The traditional office is becoming harder to find these days. Across the world, millions of people have shifted to hybrid or fully remote work lifestyles. In the USA, 53% of workers have adopted hybrid patterns, and 24% work from home full-time. Those numbers are likely to rise with employee expectations drifting towards flexible working.
But how should companies respond? Enabling remote working can be risky, but it comes with many benefits. In this article, we’ll introduce the best security tools for remote work, making it easier to relocate employees without creating extra cybersecurity risks.
Remote working is more popular than ever. Choosing the right software and hardware tools allows off-site workforces to operate safely and productively.
Efficient video conferencing solutions connect team colleagues, managers, and third parties seamlessly. And they secure communications against eavesdroppers.
Messaging apps ensure consistent information flows between remote employees. They should allow regular updates, quality assurance checks, and assist with team building.
Project management systems make it easier to control dispersed teams. Managers can monitor remote workforces and set schedules for project delivery.
Secure storage solutions keep critical data safe. Access controls and encryption make data available for team members while preventing illegitimate access.
The evolution of remote work
Remote work is not a new phenomenon. And in the past 20 years, remote work has become routine for occupations like IT support.
However, the number of remote employees was relatively small until the Covid pandemic. When it hit, millions of workers were suddenly barred from workplaces. But companies needed to continue operations, which sparked a search for remote solutions.
Apps like Zoom became household names overnight. And organizations suddenly had to adapt their working practices to accommodate working remotely.
Fortunately, Covid-19 coincided with technological developments that made remote working easier. Internet bandwidth is increasing at a rate of around 29% per year. This allowed employees to collaborate via video conferencing without lag issues. And remote security solutions like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and multi-factor authentication enabled companies to create secure remote work connections.
The pandemic and technological change have paved the way for an age of flexible remote working. And this change is mainly driven by employees.
As the Covid pandemic receded, many people didn’t return to their workplaces. Workers became accustomed to spending more time at home. Now, as many as 65% of workers seek full-time remote work, and the employers need to adapt fast.
However, not all sectors have embraced remote work. Healthcare and care professions still generally rely on face-to-face contact. Manual trades like mining or construction may always require employees to be present on site. Despite that, many industries support remote work strategies.
The IT sector has the highest proportion of home workers right now. But jobs as diverse as accounting, non-profit administration, tutoring, and graphic design are also compatible with home working.
Recent years have also seen the emergence of remote workforce technologies that enable productive and secure remote work. Project management tools, VPNs, collaboration and video conferencing apps, and cloud storage platforms make remote work easier than ever. Thus, the future of remote working seems bright.
Evaluating remote work effectiveness
Remote work is already mainstream. But it isn’t necessarily the best solution for all companies and employees.
On the positive side, statistics suggest that working from home boosts productivity and streamlines corporate operations. Additionally, major companies say that remote work is 35-40% more productive than office-based alternatives.
This increase could be due to the absence of distractions. Remote employees put time spent on commutes to better use. Or they might just be happier and energized by controlling their working lives.
On the other hand, remote work isn’t suitable for many occupations. As this list from the New York Times shows, this trend has barely touched plenty of jobs. Education, medicine, and construction are just a few good examples.
The pandemic forced teachers to run classes remotely. Such a method led to frustration and stress for educators and damaged educational outcomes for learners. Therefore, organizations should think long and hard before relocating any jobs involving face-to-face contact.
Companies must be aware of potential problems with remote or hybrid work models. Researchers report that remote work can come with a “promotion penalty.” Employees away from managers and offices may lose out during internal recruitment.
On-site staff also benefit from the assistance of more experienced colleagues. Younger remote workers may be disconnected from sources of knowledge. Isolation hurts productivity and dents the career prospects of remote employees.
Poorly-organized remote working systems can also lead to problems with managing them. As a result, managers may gradually extend surveillance reach to track projects and productivity. Because of that, surveillance can negate the feeling of freedom that makes working remotely so appealing.
