Current situations mean that a lot of businesses, all of a sudden, are telling employees to work from home. But it’s not as simple as just doing it. There are some basic steps that need to be taken to ensure that you can get set up properly to work from home, and your IT settings are the best place to start.
For small non-tech businesses one challenge of working from home is going to be network access. How do you give employees access to the company resources when they aren’t on the company network?
The first thing anyone working from home is going to need is an internet connection! Ideally via a landline, not mobile 3G/4G. And ideally with a wired connection to the computer (not WiFi).
There is nothing “wrong” with those wireless technologies if they work. But they often don’t quite work, which is OK for home use, but when you’re trying to have a business call and your WiFi keeps cutting out because the neighbour is using the microwave, it could be a disaster. If you have everything wired in, that is a lot less likely to happen.
Use “the cloud”
If you’re non-technical, don’t try and run services yourself. Don’t run an email server. Pay Google, AWS or Microsoft a few pounds and they do it for you. Most of your office apps will probably run as well in the cloud as they do on site.
Don’t open up your own services to the internet. Don’t try to be like GMail or Office365. If you don’t know what you’re doing, before you know it, you will be hacked and either sending spam, calculating bitcoins or having your data stolen. The professionals spend a lot of time and energy keeping your mail secure.
Files can be stored in Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, O365, etc. Box.com is so secure, police use it for storing digital evidence.
Then you probably have a few things left that can’t be moved to the cloud.
Things not in the cloud
If there are things you can’t move to the cloud that are on your network, then you will need a VPN. VPNs are not only used to let naughty people pretend they’re in America to get different Netflix shows and illegally download things.
What is a VPN?
VPNs connect two networks together through a third network, without giving the third network any visibility of what is going on.
Hence you connect your office network to a “network” that consists of only one person’s computer over the internet. As far as the internet is concerned, they have no idea what is being sent. And the computer thinks it is in the office.
How do I make a VPN?
Sadly, you probably need to call someone who knows, as you will need to open your VPN server to the internet securely, and configure subnet masks and routing correctly. And finally set up some key infrastructure. This is not a task for an amateur. There is however free software to do it. OpenVPN, StrongSwan and OpenSwan are all “free”. The cost is in configuring, deploying and maintaining them.
This advice should get you set up for working from home when you need to. They’re basic tips, but they really do make a difference to your productivity and will ensure your work is kept secure.