• November 16, 2020
  • Catagory remote work

7 Ways to Make Remote Collaboration Easier For Your Teams

By : Sanjeev Spolia

If you’re still struggling to optimize remote collaboration across your now virtual organization, you’re not alone. However, it does look like it’s the new normal for the foreseeable future, so you should prioritize finding ways to improve how your team works together remotely.

There are several ways you can improve remote collaboration. Some of them involve leverage technology, but many of them also involve managing people and understanding what they need to be successful to work from home.

  1. Focus on results, not hours on a timecard: If you’re used to measuring how productive people are by seeing bums in chairs, moving to remote collaboration has probably been difficult for you. Rather than measure productivity by how many hours employees are clocking, start measuring performance based on output. If the work is getting done, you’re already closer to optimizing remote collaboration.
  2. Create a buddy system: Some employees adapt to remote work better than others, and struggle because no longer have their peers to support them in the office. Consider pairing people up with someone else in a different department with relatively the same seniority so they have someone else as a sounding board to bounce ideas, concerns and frustrations off of, and ultimately find solutions via the pairing.
  3. Be mindful of meetings: Most meetings could have been an email, and remote work doesn’t change that. Having virtual ones might look like a way to replicate the camaraderie of the office, but meetings should still be focused and organized with a clear agenda and purpose. If there’s multiple people involved, have a facilitator to keep things on track and be sure everyone comes away clear on the next steps.
  4. Check in daily: While full-blown meetings should be few and far between, take advantage of remote collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack to let everyone know what you working on that day and your pressing priorities. This enables everyone to better understand everyone else’s pressures and even step up to help if they can. It’s also a good way to structure your day so you get what you need to get done without getting sidetracked, and it’s output focused.  
  5. Streamline communications channels: More isn’t better, and like an overflowing email inbox, having too many alerts and notifications in a remote collaboration tool is counter productive. Let employees set boundaries around how connected they want to be while they work so the can be productive, but also set up a single channel everyone must subscribe to so they get the company-wide information they need on a daily basis.
  6. Get things done and be accountable: Whether it’s a next step agreed upon in a meeting or regulator best practices, it’s important to follow through on things. Keep track of commitments in a transparent way so everyone can take responsibility for what they agree to do.
  7. When in doubt, over-communicate: As much as we don’t want employees to be overwhelmed notifications, alerts and messages in remote collaboration tools, don’t assume your colleagues know what they need to now. Use your daily check in and the channels at your disposal to communicate everything you think might be valuable, as things can fall through the cracks when you don’t have daily, in-person interactions.

Full-time remote collaboration is new for most people, so at the end of the day you need to have empathy and remember that their home office environment may be different than yours. While it’s important to focus on getting things done and accountability, it’s also helpful to cut everyone a little slack during these stressful times.

  • October 29, 2020
  • Catagory remote work

Improving security for remote workers should be a priority for IT teams

By : Sanjeev Spolia

Improving security for remote workers will hopefully be an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and despite the inherent challenges, it should be a priority for IT teams.

Recent reports by Cisco looking at the future of secure remote work and consumer privacy found that IT buyers had been caught off-guard by the sudden shift of employees working from home, but are now speeding up adoption of technologies to support remote work. A majority of the 3,000 IT decision makers surveyed by Cisco rate cybersecurity as extremely or more important than it had been before the beginning of pandemic.

Guaranteeing access, securely

The biggest challenge for all IT teams regardless of an organization’s size has been improving security for remote workers, although providing the necessary access to the applications and data they needed came first. It comes at a time when the average consumer also values security and privacy as a social and economic issue, according to Cisco.

However, the company’s own research found there was a lot of work to be done toward improving security for remote workers by IT teams as just over half were somewhat prepared for the accelerated transition earlier this year. Endpoints, including those owned by organization, were cited as being the most difficult to protect, according to the Cisco survey, followed by customer information and cloud systems  with the ability to securely control access to the enterprise network being the biggest challenge.

Improving security for remote workers will no doubt continue to be an priority for IT teams, even post-pandemic, as some employees will continue to want the flexibility of working from home and organizations see continued benefits, including cost savings on office space, by not having everyone in a traditional office environment.

Digital transformation can lead to a more secure cloud infrastructure

While IT teams are likely to see some budget increases that will specifically support improving security for remote workers, there are many initiatives that can help improve overall cybersecurity posture for organizations that are already common steps in a digital transformation journey.

If you haven’t already, you should establish a cloud security strategy that’s part of a broader transition cloud infrastructure transition. This will indirectly go toward enhancing security for remote workers while allowing IT teams to have to worry less about on-premises systems that were unprepared for the sudden shift to remote work. While putting more applications and data the cloud come with their own cybersecurity challenges, they can scale better than on-premises solutions and provide the necessary flexibility for supporting a remote workforce.

The transition to the cloud should also include embracing new tools to stay secure, recognizing that IT teams still have some responsibility for securing cloud applications and data, even as the service provider has a role in securing systems, too. IT teams need visibility into cloud infrastructure as well as their on-premises deployments in a single interface.

At the same time, IT teams should consider what experts are calling “zero-trust security strategies.” A zero-trust approach assumes all users and endpoints could present a threat to the organization, so they must be able to prove they are trusted if they are to gain access to the enterprise network, applications and data.

