Remote Work: Making the Most of the Modern Workplace

A Business Owners’ Guide to Maintaining a Productive & Secure Remote Workplace

Did you miss out on our recent webinar focusing on remote work? On Nov 20, 2020, Andrea Guthrie, the Chair of Pando Labs, was joined by Nexus IT consultant’s CEO, Earl Foote who shared several useful tips on how to get the most out of your modern workplace. This article summarizes everything that was discussed to help you maintain a productive and secure remote workplace

If you missed out on the virtual event, you can watch it on YouTube using the link below:

Who Is Earl Foote?

An experienced cybersecurity expert, Earl founded Nexus IT Consultants about 22 years ago and continues to serve as it’s CEO. Nexus IT Consultants delivers cutting-edge technology services and products to clients throughout the great State of Utah.

While they specialize in Cloud Solutions, compliance, and cybersecurity, Nexus IT also offers a holistic range of managed IT services suited to organizations of different sizes and across various industries.

Earl is a founding member of Pando Labs as well, a community partner of Nexus IT Consultants.

He also serves as a board member at the Salt Lake Chamber in addition to being actively involved in The Summit Commerce Covid Collective. Through taking on a leadership role in The Summit Commerce Covid Collective, Earl plays a central role in rebooting our local economy and helping Summit County businesses recover from the impacts of the ongoing global pandemic.

How Did the Covid-19 Pandemic Impact Businesses?

When the pandemic initially hit, and restrictions took effect, remote work was an almost unheard-of concept in several organizations. However, for many businesses, this wasn’t the case.

“At Nexus IT Consultants, we’ve been delivering reliable remote work solutions to numerous distributed teams for quite some time now. We’ve helped many of our clients navigate the complexities and dynamics of having some team members who telecommute, to give them collaborative access to the tools and data securely.

For us, remote work represented a natural transition for our team. However, we were stretched quite thin during the initial months helping numerous businesses settle into their new remote work settings.

The expertise and experience we had gathered even before the Covid-19 pandemic lie at the heart of our ability to continue delivering reliable remote IT support and solutions.”

What’s Your Post-Pandemic Plan? Whether or not you’ve been able to plan that far ahead, let’s look at some facts and figures that may help inform your decision:

  • According to 317 CFOs recently surveyed by Gartner, 74% of CFOs say they expect to move previously on-site employees to work remotely post-Covid-19.
  • Once the pandemic has concluded, you’ll be working in one of three potential scenarios:
    • Your entire staff returns to work in the office.
    • Some of your staff return to work in the office and some continue working remotely.
    • All your staff continue to work remotely.

While the third option has been gaining some traction lately, it does have limitations, which we’ll discuss further below.

Why Continue Working Remotely When You Don’t Have to? Are you searching for a reason to carry on with remote work even after the pandemic is over? With several businesses already either entirely back in the office or splitting their roles between home and the office, this is an important question to ask.

The question is, what are the benefits of a remote work setting? Let’s look at some statistics:

However, the general sentiment surrounding remote work has ebbed and flowed throughout the pandemic. At first, the lack of quality time with team members and the inability to enjoy the typical “water cooler conversations” presented a challenge to remote work.

However, when Covid-19 infection figures began to rise again in the fall, many organizations were eager to return to a 100% remote work model. And based on current trends, remote work is likely to continue playing a role to some degree in most organizations going forward.

Are You Doing Remote Work Correctly? Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many organizations were entirely unprepared for remote work. And even those that had remote work models in place merely supported the small fraction of their team that worked from home.

The scramble to pivot to remote work at the pandemic’s onset led to many organizations prioritizing access to data. Unfortunately, this ease of access came at the expense of implementing the necessary robust data security measures.

How has your organization handled remote work so far? Have you taken the appropriate steps to ensure it is optimized and secure? Surprisingly, numerous businesses continue to struggle with the remote work model even this far down the line. From working with new clients and performing risk analyses and gap assessments on their networks, we’ve discovered that most businesses still have significant gaps.

You need to act immediately to incorporate the latest secure collaboration and file-sharing solutions into your remote work. However, if you choose to continue with remote work going forward, you must develop a solid IT plan that considers productivity, security, and compliance.

How Can You Maintain Cybersecurity in Long-Term Remote Work?

When the covid-19 pandemic first hit, most corporate leadership units’ primary concern was maintaining business continuity. However, months later, you now have the time to come up with a robust cybersecurity plan.

