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How Remote Workers Benefit From The Cloud

Remote Work Is Here

Companies are increasingly relying on remote work. Remote work culture has become commonplace as these companies realize how important flexibility is for their operation.

Furthermore, this is happening across industries. From streaming services to banking and financial services, it’s clear that remote work is depending on the cloud.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak tested cloud infrastructures in ways previously unimagined. All at once workers were forced to depend on a cloud environment to access important data, documents, and connect with colleges.

And It’s not Going Anywhere…

In fact, according to a Techwire survey, 48 percent of technology companies believe that cloud services will increase as a result of the shut in. This suggests that Cloud adoption is seen as a long term strategy rather than a temporary fix.

This however, isn’t surprising when you consider 56 percent of the workforce already have jobs that are compatible with remote work.

Based on those facts we can conclude that remote work will only increase in frequency even after workers are allowed back into their offices.

We’re already seeing a rapid growth in the use of cloud-based video conferencing applications like Zoom and Microsoft teams.

Even Billionaire and financier  Warren Buffett weighed in on the shift to remote work in an interview with “The Real Deal” stating:

“The supply and demand for office space may change significantly,” Buffett said. “A lot of people have learned that they can work at home, or that there’s other methods of conducting their business than they might have thought from what they were doing a couple of years ago. When change happens in the world, you adjust to it.”

Benefits of Cloud Storage for Remote Workers

Now that we’ve established remote work is a more permanent change, we have to go into the key technology that enables remote work, the cloud.

If remote work is to succeed, you and your team, collaboration is essential. The best way to achieve this is to adopt a cloud storage system that can handle any project without slowing down or crashing.

Nightmare scenario:  Imagine that while you’re working remotely, collaborating with your team, someone edits or deletes important information and now you’re several steps behind schedule. The good news is that the cloud has file- recovery capabilities.

Nerds Support’s managed cloud services, for example, allows you recover a deleted file or return to your last save to avoid these kinds of blunders.

Disaster Recovery

Cloud also helps with disaster recovery situations as demonstrated by its reliability during the lock-down. Because of the absence of on-site IT professionals, businesses are relying on the cloud to monitor, check and maintain their storage and servers in data centers.

Enterprises are leveraging the cloud to create a suitable environment that caters to remote workers around the world. The lock-downs have proven the need for disaster recovery capabilities and strong security but also network resiliency.

Cloud Storage Promotes Remote Work

The Techwire survey also revealed that 34 percent of respondents reported increased spending on remote productivity. IT organizations are preparing to deliver remote capabilities to end- users as the demand for remote increases.

We’re already seeing this more permanent transition play out as companies like Nationwide announce plans to move towards a hybrid operation of mostly remote employees.

Having the ability to work from various locations is a strategic benefit of remote work but now it’ll be a necessity. Cloud storage can help remote workers stay productive from wherever they choose to work. Cloud- focused applications facilitate this experience because they permit users to synchronize mobile devices, tablets and computer together.

Productivity Increases

With remote work becoming the norm, we have to take a look at productivity levels to see how they’re affected. There’s no use in implementing remote work if it those working do less of it. One study in 2015 based in a Chinese travel agency found that call-center employees that shifted to working from home saw increased productivity by an average of 13 percent.

But will employees prefer remote work?  A Harvard study found more than 40 percent of people would do away with a portion of their salary if they were offered a remote work option.

Cloud computing enables remote work without interruption. Employees can easily access their work station at home just as though they were in the office. All important information centralized in a single cloud infrastructure easily retrievable for the employee.

Security & Cyber Protection

If everything in the cloud is so accessible for the employee what about someone else? Can a hacker break into the cloud servers and steal all your data? What measures does the cloud have to prevent a breach?

Not to worry, cloud computing protects you from both data breaches and hackers. With the cloud you’ll have an outsourced IT security team 24/7 constantly monitoring complex and changing threat environment.

That includes protection from social engineering scams and malware attacks.

The cloud also protects you and your business from data loss and hardware failure. Multiple redundancies are put in place so that everything is backed up should anything happen.

Another valuable feature is multi-factor authentication. Let’s say your company device was stolen or lost. Multifactor security features prevents access the device and files if user identity is not confirmed on a secondary device.

If a hackers attempts to log in, they’ll need access to your mobile device and log in again. If that confirmation doesn’t go through within a set time, access is denied.

Business employees joining a video conference call

How to Choose Your Video Conference Apps: Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Skype

The outbreak of Covid-19 has forced business to adapt to remote work quickly. An important aspect of working remotely is video conferencing.  Therefore, utilizing the best applications and services are essential for a smooth remote experience.

The three most popular Video Conference applications are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. Therefore, we’ll review them here to make sure you have all of the information you need to make the best decision.

