Tech Tips for home working

Adam Painter from V12 Tech   – brings you some top tech tip for home working:

 

I’ve worked in the tech sector for around 30 years now. Long enough to have seen lots of changes and also to have seen the same topics come around in different forms. I presently run an IT support company looking after SME’s in various business sectors. In the last five years we have seen a huge shift to flexible working and we have put in systems for our clients that have allowed them to seamlessly embrace the need for all staff to work from home due to Covid-19.

High speed internet & WiFi

You can’t work remotely unless you have a decent connection to the internet. If yours is slow, contact you ISP and see if they can offer increased speed. If your internet router does not come into your house conveniently for your working space (see below) then you may need to ensure you have fast, secure WiFi available as well. WiFi USB dongles are available for desktop PC’s if needed.

Office 365/Google email

Your company should already have good reliable email facilities, if it doesn’t it is cheap and easy to get set-up (or migrated to) a reliable email service such as Office 365 or Google. Both can use your existing company domain name so you still look professional. Legacy on-premise Exchange servers are not as great if you have lots of remote workers so if you are still running these consider migrating to cloud email servers.

Office 365 SharePoint/Google Drive/DropBox/Box

Data. Where is yours stored? It needs to be secure and accessible. If on-premise you are going to need VPN’s or Remote Desktop to be able to reach it. But why not move it to a secure cloud location? Office 365 offers 1Tb of cloud storage via SharePoint Online as part of your monthly subscription, this can be as secure as on-premise data storage (or more so in some cases) AND means that you and your staff can work remotely with no restrictions AND also allows for new collaborative working styles. Need to both edit the same Excel document at the same time – you can! Other cloud services such as Google Drive/DropBox/Box etc offer facilities to hold data in the cloud for easy sharing.

VoIP telephony

Tied to your old phone system in the office? Difficulty/expense in routing calls to home workers? Switching to a hosted VoIP phone system gives you ALL of the facilities that you have in traditional on-premise phone systems, without the overhead of having to maintain them and you get improved flexibility and reduced call costs. What is not to like? They are cheap to set-up and run, offer you all the features you could ever need and are fully flexible. Can have your extension routed to your mobile phone or as a softphone on your laptop or desktop, or simply stick with a handset on your desk.

Video calling (Microsoft Teams/Skype/Zoom etc)

Microsoft Teams has replaced Skype for Business and is included in your most Office 365 Business subscriptions, so you may already be familiar with it. All of the video and audio calling apps allow you to keep in touch with colleagues, suppliers and clients from the comfort (and safety) of your own home. When using these, think about the background, some apps such as Teams, allow you to blur the background which is worth doing.  But also, don’t sit with the light behind you or the camera pointing at the ceiling. Take time to ensure that you can present as a professional business even when at home. The use of a headset to help avoid background noises, is also worthwhile for voice calling especially as we are likely to have children around at present.

Remote Desktop Services

If you have to access data in your offices and it is stored on a Microsoft Windows server you may be able to set-up a Remote Desktop Services server which allows you to run the programs and access data as if you were in the office even if the connection speed to the server is not fantastically fast. This can take a while to set-up and you will probably need assistance from you IT department/supplier but in the right circumstances it is great.

Other remote data access solutions such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, Chrome Remote Desktop etc allow you to remote into your own PC in the office. This does rely on the PC being on at all times but has the advantage that you can run everything that is already installed and configured on that machine.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s)

These provide secure connections between your remote computer and the office. You may need assistance from your IT department/supplier to get set-up but once done are easy to use. They do add an additional overhead to the remote PC to process the traffic over the VPN and slightly reduce the available speed when connective BUT as a trade of for data security have to be recommended to be with all insecure remote data access methods.

Data Security

Just because you are working remotely does not mean that you should compromise your data security. It becomes even more important to ensure that you follow best practice to keep data secure and comply with the GDPR regulations. ALL machines must have some form of Anti-Virus/Ant-Malware protection. All logins to web accessible system must be protected with two factor authentication. All mailboxes should have email filtering applied to block 99% of the known email-based attacks. Staff must remain vigilant to ‘social engineering’ based attacks as this is THE most prevalent form of harvesting security credentials.

 

Some other non-technical tips

Dress for work and keep to a working pattern, this helps create a sense of a ‘working day’ and allows you to switch off more easily at the end of the day. If you are able to create a ‘Work’ space that you go to during your working hours, if this can be set-up in the same was as your normal office workspace so much the better, if you are used to using dual screen try and replicate that, even if it means taking you work screens/computer home. Try and use a proper desk not simply put the laptop on your lap whilst you ‘slob out’ on the sofa.

Keep in touch with your team, but email, phone and video calls. It can feel very isolating being at home for everyone, spend time making sure the team still works together. Schedule some ‘chat’ time with colleagues to help keep the team motivated and reduce the sense of isolation.

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