To sum up, there are good reasons to embrace remote work. But companies should be careful when designing home working setups as this comes with new risks. Let’s explore some tools to simplify this critical task.
The best remote workforce technologies in 2023
Organizations should employ a suite of technologies for working remotely. These cover critical areas like cloud storage, project management, communication, data security, and secure remote access. Let’s see what are the top options in each category.
Cloud storage tools
Remote work teams should use secure cloud storage to host workloads and communication apps. Secure platforms apply encryption to protect data at rest. Furthermore, firewalls block illegitimate external access, and physical controls protect data centers.
Cloud platforms couple security with ease of use, meaning remote users can share files and databases instantly. Moreover, teams can update work documents, client databases, or code bases in real time. And cloud data protection tools keep the workloads safe from external intruders.
It usually makes sense to build remote work setups around cloud environments. But which cloud services provider should you choose?
Microsoft Entra ID (Azure AD)
This is a popular option for cloud storage. Azure Bastion provides secure shell access for remote connections. It also features the ability to create virtual desktop infrastructure with ease. That way, remote employees can access central resources without storing data locally.
Microsoft’s cloud platform has other remote security benefits. Learn more by reading our Entra ID best practices guide.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
AWS is another good cloud storage option and virtual workspace. For instance, it’s ideal for creatives working remotely who need virtual workstations for graphic design or video production.
Users can encrypt data easily and manage data retention policies. And they can track data movements between home and cloud locations.
Finally, cybersecurity is very tight if you follow AWS security best practices.
Google Cloud offers excellent document storage and editing features. Flexible bucket storage is a core feature of Google’s platform. When cloud services fail in one region, remote workers can access workloads hosted elsewhere.
Google’s storage systems scale smoothly. They are fitted with critical remote security tools like encryption, cloud-native access controls, signed URLs, and data retention locks. By following Google Cloud security best practices, you can design a remote work solution that secures data and serves employee needs.
Managing projects is a crucial aspect of any remote workplace. Managers need to set targets and monitor employee progress. They need awareness of project achievements. Finally, they require the ability to change plans as projects develop.
Project management tools make these tasks much more manageable. What’s more, they give an overall awareness to their users. Also, some solutions enable detailed worker surveillance via time-tracking tools.
Atlassian’s Jira platform is a good solution for creating a flexible remote team. Targeted at code developers, Jira enables complete awareness of production status. Managers can track progress with productivity reports and timeline tools. In the meantime, task management hubs allow them to set flexible workflows for each team member.
Jira is a solid option for DevOps teams that depend on distributed remote workers. That’s because it blends flexibility and security. For instance, users can encrypt data at rest and in transit, and they can set permissions for each object. NordLayer’s guide to Jira security best practices offers a comprehensive overview of the product’s remote security features.
Teams is the most popular platform for remote work operations. However, it doesn’t include native project management features.
Instead, users can create integrations with third-party management tools like Monday or Brightworks. These tools link together the video conferencing and messaging functions that make Teams useful. And they let managers schedule events and track progress easily.
Microsoft Teams is part of Office 365. This suite allows easy assimilation of Excel or Word into remote workflows. But this solution might come with security vulnerabilities. Learn more by reading our blog about Office 365 best practices.
Product designers rely on Figma to collaborate and develop ideas. The platform’s Juncture tool enables in-depth project management for every team and product. Co-creation spaces bring workers together to share prototypes or test apps. And tools like FigJam provide online whiteboards for real-time collaboration.
Figma is an excellent development platform for remote teams. But as with Microsoft Teams, it’s not entirely secure. Therefore, be sure to implement Figma security best practices before teams go online.
Communication and collaboration tools
Communication and collaboration are critical to the success of every remote team. And for that, there are many different tools to choose from.
The most secure options are end-to-end encrypted messaging apps. Troop Messenger and Element are designed to suit business communications. They encrypt messages between remote team members without compromising performance.