Zoom

The Zoom conferencing application works on Mac, PC, Android and IOS. They offer a free plan that hosts no larger than 100 people. There is a paid option for medium and small businesses for $15 to $20 a month. For larger businesses, the application offers a $20 a month plan for a minimum of 50 people per Zoom call.

Zoom has HD video and audio, video recording capabilities, screen-sharing and co- annotation. Gmail, Outlook and iCal support Zoom meeting scheduling. You can set a meeting on your email service by integrating it with your calendar. Hosts can schedule meetings and send notification to attendees.

If you can’t use the microphone or camera, Zoom has a chat feature that allows you to communicate through text. This is useful during meetings or presentations where participants need to ask questions without interrupting the host.

You can sign up for Zoom free by creating an account with email or singing in with either Google or Facebook.

When using Zoom you must keep in mind their recent controversy and security issues. There have been concerns over the app’s privacy risks involving “zoombombing.” The education department in the US as well as several businesses have instructed employees to switch from Zoom to Microsoft Teams while the issues are resolved by the company.

However, you can still use the application if you take simple security measures to protect your meetings. You can use a meeting exclusive ID or enable Zoom’s wait feature “Waiting Room” that allows you to see who wants to join your meeting before giving access.

Microsoft Teams

If your company uses Microsoft Office 365, you already have access to Teams. The application offers the same features as any other conferencing platform like audio calls, video conferencing and chat. As a Microsoft platform it can integrate with other office applications like PowerPoint and excel for meeting that involve going over figures or presentations. It’s also compatible with other office apps like Word for file sharing.

On Teams you can video conference with 250 people at once. Also, you can live present with a maximum 10,000 people. You can talk to colleagues privately or over certain channels. You can even focus attention to a group or an individual with the mention feature.

Meetings can be scheduled through the Teams application itself or on Outlook.

It appears Microsoft Teams doesn’t share the same vulnerabilities Zoom does. It stated in a blog post that it doesn’t use your camera features to track participant attention, or use personal data to create ads. Microsoft Teams, it appears, is making a point to distinguish itself from Zoom in these ways.

Like Zoom you can download a free version but if you have Office 365 it comes included. In March of 2020, Microsoft made the free version accessible to businesses and schools for use without a subscription to Office 365. Microsoft is offering a six month free trial of its new Office 365 E1 for businesses that don’t already have Teams licenses. Moreover, there are business plans that have Teams included start at $5 a month per user.

Skype

Skype can sustain up to 50 people per video call which is good for business meetings. It can also record calls and caption if necessary. Skype integrates with mobile devices and tablets and functions like a VoIP phone service. It has caller ID, voicemail, file sharing, split screen and screen sharing.

Additionally, it has a chat for text communication. The benefit of Skype is these features are available for free upon downloading the application.

Hacker cracks into a business web meeting

Zoom: Tips and Tricks for Safe Video Conferencing

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, local and state governments in the U.S. have instituted shelter-in-place orders, quarantines and lockdowns. As a result, video chat programs have skyrocketed in popularity as people work from home and try to coordinate meetings digitally.

Zoom has become the most popular of the video chat apps. Unfortunately, Zoom’s security flaws like, “Zoombombing” and built in tracking features made it less than ideal for businesses and employees that want to keep themselves as safe as possible.

It has also been subject to a number of scandals and lawsuits due to these security issues and CEO Yaun has since stated Zoom will freeze features updates to address issues.

Data Issues & Privacy

Another big issue is Zoom was not end-to-end encrypted.  They are “transport encrypted, meaning data is accessible to Zoom. Furthermore, user emails, files and photos were being leaked

Here are some vulnerabilities to keep in mind while using video conference and a few things you can do to avoid them.

Zoom Bombing

As mentioned previously, zoombombing is one of the issues Zoom has with its video chat app. It’s when users of Zoom get their meetings highjacked by outside actors during a video conference. This is a type of cyber attack that’s proving increasingly more dangerous as schools, universities and private companies are jumping on platform to continue their work.

To protect yourself and your business from “Zoom bombing”, the FBI recommends the following safety measures:

  • • Ensure meetings are private. This is achieved by either requiring a password for entry or controlling guest access from a waiting room.
  • • Consider your security requirements when choosing a service. If you need end-to-end encryption, verify that the videoconference service has it.
  • • Ensure software is updated.  Using an older version of the app could leave you open to a security breach.

As you can see, this doesn’t only apply to Zoom alone. These tips are applicable to all video conference services. However, the two most used applications now are Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Use a Domain Based Approach

A domain based approach to security in video conferencing allows system administrators to assign different levels of permission to users. This is achieved either by the video conference service or in house IT. This means if a hacker attempts to video call someone in the company, the hacker will have to wait until someone with the relevant credentials signs on and grants him access.