That said, cybersecurity is too complicated of an undertaking for remote teams. In fact, 36% of organizations have suffered some type of security incident due to an unsecured remote employee.

Simply put, distributing your workforce across various locations where they use different routers, firewalls, and personal devices, creates a host of network vulnerabilities. In a remote work model, cyber-attacks such as data breaches are a grave concern.

What Are the Cybersecurity Priorities for Remote Work? Our team recommends the following three key priorities to secure your remote work:

  • Enhance your existing security measures
  • Provide your team with the right hardware when working permanently from home. You should consider:
    • Home-Based Firewalls: In most cases, remote workers use non-commercial grade devices with minimal security features and mechanisms. You need to provide basic business-grade firewalls and routers to all your remote team members.
    • Corporate-Issued Laptops: This will allow you to assign administrative control to these devices. A remote worker using their personal laptop might unwittingly expose your sensitive data through their own activities outside your business. For instance, they may click on a malicious attachment or download a piece of malware that could potentially find its way to your corporate network and cause severe damages. At the very least, you should consider mobile device management.
    • Endpoint Security: What was traditionally known as antiviruses have, over the past three years, evolved into what’s now called next-gen Endpoint security. Adequate Endpoint security now uses behavioral Analytics, AI, and machine learning. You need business-grade Endpoint security on all your remote network devices.
    • Backup Solutions: You should put in place robust data backups and regularly validate them.
    • Secure File Sharing: You need a corporate repository of files and an appropriate backup solution for that data. If you’re using Dropbox or Google Drive, as a bare minimum, you need to pay for the Business versions rather than using the free commercial versions with limited features.
    • Cloud Virtual Desktops: This is particularly favorable if you have a “bring your own device” scenario. It allows you to provide a corporate-controlled desktop that sits in the Cloud. Your remote team members will be able to securely access the applications, files, and collaboration tools they need.
  • Implement more permanent and secure file-sharing and collaboration tools.

What are Must-Have Cyber Security Technologies and Processes?

Two-Factor Authentication

This refers to having multiple mechanisms to authenticate your account. By requiring a second piece of information like a randomly generated numerical code to send by text message, you can make sure that the person using the login credentials is who they say they are.

However, this isn’t just for websites and common user accounts. Rather, two-factor authentication should be enabled for VPN and remote desktops.

Conditional Access

This will give you the ability to enforce controls on the access to apps in your environment, all based on specific conditions and managed from a central location. The conditions might include: Do you have the corporate antivirus? If so, is it up to date? Has it reported any potential concerns? Are you accessing your data over a VPN?

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

A DLP policy tracks sensitive data and where it’s stored, determines who has the authorization to access it, and prevents the accidental or malicious loss of information.

Hard Drive Encryption

Encryption technology is a great way to protect sensitive data. By making data unreadable to anyone who isn’t supposed to have access to it, you can secure files stored on your systems, servers, and mobile devices, as well as files sent via email or through file-sharing services. This is especially important for remote devices and employee-owned devices. Laptops and home-based hardware need to be appropriately encrypted.


Reliable backup capacity requires additional support. The key is finding the right third-party backup solution to support your Microsoft 365 accounts. By adding data backup capabilities, you can make sure all your bases are covered.

If you have actual servers, for instance, in the Cloud or your office, you need a validation process for your backups as well. Should a data loss event occur, for example, due to a hard drive failure in a server, routine validation guarantees that the backups weren’t corrupted anywhere along the line?

What’s the Impact of Long-Term Remote Work on Communication?

  • Among remote workers interviewed this year, trouble communicating is tied with loneliness as the most significant challenge they’ve encountered.
  • Communication and collaboration are foundational to productivity and continuity, whether you’re in the office or not.
  • If your current communication methods have just been “good enough,” then now’s the time to find something better.

Microsoft Teams & Remote Work

If your business uses Microsoft 365, then Teams is part of your Office 365 licenses. Nexus IT Consultants, has helped clients integrate Microsoft Teams into their remote work model for several years.

Microsoft Teams is an entire suite of collaboration tools that enable your distributed team to stay connected and collaborate efficiently and securely. Within Microsoft, teams can access a wide-ranging list of features that would typically require you to use three or four different platforms. Teams has the following functionalities:

  • Email.
  • Video calling and conferencing.
  • Instant messaging.
  • Screen sharing.
  • File sharing.
  • Set calendars.
  • Project management, etc.