Other communication tools bring team members together to discuss ongoing projects. For example, Slack features customizable one-to-one, enterprise-wide, or departmental group chats, including live voice communications. It includes encryption, key management, audit logs, and data loss prevention.
Video collaboration is another must-have for most remote work operations. Zoom is optimized for distributed teams, with collaborative whiteboards, up to 100 meeting attendees, and instant team meetings for spur-of-the-moment contact. Zoom Events is another neat feature that helps build togetherness within a distributed workforce.
Video communication tools improve collaboration, but they can bring remote security risks. During the Covid pandemic, there were many cases of attackers recording Zoom calls. That’s because threat actors can steal credentials or hijack calls over insecure connections.
Access control and data security tools
Remote work setups should always include filters to exclude unauthorized users from corporate resources. Therefore, authentication and access control solutions are critically important. After all, managers will probably want to give the IT admins more freedom than a trainee.
Authentication compares user access credentials to secure credentials databases. The gold standard for remote access is multi-factor authentication (MFA). This demands more than one unique identifier when users access work resources.
MFA can involve passwords and one-time codes sent via SMS or email. But more secure versions deliver encrypted codes to mobile apps. This avoids security issues related to email and SMS. Organizations can also switch from passwords to hardware tokens provided to remote workers.
Access control portals complement authentication tools. Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems verify users' identities and connect them to the correct privileges.
Remote workers can access resources needed by their team or project. However, under the Zero Trust model, IAM tools limit access to all other network assets. This strengthens the network perimeter and boosts cybersecurity.
Encryption is another critical aspect of secure remote working. Companies should leverage encryption features on apps and cloud platforms to safeguard sensitive information. And they should use encrypted channels to connect remote devices and central resources.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
DLP tools can also help businesses a lot with their remote workforce. They track sensitive data and prevent misuse by remote users. This way, managers can protect the most important databases and documents. As a result. extracting valuable data will be much more difficult.
In summary, strong encryption is essential when designing remote work setups. Insecure user devices can become entry points for malware and data thieves. Moreover, weak authentication and authorization systems make access easy for anyone with a functioning user ID and password.
Secure remote access solutions
Remote access workforces expand the threat surface and create new cybersecurity risks. This makes it critical to secure every remote connection. Encrypting cloud platforms and implementing MFA is not enough. Companies must lock down connections between remote devices and network assets.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is one way to do so. It creates centralized servers on the cloud. These servers host workloads and data, meaning nothing is stored locally on employee devices. However, users can run apps hosted on the VDI in their home office.
VDI tools create encrypted connections between local devices and the virtualized environment. This is relatively secure. Unfortunately, attackers can still gain network access if they have legitimate credentials.
Companies can also use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to create encrypted tunnels for remote connections. VPN providers operate servers across the world, which can even improve connection speeds.
They apply cutting-edge encryption that is virtually impossible to crack. Moreover, your IP address will stay hidden, increasing anonymity. This makes it harder for hackers to mount interception and other types of attacks.
VPNs are a flexible security and privacy option for on-site and remote workforces. What’s more, these tools can secure access points in public locations. In the meantime, access company networks or attend client meetings while traveling.
NordLayer’s VPN solutions make creating safe remote work setups easier. Our Remote Access VPN encrypts connections via a simple client interface. Users can protect their devices instantly, whether they are accessing cloud platforms or central offices.
Make remote work secure with NordLayer
Remote work should always be protected. However, companies may struggle to secure data as employees shift away from centralized offices. This blog post has introduced key technologies and tools for keeping remote workers safe and boosting productivity.
Businesses should always choose the most secure project management and communication tools. While Entra ID or Zoom have their own security features, they alone are not enough. Organizations must be able to create gateways, use MFA authentication, protect remote access, and manage team member privileges.
It’s time to make your remote and on-site work safe. Get in touch with NordLayer, and we’ll help you create a solution that fits your business needs.