Selling Your Data

Like Facebook, Zoom has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar when it comes to user data. According to an article by Vice motherboard, Zoom sends user data to Facebook regardless of the user having a Facebook account.

Zoom uses Facebook’s software development kit to employ features into their apps in an easier way.  However, this has the added result of sending data to Facebook. For Zoom users, that means Facebook knows whenever a user opened Zoom and from which device it was accessed. Moreover, if a user is using a phone it would tell Facebook what carrier they had, their location and their unique advertising identifier.

Motherboard reported Zoom would stop sending certain data to Facebook.

In this case, either use a different Video Conference app that guarantees end-to-end encryption. If you’re using Zoom, review your security setting and try minimizing permission to access as much as possible.

Put a Video Conference Policy In Place

A video conference policy lets you set expectations and limits when using a video conference app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Companies should outline specific protocols for using Video conferencing that address the following questions:

  1. Who gets permission to record a video conference from everyone on the call? Can recording be done?
  2.  Can personal mobile devices be used on a conference call? If so when and under what circumstances?
  3.  When can sensitive information be discussed and with whom?
  4.  When and how should the cameras be used?
  5.  When and how should microphones be used?
  6.  Who gets remote control access to cameras and who doesn’t?

When using Video Conferencing

Remember to address employees and co-workers cordially, keeping in mind safe practices and procedures as if you were in office. Video conferencing applications are a useful tool but they aren’t perfect and should be used with caution.

If you have any questions or concerns about remote work optimizationcyber security or cloud technology give us a call or visit our blog for more articles and content.

Employee accessing their computer to work from home

5 Mistakes Managers Make with Remote Employees

Despite the many benefits remote employees bring to a business, they can also bring about many challenges to traditional managerial methods. No longer is it possible to greet employees in person or see to it that they’re doing their work.

Supervising remote employees requires a new approach—one that is only possible through technology. But in order to understand how technology can best serve you in managing your employees, it’s important to know where you’re falling short. Here are five of the most common mistakes managers are making right now.

Forgetting About an Employee’s Role

Without the ability to see every employee in front of you, it’s hard to account for how each individual impacts your team. In addition, in a remote setting, communication outside of mandatory meetings is often left to a standstill.

This makes it easy for employees to become disengaged, both in the work that they do and in their relationships with others. To prevent this, try to hold regular meetings with your remote workers using whatever communication system your company typically employs for client meetings or consider overhauling your communication strategy by integrating affordable, internet-based tools like VoIP (voice over internet protocol).

Whether calls consist of conversations relating to their involvement on a project or if they serve as a brief call to shoot the breeze and establish greater comradery between teams, these types of check-ins can help your workers feel like they’re a part of something larger.

Giving an Employee Too Much or Too Little Work

When workers are remote, it’s difficult to know if they are able to handle the work they’re being assigned, or if they have room in their schedules for more. Maximizing the productivity of your remote workforce while distributing an achievable workload starts with consistent communication.

This accentuates the need to set up some form of regular meetings with teams or individuals, during which time teams can report on the status of projects and more or less work can be assigned accordingly. Managers should also note when parts of projects can be automated.

Although it’s no one-size-fits-all solution, tools like robotic process automation (RPA) can be programmed to work with just about any existing software your company is already using and automate tasks that don’t require a lot of variation. While it may require a few additional steps, taking measures to align your team will help make sure they’re able to function at full capacity, no matter where they are.

Not Using Webcams

Employees like to be recognized, not just for their accomplishments, but also as individuals. When meetings are limited to conference calls, it’s difficult to read expressions and emotions that we would normally pick up on if the meeting had been in person.

Although remote workers might think their working arrangement sounds like a great opportunity to work from the comfort of their beds, this lack of face-time among colleagues results in a loss of teamwide engagement and familiarity—potentially impacting the quality of their work and extent of communication.

For example, Nerds Support uses secure web conferencing to communicate with all of its team members. By insisting teams use webcams, you are not only helping to reduce the chances of this, but also making sure they are just as presentable and work-ready as they would be in the office.

Not Nurturing Their Professional Development

Just because workers are working comfortably remotely, doesn’t mean they don’t share the same aspirations as your other workers. In fact, 75 percent of remote workers say they need more work-related training to further their professional growth.

The good news? Most of the training remote workers need can be done online. Many video conferencing applications grant mentors and remote workers valuable face-to-face time as well as the ability to share screens that can make instructional meetings easier to follow along.

When “off of the air,” remote employees can continue working via any cloud-based applications. Their work can later be reviewed, shared, or presented from any location. When technologies like these are used conjointly, the result is a happy remote workforce that has a greater potential to remain at your company while climbing the corporate ladder.

