Before 2020, the idea of working from anywhere wasn’t the way most companies operated. A small number of open-minded organizations were the early adopters of a more flexible way of working but not many. Despite further adoption of remote workers, popular tech giants, corporate companies, and even startups weren’t as open to the idea.
While working remotely isn’t a new idea it has gained more traction in recent years due to an expanding array of benefits for organizations and their employees. Some of the benefits include increased work productivity, better retention of employees and cost savings. One of the key benefits that people tend to forget is work-life balance. As organizations allow their employees to work from anywhere they choose, whether it’s from home, a cafe, or even a different country, the flexibility of where and when you want to work can provide employees a mindfulness that adds to productivity and job satisfaction.
More disparate branch offices and employees isn’t the only factor that is encouraging more organizations to go remote; we can’t forget about the technology. The idea is like the chicken and the egg: technology has advanced remote workforces and remote workforces demand more powerful technology. With the help of tech advancements made on behalf of remote workforces and the modern shift in our collective work culture, the future of work from anywhere is brighter than ever.
Before COVID-19, most organizations saw remote work as a benefit to dole out to trusted employees, and less as a necessity. This has been thrown out the window in our current pandemic driven lifestyle. Over the past year, we have all experienced this idea – that in some way part of our professional responsibilities have gone mobile, and that is may likely become the new norm.
Close to 70% of businesses are in favor of shifting to work from anywhere permanently. Ironically, some of the major tech giants who were originally against working from anywhere have become its biggest supporters, largely due to their success during the pandemic. By 2030, Facebook said it expects that at least half of its 50,000 employees will be working from home permanently.
While the idea of everyone working from anywhere sounds ideal, it’s not without challenges. One of the most pressing is that it creates many security and networking obstacles for IT teams. IT managers need to protect hundreds or thousands of users, devices and faraway cloud applications even when they have no idea where users are connecting from – and even worse – who they are or what they’re doing in the network.
This ongoing challenge has frustrated every security professional in every organization since early March. When their users suddenly were forced to work from home, IT teams scrambled to make sure these users could easily and securely connect to their network and resources overnight. They also discovered that the task was harder than initially anticipated.
While the idea of working from anywhere comes with many benefits, organizations need to implement the right technology that will offer users a fast and secure network connection that isn’t lagging. Most remote users are connecting to their work environments that reside on the cloud, so security teams need to make sure that their security model can provide connections that are both secure and fast, no matter the location of the user. This means doing away with outdated security models.
By offering a more user-centric approach for secure network access it will allow for quick and secure connections to corporate resources and applications. Organizations that continue with the site-centric approach will be stuck with slower connection speeds which will result in decreased productivity for their workforce – and no stronger security to show for it.
Organizations that will continue to depend on outdated network security technology will experience ongoing difficulties to the endless number of perimeters and endpoints that come with the transition to remote work. By not offering more modern and cloud-friendly network security policies, organizations’ attack surfaces are wider, and leave more doors to critical resources open for hackers.
Even if it’s an easy social engineering attack or a spear-phishing attack, when not adopting the most up-to-date network security technology, organizations are not equipped to adequately protect a growing pool of remote employees, roles and identities, devices, and sources of data. This has forced many organizations to ask themselves how they can secure connections to the cloud when employees are working from outside the office.
Organizations need to rethink how they will offer their remote workers secure access to work applications and resources. Until recently, the average organization forced employees to work with a VPN to gain remote access to corporate resources on the cloud. While this was a good idea at the time, this approach creates challenges such as latency issues when users are exclusively remote. A domino effect occurred which also reduced visibility over the organization and therefore risked compliance as well.
Instead of neglecting the proper up-to-date network security technology, organizations need to get with the times and adopt cloud-edge-based, secure remote access solutions that can integrate with the resources in use within the organization and help segment them for custom access policy. Automated policies, monitoring, and edge-networking deconstruct the barriers that previously bottlenecked IT and standard workflows. Companies can also be sure that their remote employees will stay productive no matter what unforeseen situations arise.
Organizations can adopt what they think is the right solution for secure remote access, but there will always be a risk of data exposure to attackers. It’s essential that organizations understand which network and security features are best suited to their ‘work from anywhere’ workforces.
Here are three key features that every secure remote access solution should provide for better secure access.
Full visibility of corporate resources, data and network are critical when working with unmanaged devices. When organizations don’t have the capability to clearly see and manage user network activity to all company endpoints, it reduces agility in threat response, which can result in hackers gaining data access within the network to exploit it.
It is vital that the organization’s IT teams are provided complete visibility and control over data across all resources on the network. By adopting a software-defined solution that promotes interoperability within cloud and local resources, organizations can ensure that unauthorized access from malicious actors is harder to obtain and more visible should it ever occur.
Identity and access management should be a requirement for all secure remote access solutions. By implementing identity and access management solutions like multi-factor authentication (MFA) IT teams can put an extra verification barrier in front of would-be attackers. What’s great about MFA for organizations is that it requires their employees to provide a second form of identity verification that authenticates identities to ensure the user is who they say they are.
Organizations should also require that employees implement a single sign-on (SSO) feature as it securely authenticates users across all their cloud applications with one (strong) password. By simplifying the authentication process for remote workers, security and efficiency are a result.
Organizations should implement agentless security when protecting corporate resources and data for their remote workers. IT teams that are continuously using agent-based tools or solutions will require ongoing software update installments on remote devices which will decrease productivity and the privacy of each device. Organizations that adopt agentless tools will help IT and security teams to offer their remote users better compliance and security without needing any updates on the user side. When network teams take advantage of agentless security, they provide a more agile and seamless work environment for remote workers.
As working from anywhere is here to stay, IT and security teams need to look at the current status of their network solutions and understand the different roadblocks they put in front of remote workforces – and their security. It’s important to clearly understand what’s working and what isn’t and to quickly acclimate to the new network shape that we all experience. By enabling less obtrusive security that suits remote workforces, companies are safer and more agile, bringing operational goals in line with IT.