3 Tips to Make Remote Working with Office 365 More Successful
Rakesh Chenchery | 06 Apr 2020
We are living in the most advanced period of human civilisation, with society venturing into a world full of electric cars, commercial space travel and hyper-fast 5G communications. Although we all are oblivious to the daily cyber attacks in this 24-hour connected world, a pandemic like COVID-19 makes us question our capability to remain safe.
It’s at times like these when every organisation needs to be technologically prepared. In his previous post, Proventeq CTO, Rakesh Chenchery, provided some tips on secure remote working for your employees and users. In this post, aimed at organisations, he highlights some of the main challenges which organisations could face in such times and provides three big tips to help ensure corporate information stays secure and compliant as well as ensuring your employees are working safely and productively.
Tip 1: Keeping Corporate Information Secure and Compliant
In today’s world, information is often the greatest asset of an organisation. Protecting this asset is vital, be it for safeguarding your Intellectual Property or complying with data protection regulations. Here’s what you need to look out for and what you could do to mitigate any potential issues:
How do you prevent employees from leaking (be this accidentally or otherwise) corporate information when they are not working under your watchful eyes?
Office 365 offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP) capabilities that will help organisations automatically identify and monitor sensitive information, such as financial data or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and prevent such information to be shared accidentally. This is available across workloads such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams.
Additionally, Office 365 Sensitivity labels and Azure Information Protection (AIP) provides the right level of encryption, protection and auditing functionalities for sensitive data, even if the data has ended up going outside your organisation.
In a world where we are always connected, the devices we use are at perpetual risk of being bombarded by attacks of all sorts from any device outside company walls. It, therefore, becomes mandatory to enforce endpoint protection to secure remote devices.
Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) can safeguard your organisation using real-time protection against malicious threats posed by email messages, links (URLs), unsafe attachments and collaboration tools. Use Microsoft Intune to create a productive environment for your employees to work across devices they choose while always keeping your data protected.
Windows 10 Bitlocker or FileVault on Mac can keep data encrypted and reduce exposure from lost, stolen, or inappropriately decommissioned devices. Enforcing complex password policies and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) can further reduce the impact of brute force attacks or stolen passwords.
Using Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) solutions, such as Microsoft Intune, can enforce a consistent security profile for users and devices, thereby increasing your security threshold that deters most hackers. It can also ensure all necessary endpoint protection is active such as firewall, antivirus and ransomware protection.
Simplifying password management for users by providing single sign-on to all devices, services and applications means that your users only need one login to access their work, communication channels and any other activities.
Enabling auto-labelling to apply sensitivity labels and retention labels ensure that users need not be entrusted with protecting sensitive information because this process is automated.
Providing frictionless security and compliance experience to end-users is the way to prevent Shadow IT support from taking control.
Tip 2: Infrastructure
When the volume of devices connecting to networks increases, it should not be a surprise if issues arise. As an organisation, here’s what you can do to ensure your employees stay connected:
Company infrastructure is typically designed with the capacity to handle some of its workforce working remotely at any given time. When almost all your workforce needs to work remotely, you would need to check if the VPN can handle the workload. Additionally, ensuring that you are licensed to use that many simultaneous VPN connections is necessary to confirm your user community will be able to connect. Checking all of your staff have remote network access – and, if not, arranging for it – becomes a priority.
Microsoft advises using split tunnelling to split Office 365 traffic and send them directly to local Microsoft resources. For more details on this, check out this Microsoft blog post: How to quickly optimise Office 365 traffic for remote staff & reduce the load on your infrastructure.
When it comes to the technology that your employees use to work with and the policies that your organisation has around equipment usage, (e.g. Bring Your Own Device or “BYOD”), you would need to ensure that the equipment has the appropriate capabilities required for remote working.
Does the equipment meet the following requirements?
- Location: Where in the world are your employees located? Do their IT Support teams have the right guidance and checks in place to ensure that employees have the right technology to work remotely with and whether the equipment complies with the local laws.
- Safety: Conduct safety checks as per the local safety policies, rules and regulations
- Security: Ensure computers, smartphones and any other equipment has the right data protection functionalities enabled.
- Conferencing: Are the devices capable of hosting conference calls and meetings via both audio and video. Do the inbuilt webcams, microphones and speakers work properly? Will external devices need to be connected to computing and smartphone devices?
- Collaboration: Do the devices have the latest version of Office 365 applications installed on them? Are the applications in working order?
Tip 3: Empower Remote Workers to Boost Productivity and Adoption
Information workers spend most of their day working with documents and communicating with colleagues and customers. While working remotely, they expect the same level of efficiency and latency from the tools they use while in the office. The key areas to empower remote employees are:
Communication and Collaboration
The efficient use of messaging and conferencing tools, such as Microsoft Teams, allow employees always to stay connected, exchange information securely and participate in online meetings.
Enterprise social networking tools, such as Yammer, introduces collaboration and social engagement across the organisation.
Co-authoring time-sensitive documents – either on the web or via desktop applications – are allowed via real-time syncing, irrespective of where employees are on the planet.
Training and Adoption
In addition to the strict policy enforcement from the organisation, it is essential to provide the right training and support for remote workers so that they can leverage the tools at hand.
These training sessions could range from:
- Showing useful tips and tricks on core applications that your colleagues use in their day-to-day working lives. For instance, some users might be enthralled to realise that Ctrl+F can get them a customer record in a 10000-row spreadsheet!
- Improving the efficiency of device storage by storing content in the cloud using OneDrive For Business and SharePoint.
- Guiding colleagues on complying with policies specific to your organisation, such as security procedures (in the absence of MFA).
Arrange for training sessions, which can, of course, be done remotely via Teams, to ensure that your employees are equipped with the know-how to work remotely.