Not Seeing Them as Human

Remote employees are living, breathing, and hardworking individuals who happen to be located somewhere else. What this means is that attention to their thoughts and feelings should not be ignored.

Forgetting to invite them to important meetings or let their voices be heard is no different than it would be in any other setting. However, since emotions aren’t as easily felt over the phone or during video conferences, managers need to make more of a conscious effort to ensure every individual is given a chance to speak or provide input.

Even a brief pause every now and then to ask a group if they have any questions or matters they’d like to discuss can be the difference remote workers need to be and feel impactful.

 

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Top Practices for Businesses Working Remotely

Working remotely, as we have seen in recent times, has become increasingly necessary to maintain a productive and profitable business. It is also an invaluable asset for any business continuity plan. If an unforeseen natural disaster or power outage takes place, organizations need to be prepared to continue operations.

A good example was in spring 2020 when the Securities and Exchange Commission became the first federal agency to encourage remote work for employees.

Although remote work is ideal for some, it can be an adjustment for others. And if you run a business or work for a businesses with sensitive data, how do you ensure your information is safe outside of the office?

Working remotely does not provide the same level of security that an office would. Furthermore, the environment in which you find yourself working might have present challenges to data security.

Here are some rules and policies we suggest when working remotely. Even when working on a cloud  environment, you must practice caution and communicate regularly to maximize the remote experience.

Communications

Periodic Check-ins

Working remotely requires daily and frequent calls with one another. A manager especially must take actions to establish calls with remote workers. Whether they are in the form of on-on-one calls or team call, if they are collaborating on a project.

There is no such thing as over-communication

Periodically notify your superiors of any information you might consider important. If there’s a doubt about the relevance of some information, share that also. In the case of remote work, nothing is too insignificant.

Clarify to your team all expectations moving forward

Communicate priorities and establish metrics for success. Remote work is more efficient when expectations and policies are clear and understood.

It’s also important to let employees know the best way to reach you and at what time. Nothing must be left to the imagination to successfully deploy a remote operation.

If you are off to lunch, notify for how long. When you return, notify your team. It’s crucial that all employees understand what the goals and directives are to avoid repeating efforts.

Track your progress

Keep track of your progress by documenting it and sharing it with relevant personnel. A work long with specific time slots for each task is particularly helpful in this case. It could be done in an excel sheet or a notebook. The medium is less important than the method. So long as it helps keep things organized.

Security

Stay away from public networks, encrypt your web connection, or use a personal hotpot

A public Wi-fi connection like the ones found in coffee houses and some restaurants create a risk for remote workers. In a public network, a threat actor or hacker can easily make their way into your device without a firewall in place. Moreover, anyone on a public network could easily monitor your traffic as well.

For these reasons it’s crucial that you keep your devices protected and secure.

Personal Hot-Spots

Using a hot spot eliminates the problem of a hacker jumping on the network you’re using. Although your web traffic remains unencrypted, your data stays safe. This will count against your cell phone data but it is worth the extra costs.

Most cell phone carriers there’s a minor fee for using hot spots but the alternative could cost you much more. And with the advent of 4G and 5G networks, hot spots are just as fast as home network connections.

VPN’s

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.

VPN’s are another solution if you find yourself working in a public network. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, enables you to create a secure connection with another network through the internet. These networks are often used to shield browsing activity from anyone snooping around on a public Wi-Fi network.

A VPN connects your device to a server that then connects it directly to the internet. But you must make sure the VPN you utilize is secure because hackers have been known to target unpatched VPN to access the user’s information. They usually do this via phishing scams that users interact with through a fake email.

This leads to the next point:

Encrypt your email and devices

If you have the proper safeguards in place, like email encryption and multifactor authentication then your data will remain secure no matter where you work from.

There are many software companies that provide encryption for email. Retruster, is one such example but there are others. This gives you added protection and peace of mind when working remotely.

Malicious actors often leverage current, events, personal information , or natural disasters to manipulate targets through phishing emails. An example of this was in spring 2020, when there were instances of hackers using the COVID-19 outbreak to send malicious emails to users.

Multi-Factor Authentication for Secure Devices

Multifactor authentication is a security system that requires multiple methods of authentication from independent credentials to verify user identity. In other words, it is a system that requires verification from a cellphone and a computer, for example, to then access data on your devices.

Having these measures in place creates a secure environment that facilitates remote work. None of these measures work in isolation. If communication is not up to par with data security or vice-versa, your operation will be compromised.

In Conclusion

What is most important is ensuring all members of your team are meeting your requirements, communicating effectively with one another and avoiding unnecessary risks like joining insecure networks or leaving devices unattended or unencrypted.

 

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