Use these techniques for securely accessing company data—while staying productive
Few small businesses are fully contained in one office. Chances are good that some of your employees—maybe even you—travel for business or work from a remote location. These days, no one can afford to be completely cut off from email, client databases, and other business-critical information shared on the local network. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to stay securely connected to colleagues, clients, and prospects —just follow these seven tips.
1. Connect with a virtual private network (VPN). The foremost rule of remote access is to make it secure. The best way for employees to connect to your network remotely is with a VPN, which gives users a secure tunnel across the public Internet to your network. With IPSec VPN, only users with the VPN client installed and a password can access the VPN, making the Internet a much safer way for users to access your company’s data and resources.
2. Protect your data. Each mobile device should be protected with security measures, including a firewall as well as antivirus and antispyware software, such as Cisco ProtectLink Endpoint. A firewall helps keep intruders out, which is particularly important when using public hotspots to connect to the Internet.
Mobile devices must also be protected from malware and other web-based threats. For mobile users, threats from the Internet pose two significant risks: the potential for a disastrous loss of data and an entry to the company network and all its resources.
3. BYOB (Bring Your Own Broadband). There are free Wi-Fi services everywhere—from airports and hotels to public libraries and local coffee houses. However, you can’t always count on finding a hotspot where you need one; and if you do, it might not be reliable. Free Wi-Fi also is never secure. Instead, equip users with a secure mobile broadband card. Broadband cards can be plugged into a laptop or even a tablet computer, and they deliver at least 3G service. In addition, a broadband card may be less expensive to use when compared with the pay-to-play services at a hotel or conference center.
This post offers tips on how to use free Wi-Fi services more securely.
4. Use the cloud for data storage. You may already be using cloud computing to access business applications, like customer relationship management (CRM) or hosted voice, but the cloud is also a great way to store documents when on the go. With cloud-based data storage, employees can access documents from any computer with an Internet connection and share those documents with colleagues or customers. Online data storage can also be more cost effective than maintaining a separate storage server for your small business.
5. Download mobile applications. With so many people using their smartphones for work, many vendors have released productivity applications designed for mobile devices such as iPhones, Android-based devices, and tablet computers. For example, many CRM offerings now come in a smartphone flavor that gives employees full access to client details, contact information, product inventory, and more. Find out if your vendors and service providers offer mobile versions of their applications and services. With mobile applications, employees can use the device of their choice and be surprisingly productive.
6. Forward all calls. If your small business is already using a voice-over-IP (VoIP ) phone system, it’s a simple thing to have all calls ring to any device that can receive phone calls. Most analog phone systems also allow you to forward calls made to a business phone extension to a mobile phone number.
Forwarding calls is a fairly standard feature but it can be tricky to program with some older phone systems. It’s a good idea to make sure anyone working remotely knows how to use the system to forward their calls.
7. Keep a local copy. Even with the best mobile networking gear, users might find themselves without a connection to the Internet but still need to get work done. Recommend to employees that they copy whatever files they need to work on to their local hard drives. Employees can continue working on the file and then upload it to your online data storage service or network when they’re back online.
The Internet will eventually fail and users will drop offline for at least a little while. These seven tips will help road warriors and remote employees stay connected and productive no matter where they’re working.
What are your tips for keeping remote workers connected?