You can be small and secure

For smaller organizations, improving security for remote workers is just as essential but can be challenge for their IT teams. A managed services provider with experience helping small and medium-sized business with their technology infrastructure can play a key role in accelerating their adoption of solutions that can support remote workers with robust security.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS

  • October 15, 2020
  • Catagory cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Awareness is Everyone’s Responsibility, Especially in the Remote Work Era

By : Sanjeev Spolia

The shift to remote work means cybersecurity awareness across your organization is more important than ever for maintaining ongoing business operations and regulatory compliance.

Even before the pandemic, most organizations had become rather porous in nature from a network security perspective thanks to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, adoption of cloud computing, distributed locations, and an already increasingly mobile workforce. But while security technology has emerged to keep up with these trends, it’s not a silver bullet. Every employee needs a heighten level of cybersecurity awareness.

Remote work means that how an employee manages their device at their home office can have an impact on the organization’s entire network. Their cybersecurity awareness means understanding their workstation is an endpoint that must be configured properly as to contribute to the overall security posture of the organization.

Training is critical to maximize cybersecurity awareness amongst your employees, especially remote workers. But it’s easy to lose their attention if training isn’t clear and engaging. If you’re doing regular phishing tests for your employees, try to have a sense of humour with the email content you’re creating as part of the test, for example, but also make sure employees understand the lesson without being made to feel stupid.  

Cybersecurity awareness training should be done regularly as part of regular operations, and at least quarterly, rather than being big annual event, because threats to the organization are ongoing as hackers automate their processes to optimize their chance of success. You should also involve the executive team in your training, so everyone understands that cybersecurity awareness is critical to the success of the business. You might have the CEO do a short video, which is easy to share with remote workers.

The training shouldn’t be solely the responsibility of the security team, either. Lines of business leaders should help to spearhead cybersecurity awareness, and it should be a part of your remote work strategy.

It’s important to remember that cybersecurity awareness isn’t only about protecting against threat actors, malware and ransomware, and malicious data theft. Employees need to understand that good security also helps the organization stay compliant with government privacy legislation and meet regulatory obligations that apply to their industry. Data breaches not only have the potential to cripple business operations and negatively affect customers, but also lead to financial and legal penalties that can profoundly affect the long-term health of the organization.

Most people have adapted to remote work for the past seven months, but because organizations are more distributed than ever, there’s a potential for cybersecurity awareness efforts to lapse, even as be bad people around the world continue to take advantage of the new work-from-home reality. Those doing remote work as part of a connected organization must continue to be vigilant about security as part of their daily work habits.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS.

  • September 29, 2020
  • Catagory Security

Keep Up Good Security Habits As Remote Work Continues

By : Justin Folkerts

Many people have hit the six-month mark of remote working, while most of us are fully adapted, there also continues to be bad people around the world taking advantage of the new work-from-home reality.

For remote workers, it means to continuing to be vigilant about security as part of their daily work habits, while organizations as a whole must do their part to protect their themselves by employing cybersecurity best practices to thwart persistent threat actors.

If you’ve also experienced a security-related issue, don’t take it personally. You’re not alone. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) released a special statement warning against scammers purporting to be “official” communications. Having helped our customers for several months to facilitate remote work, we have seen an increase in security issues targeting end-users and organizations since the transition.

As always, we’re available for our customers and are support team is ready to assist with specific issues or helping with proactive configurations to help you shore up your security and optimize the remote work experience for employees.

Personal device use precautions

Ideally, remote workers should be using a company-issued workstation, but if that isn’t possible, be sure they’re taking the following steps to secure their laptop or workstation:

Ensure the PC is patched: Work through the Windows update process and install anu patches, especially if it’s been more than a month since the last update was done.

Install an anti-virus solution: Supra’s service desk can assist you in identifying and installing a software package that will meet your needs.

Lock the PC when not in use: Ideally, the workstation should be turned off when not in use, but at least lock the screen and disconnect from any VPN sessions to the corporate when not working. If the PC is shared with family members, configure a private user account protected by a username and password so that any work sensitive materials will not be shared amongst the family.

If you must use a home computer, try to separate personal use from business use and limit access to personal emails, downloading content, social media and other avenues of malware that could spread while using a personal device work purposes.

Good advice regardless of device

Whenever possible, you should use the workstation supplied to you by your office if you have one because they are typically configured with usernames and passwords, as well business-class security protection tools such as anti-virus software. Supra customers will have installed agents to assist with technical support and security monitoring.

Remote access sessions, whether it’s through a VPN or a remote desktop tool, should only be active while you are using them. If you’re stepping away from your workspace for a bit or finished remote work for the day, disconnect those tools.

As always, be wary of unsolicited emails or attachments from anyone, even if it’s from a work colleague, business associate, customer, vendor or external contact. Verify the authenticity of the communication prior to clicking on any link or opening any attachment, as email remains a popular method compromising systems.

And now for good news

Even though we’ve seen an increase cyber threats, Supra hasn’t seen any targeted attack against our customers, or our company in general. Most attacks that do happen are opportunistic and take advantage of a trusting user accessing a site or clicking on an attachment that looks legitimate, which means following best practices can go a long way to ensuring security for your organization as remote work continues to be the norm.

If you would like to explore other ways Supra can increase overall corporate security or improve collaboration amongst remote workers, get in touch and we can speak to you about the various options available.

Justin Folkerts is Supra ITS’ Chief Technology Officer