The past year has underscored the critical nature of reliable connectivity for modern businesses. As many organizations shifted to remote work where and when possible, the importance of internet access was brought into focus as it kept organizations connected and moved business along.
As we look ahead to a post-COVID world, there are three trends related to the rise in remote work that could impact a small business’s technology environment.
Cloud-based collaboration tools
Cloud-based platforms like Office 365, Slack, Zoom and Google Suite allow employees to collaborate, share screens, video conference and work on documents no matter where they are. Companies that had already adopted these types of tools were better prepared to pivot – overnight, in many cases – to a fully remote work environment at the onset of COVID-19.
Even as some businesses start to return to the office, others are considering a partial or fully remote work scenario — and the cloud is key to supporting these new needs. In fact, it’s possible that any technology that is not cloud-based may disappear permanently as businesses come to rely on technology that is flexible, scalable and cloud-based.
Home broadband accessibility and reliability
Many families across the region have been faced with the same scenario: kids attending virtual classes, streaming TV shows and movies, or playing internet-based video games, while parents are working remotely and video-conferencing — all at the same time. In the absence of a high-speed, high-bandwidth network, internet can be slow and impact work productivity.
Some remote employees might choose to have two separate accounts — a residential service provider for non-work activities like television streaming, and business-class internet for work activities. While most people working from home have access to ultra-fast internet service plans that can reliably handle dozens of connected devices and heavy usage activity, a business-class home office solution, like those that Comcast Business offers, provide more. It comes with a higher level of back-end support and the ability to add business-class services like a static IP address and LTE back-up in case of a power outage or damaged wireline connection.
As remote work continues to become more prevalent, businesses may even take a new approach to at-home productivity by reimbursing employees for high-speed or business-class internet.
Enhanced cybersecurity — in and out of the office
The costs of being hacked far outweigh the costs of preventive measures, which means even businesses without a large budget should dedicate resources to cybersecurity technologies — including for remote employees who have left the security of their office’s network.
Fortunately, there are a few ways businesses can help protect their data, even with a remote workforce. This includes a combination of education and software.
Education involves turning employees into another line of defense by informing them of existing cybersecurity threats and how to avoid them. Unlike when an employee in an office accidentally clicks on a phishing link, there are less protections at home because most people don’t have a corporate firewall on their home network.
IT teams must train employees on how to detect threats, like phishing, and what to do if they think something is suspicious. They also should implement policies like strong password requirements and two-factor authentication, and forced password changes several times a year.
The software component involves using the latest technology to secure the services and network that employees use. For example, companies may turn to software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) to manage their network over the internet. With SD-WAN, a company’s IT staff can sit anywhere in the world while monitoring traffic and adjusting network settings as needed from a secure portal.
The pandemic will continue to reshape the way people work, play and connect with each other, and no organization will come out of this completely unchanged. The silver lining is that technology can help ensure employees, regardless of where they are physically working, stay productive and focused while upholding the security of business data.