If you live and work anywhere in the UK this morning, chances are you’ve woken up to a heavy dusting of snow outside. With treacherous driving conditions and schools closing up and down the country, you may find yourself in a position where yourself and your colleagues have to work from home.

At our offices at CETSAT this morning, we have put into action our business continuity plan and begun a phased migration of engineers from our office to their homes. While ensuring the safety and security of our own engineers, we are also taking calls from customers who are also enacting their continuity plans and setting staff members up to work from home rather than their usual office locations. Enabling staff to work from home has a few basic requirements:

  • A comfortable working environment
  • A secure computing platform
  • Good internet and bandwidth for connectivity
  • Access to appropriate voice services

If your organisation work from laptops, or have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, chances are you’re already a step ahead and your users can set up quickly and easily from almost anywhere.

Providing a secure way to connect

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most common ways employees connect back to their office. The VPN method creates a secure ‘tunnel’ back to the office and allow users to access their files, email and applications over the internet. VPN’s are often clunky and not a particularly user friendly way of remote working but, once connected, can provide a good method of remote working.

One way to around the VPN usability problem to provide remote workers with access to on-site data is to use a secure file sharing/management solution. At CETSAT, we use a solution called Foldr which allows us to securely access on-site files and folders from anywhere.

Using a solution like Foldr allows administrators to keep the file and folder security permissions, and allows end users to access important files using a desktop application, web browser or mobile application.

Alternatively, your business may already be fully operating from a cloud solution such as Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, or a mix of the two. In this instance, you’re already there and your users can securely access all their services from the comfort of their own home using the same methods they would in the office.

The final method is using a secure remote desktop gateway solution. In this scenario, staff can connect to a remote desktop server, or their usual office workstation, and ‘view’ the desktop as if they were sat in the office. This method normally uses Microsoft Remote Desktop or Citrix. Arguably the most secure method, this ensures all applications, data and services are accessed within the confines of the company’s network. Users are restricted to the same policies and permissions as they would normally be and in most cases, are unable to move data off of the server.

As with any continuity situation, the most important thing is the safety of your users and staff members. If you find yourself in a reactive situation over the next couple of days, frantically trying to get users working from home, it may be time to review your continuity plan, before the next disaster strikes.