Remote working is now a part of daily life for many businesses. Whether from home or while out on the road, using remote infrastructure or a virtual desktop, makes possible to work wherever you are. That’s good for employees who are able to improve their work/life balance and good for your business as you can offer more flexible working practices.
More and more businesses are moving their systems to the cloud, with 69% of enterprise organisations moving their critical systems to the cloud in 2019. This is an attractive option from the point of view of cost and also because it provides a good deal of flexibility as your business grows. But there’s another advantage too. Having your business systems in the cloud means that they can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, so you don’t need to be in the office to work.
If you want your business to be part of this home working revolution, therefore, what do you need to consider?
It goes without saying that use of the cloud requires access to the internet. As of July 2019 over 96 per cent of Great Britain has access to broadband at 24 Mbps or faster. However, only 58 per cent have 100 Mbps or more and just over eight per cent have full fibre. While it’s likely that your employees will have access to broadband, it is important to check their connection speeds and whether they will be sufficient to access your systems effectively.
With the rollout of 5G in the UK and ambitious plans to get the whole country on fibre broadband by the mid 2020’s, it’s likely that internet speed blackspots will become fewer and far between.
Of course, allowing access to your cloud systems from anywhere will raise security issues and open the door up to cybercriminals looking to exploit vulnerabilities in business systems and networks. It’s vital that you ensure staff have strong passwords – and preferably some form of multi-factor authentication – to protect their accounts. It’s also important that everyone has their own login details and that these are not shared, nor are passwords ‘recycled’ across multiple accounts.
When you can access systems from the cloud, the temptation may also be there to log in from public locations such as railways stations or coffee shops. Using public Wi-Fi is always risky; if it’s absolutely necessary for your employees to do this then you should ensure that they use a VPN to keep their communications secure.
Where mobile devices are used – either owned by the company or BYOD – then you should look at installing remote device management. This means that if a laptop or smartphone is lost or stolen, you can remotely wipe any business data that it may contain and stop it from accessing your cloud systems.
When granting access to your cloud systems (for anyone, not just remote workers), you should always work from a ‘least privilege’ model, granting only the access needed to do their job. This is something that needs to be reviewed regularly as it’s easy to get ‘mission creep’ where people are granted access in order to perform a specific task but they don’t have it revoked again afterwards, leaving your systems vulnerable to abuse.
The goal of most businesses is to grow and bring in more trade. Obviously the advantage of allowing people to work from home is that you may be able to do this without the need to move to larger premises, thus keeping your costs down.
You can increase the size of a remote workforce very rapidly if you are relying on cloud computing with staff able to access your systems wherever they are. You may be able to keep your hardware costs down too by allowing people to use their own devices for work purposes.
You will, of course, need to ensure that, wherever they are working, your personnel are properly trained in using your systems. They also need to have access to support in the event of problems arising.
It’s tempting to think of homeworkers as sitting in their pyjamas, balancing a laptop and a cup of coffee with daytime TV on in the background. But the cloud is increasingly making working from home a viable prospect for businesses and individuals who may never have considered it before.
It can seem like a dramatic step for a business to take, but you can’t afford to ignore the benefits that enabling home working has to offer, both for your business and for your team.