5 Tips for IT Professionals Facing A Tidal Wave of Remote Workers

Working from home is not an option for every industry, but having a plan in place for how to deploy remote capabilities in an emergency is essential. Traditionally, the financial and insurance sectors are not ones that immediately come to mind for a suitable remote working environment.  It’s not feasible for every role to transition from office-based to home-based — tellers certainly can’t take the cash drawer home and have an ATM window from the living room. And, while insurance agents can likely work from home, transitioning call center customer service reps to remote work could be a massive undertaking. However, planning ahead when possible and ensuring employees are equipped with new software, communication plans, and expectations will help your business continue to function as close to normal as possible during unexpected circumstances.  

Whether you’re putting a plan together in the middle of an emergency scenario or you’re proactively updating your formal procedures, there are several things to consider when developing your work-from-home guidelines and procedures. Three things we recommend you keep in mind are security, communication, and efficiency.

Tip #1: Roll Out a VPN

Security should always be top of mind when setting up a remote work business plan. Since there are likely many proprietary systems and documents on your internal company network, opening it up to the internet is not a safe option. Using a VPN, or a virtual private network, to route traffic from employee devices to those systems and resources allows your employees to work like they are physically present in the office. If your business relies on privileged access rules, then a VPN enables employees to access files and systems without jumping through extra hoops.

Small and large businesses alike should have a VPN solution ready as a best practice to protect your sensitive information. VPNs can be deployed on your enterprise-owned laptops and desktops for employees to take home with them if remote work is necessary.

Things to consider:

  • Licensing limits: Make sure the solution you choose will offer enough licenses for all the employees you would anticipate needing to transition to remote work
  • Price: While there are free VPN solutions out there, we recommend that for enterprise-level access, you select a paid version for an extra layer of security and access to a support team should you need one.

Tip #2 Consolidate Internal Communications to a Single System

Attackers are ramping up their COVID-19 related phishing efforts while many businesses are frantically acting to put their continuity plans in action. Having all employees reachable through a central hub while geographically dispersed can allow for quick check-ins about suspicious emails, file sharing, and even provide an additional tool for hosting meetings. It’s more than likely that your CEO doesn’t need you to purchase 50 iTunes gift cards, but with instant messaging systems like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet/Hangouts, or Mattermost, you can double-check in an instant.

Things to consider:

  • User or Message/Data Limits: Some software offers free versions, like Slack, but free versions come with limitations on how many users you can have, file-sharing, etc.
  • Multi-factor Authentication: You should already be using an MFA solution for all your systems, but if you’re transitioning from the office, all messages must be secure and visible only to the intended recipient.
  • Price: Decide how many users and how much data storage your company needs and find a plan that suits you best.

Tip #3: Maximize the Power of Your Identity Access Management System

In the event of an emergency, IT teams will be swamped with access requests from everyone setting up to work remotely. If your business has an identity access management system like Provision in place, your team can grant groups of employees with additional access through assigning a permission to the role entitlement in just a few clicks instead of managing each request individually. This will save valuable time for your IT department, and employees are not kept waiting for access to systems that they need to do their job. Administrators can provision remote VPN access, manage, add, or remove other access as needed.

Things to Consider:

  • Transitioning to a cloud database: While a cloud database has the potential to make monitoring your digital perimeter slightly more challenging, with the right authentication policies like MFA and SSO, you’ll still be protected.
  • Plan for lifecycle management: During times of telecommuting, some users may have additional access privileges, so you need to ensure you have a plan to avoid access creep, and document all permission changes for future audits. Certification and recertification reviews should be automated to help ensure you manage these changes efficiently. An Identity Access Management system ensures that you can easily track, manage, and eventually de-provision special access approved for the remote working environment.

Tip #4: Mandate Frequent IT Manager and Administrator Status Meetings

Establish a set time for check-ins that work best for your team. These could be weekly or as often as daily. This new normal is placing incredible stress on the IT team. Meetings should be scheduled via conference call, or even better, by video conferencing, as this is the best medium to discuss complex issues. It is critical to hear the challenges facing IT and for managers to ask questions. You don’t want to learn about major problems from this transition from your customers. It is beneficial for everyone to get together in one room– real or virtual– to discuss the task or project at hand. This also helps cut down on the usage of personal cell phones.

Tip #5 Update and Protect Company-Owned Devices

If you are sending company-owned devices home with your employees, make sure that the latest OS updates have been installed, and there is visibility into the standard business continuity operations which are set up on the device. For example: check to ensure workstations are successfully backing up to the Cloud, check that the anti-virus definitions are up-to-date, and are updating properly.

If your institution is experiencing a deficit of desktops to loan out to newly working-from-home employees, the Summit Technology Group is offering complimentary cloud desktops and business continuity resources to members of the American Bankers Association.

Are You Ready to Transition to Remote?

Do you have a plan, but you’re not sure that you’ve covered all the bases? Are you scrambling to put together a plan now that governments are mandating telecommuting? Are you feeling overwhelmed with how to manage the transition correctly because you work in the banking or financial sector, and you’re worried about security and auditing? We can help!

Exclamation Labs has employed remote workers for more than 15 years. We have drafted countless business continuity plans and work-from-home policies, and we have over 20 years of experience working with organizations in the insurance and financial markets. We understand your unique needs, and we are ready to provide guidance.

Submit your work-from-home policy for a complimentary review and feedback session with one of our specialists. And don’t worry — security is top of mind in our business. All plans will remain confidential, can be shared with us securely, and we always consent to non-disclosure agreements.
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