What Are the Three Remote Work Scenarios?

SCENARIO 1: All Staff On-Premise

  • Security: Even on-site, you still need two-Factor authentication solutions implemented to access your email Microsoft 365 VPN and for any remote access to machines and apps.
  • Productivity: As you’ll operate in a conventional working environment, there won’t be much of a change here.
  • Remote Access: When needed, remote access should be secured by VPN and two-factor authentication.

SCENARIO 2: Hybrid Remote & On-Premise

  • Security: Hybrid environments require extra care to ensure no one is putting business data at risk. Secure all VPN connections, remote access email, and Microsoft 365 with a 2FA solution.
  • Productivity: File storage and sharing can be handled through Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive or Dropbox Business. Microsoft Teams also offers a range of communication and collaboration capabilities. Be aware of the OneDrive sync tool that allows remote work users to access data without an internet connection. Our team found that the sync is unstable, buggy, and usually doesn’t work very well. We recommend Dropbox Business as the more robust, reliable source solution.
  • Social Distancing: Using hot desks (multiple workers using a single physical workstation or surface on alternating days) can promote social distancing in the office. However, you’ll want to implement standards for disinfecting common spaces.
  • Remote Access: Viruses can be transmitted from remote users’ devices over a VPN. You need to make sure any endpoints are configured to limit a VPN’s ability to transmit dangerous malware. All remote devices should also have business-grade, centrally managed EndPoint security.

SCENARIO 3: All Remote

  • Security: In addition to the way, you also need to consider “bring your own device” (BYOD). If you allow BYOD for remote workers, you need to consider:
    1. How to prevent that machine from putting business data at risk.
    2. How to protect users’ private data on their personal devices.
    3. How to protect data theft from rogue employees or inadvertent data loss.
  • Productivity: As with the hybrid model maintaining productivity and communication between an in-office and remote staff can be achieved with Microsoft SharePoint, OneDrive, or Dropbox Business and Teams.
  • Remote Access: In an all-remote model, consider moving all your data and LOB apps into the Cloud (eliminating the need for remote access for in-office computers).

How Should You Handle Onboarding for Remote Work?

As a business leader, you run the risk of allowing the ongoing pandemic to make you a little bit lazy. You might attempt to cut down on costs by only providing your remote workers with the bare minimums.

However, the reality is that such a mindset is destructive to your company culture. To maintain a dynamic and cohesive relationship with the team members, you need to provide them with useful productivity tools. You need to have onboarding packages ready to go depending on your hiring pace.

If remote work is to be a permanent part of your business’ working model going forward, you’ll need the following to onboard new employees quickly:

  • Laptop.
  • Monitor(s).
  • Keyboard and mouse.
  • Business-class firewalls.
  • AV software (EndPoint Security).

How Can You Ensure Regulatory Compliance in the Remote Workplace? Even before the pandemic, pretty much all businesses were subject to compliance with specific regulatory standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, NIST, and so on.

However, with distributed workforces, maintaining compliance is made much more challenging. For starters, you probably migrated from one or two internet connections and firewalls at your office to perhaps thousands of connections and distributed devices.

How can you keep your data access compliant? Here are a few recommended steps to take:

  • Determine which data compliance regulations you’re subject to and which ones may be in the works.
  • Learn what it takes to become familiar with these systems’ particulars — assign a small team to learn more about compliance.
  • Develop a specific risk assessment checklist for compliance.

How Should You Handle HR In the Remote Workplace? One of the most significant challenges during these difficult times is remaining connected to your team members as a business leader.

In this remote work setting, you need to remember:

What Are Some Recommended HR Strategies for Remote Work?

  • Make Sure They’re Working in the Right Space: Ensure that wherever your staff is going to work is comfortable, distraction-free, and as similar to their usual workplace as possible.
  • Promote Balance In their Workday: Make sure everyone is taking breaks to decompress, stretch, stay hydrated, and relax.
  • Help Them Socialize: Don’t forget to schedule times for business and casual communication.

Looking for the Most Reliable Remote IT Support in Northern Utah?

At Nexus IT, our IT experts are here to provide your organization with the technology solutions you need to get the most out of your remote work. Contact us now to get started | Call (801) 839-7006 or (435) 200-5926.