. With the home office as the new primary workplace, support your users with secondary access capabilities in the event of everyday scenarios such as residential power outages and adverse weather conditions.
• The user experience should be enhanced with an eye to optimizing employee experience. While traditional face-to-face interaction may be reduced in a world of remote work, new technologies such as corporate chat environments and videoconferencing can often compensate or even increase effective collaboration. In turn, worker satisfaction and tenure both increase as does overall productivity, yielding increased business competitiveness over time.
By following the tips above, you can create a consistent security strategy and deliver the best end-user experience.
If your journey is just getting started or needs a second look, reach out to us to find out how we can help.
What to read next
‘Un-networking’ the corporate office
Stop singing the “legacy network blues”