5 Tools for Working from Home

During the current stay-at-home restrictions, the success of a business is relying more on the ability to provide employees with a means of working remotely. Here are five tools that can be utilized by companies to keep their employees productive and useful.

Remote Workstation Applications

One of the most popular solutions for remote workers is the use of a Remote Workstation Application such as Connectwise Control, LogMeIn, Teamviewer or RemotePC. These applications allow a remote employee to use a web browser to remotely control their workstation at the office and work on their own familiar machine. Remote file copying and printing are convenient features that many of these applications provide. Pricing varies by product so be sure to research their respective per-user costs and capabilities.

Security Concerns:  Commercial (paid) remote workstation applications all provide secure, encrypted connections between the remote user and the office workstation. However, any time a connection is allowed to be made from a remote location through the company firewall, there are risks to allowing unauthorized access to a company’s internal network resources to anyone who has credentials to the remote access application. It is highly recommended that all employees using remote access applications use some form of multi-factor authentication (one time session code sent via email or text or smartphone app).

Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services)

Before the popularity of remote workstation applications, many companies leveraged Remote Desktop Services (formerly called Terminal Services). A dedicated server on a corporate network hosts multiple remote users at the same time and provides a virtual workstation for them to access network resources. Although the remote desktop is not a physical workstation, the remote desktop services allows each user to customize their own desktop experience and run most of their network applications in their remote sessions. Remote Desktop Services are still utilized by many companies but due to the necessity  of expensive hardware and network resources, this option is not as viable to many small businesses.

Security Concerns: Unless remote desktop services are used over a VPN (see below), this solution is usually visible from the internet (public-facing) side of a company firewall and therefore a common target for exploitation or hacking. Remote desktop services do not provide any security or encryption so it is imperative to utilize a VPN when using this solution to avoid offering easy access to a company’s private network.

File Sync and Share (FSS)

Other popular applications that remote workers can use are File Sync and Share (FSS) services such as Datto Workplace, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or iCloud. These services offer a hybrid combination of storage in the cloud while also creating a copy on the user’s machines and keeping the documents in all locations in sync. A remote worker could have access to documents on their business workstation, home computer, laptop or even their smartphone or tablet. Some of these services were designed for non-commercial use so companies who want to utilize FSS should be sure that the provider offers proper security and safeguards.

Security Concerns: Most FSS services encrypt communication and file transfers to and from the cloud to the local workstations. However, most of these solutions are configured to establish the link once, save the credentials and then there is no further prompt for a login. So the primary security of FSS relies on  the endpoint workstations using screen lock timeouts and password protected logins which are the most important considerations for securely protecting data.

FTP Service

Another older service that many companies used was FTP (file transfer protocol). Before the advent of the cloud, companies would dedicate local storage on their own network servers and allow access to the storage using a service called FTP. But since alternative storage solutions such as FSS and cloud services are becoming more cost-effective, many companies are moving away from FTP for allowing remote access to company files.

Security Concerns: FTP uses common and well-known network ports that must be opened on a company firewall so they are the constant target of exploitation and hacking. Since the files that an FTP service provides access to are located on a company’s private network, it is imperative that all security measures are taken to reduce outside threats. In most cases, FTPs should be avoided due to these security vulnerabilities.

VPN (Virtual Private Networking)

Still widely used by businesses of all sizes, a VPN relies on a client application on a remote machine to make a secure, encrypted connection directly with the internal network of a company. This allows a remote user’s workstation or laptop to be connected to their company’s internal network from the outside (e.g. at home or a hotel). It is a more complex procedure to set up a VPN connection and proper security measures must be followed since the connection bypassed a company’s firewalls and allows direct access to the network. The main drawbacks of a VPN are the setup and hardware costs as well as the reduced speed of the encrypted connection. A VPN is still a viable option for companies who have the resources to employ the technology.

Security Concerns: A VPN is a highly secured application as long as the remote user does not allow unauthorized access their offsite machine.

Infinity Networking is now offering extended trials of Connectwise Control for remote workstation access as well as extended trials of Datto Workplace, an enterprise-grade File Sync and Share solution that provides a more robust file sharing service than its commercial-grade competitors. For more information or to enable a trial of these products, please read further or sign up HERE.

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