Business Technology

The Real Advantages of a Virtual LAN (VLAN)

The Real Advantages of a Virtual LAN (VLAN) 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

There are many acronyms to keep track of in the IT realm. One that’s been around for over 30 years now is VLAN – virtual local area network. A VLAN offers flexibility that more and more businesses find appealing.

But what exactly is a VLAN? A VLAN allows you to segment a network without needing separate hardware. So, you can have a single physical switch, but multiple different networks connected.

You can group computers, servers, or other resources into a network based on department or user type. It doesn’t have to be based entirely on physical location. The computers might be on various floors of a building or spread out over different locations, but everyone in the network segment shares the same network resources and bandwidth.

You could think about it like a neighborhood of homes connected to the same city water main. Everyone is getting their water from the same line. But imagine there are people who want fluoride in their water and others who don’t. So, the water company needs to group the fluoride-loving homeowners in one network, whereas homes 802, 907, and 1106 are grouped together to get their own water supply.

In business, containing a department’s traffic to a single VLAN can:

  • help with network efficiency by reducing extraneous traffic;
  • enhance security by creating a virtual boundary around that business unit;
  • improve bandwidth performance by limiting node-to-node and broadcast traffic;
  • save workplace disruption, as there is no need to physically match up ports and switches on a network.

Other Reasons for VLAN Popularity

VLANs can also prioritize data, separate private and public networks, or secure specific devices.

What do we mean by VLAN priority? You might think about a highway with a concrete barrier dividing traffic. Administrators can keep data from merging over into the voice traffic lane. Prioritizing using VLANs helps maintain the quality of service users expect.

Another common use of VLANs is separating private and public networks. When you log onto a hotel’s public Wi-Fi, you can’t access their internal business resources. That’s because the backup servers and other resources have been segmented. The back-of-house computers are all connected on the private network. The VLAN keeps you from accessing them on the public network.

VLANs have also gained in popularity with the growth of the Internet of Things. Smart devices offer many advantages, but they also represent new security vulnerabilities. Each of those sensors, wearables, and IoT devices could be an entry-point to your network. That’s no good if they’re connected to a network with sensitive and proprietary business data. With a VLAN, you can separate IoT devices to prevent them from accessing more than they need to.

The same is true of security cameras. You can’t trust they are safe. For example, many government sites have banned the world’s leading brand of camera. There are concerns a foreign power could exploit the connected cameras. With a VLAN in place, though, the security camera can be prevented from accessing the internet so it can’t “phone home.”

Looking to set up or secure VLANs for your business? Our experts can determine the logical connection for your networked devices. Enjoy increased performance, added flexibility, and easy scalability by selecting a VLAN solution. Call us today!

Pros and Cons of All-In-One Computers

Pros and Cons of All-In-One Computers 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Today, business is all about streamlining and finding efficiencies. And that even extends to embracing all-in-one computers. Users get a desktop computer that integrates monitor, processing, and ports in one. Still, there are pros and cons to consider.

Apple iMacs were the first all-in-one computers to gain popularity, but you can now find many different brands of all-in-one desktop. Promising all the computing power you need built into the monitor, these are easy to set up and get running. Their sleek design can also include webcams and speakers as part of the desktop. The user needs only to add a mouse and keyboard.

Furthermore, buying a computer with all its components included can be more cost effective, whereas buying each part separately adds up.

The all-in-one computer is great for an office environment that is low on space. These compact computers with fewer wires and less stuff to connect can look great in open-plan offices. All-in-one computers are also easier to move around flexible, collaborative work areas.

Upgrading all-in-one computers

There are some challenges with all-in-one computers, however. For instance, upgrading may be more difficult. You may be able to upgrade the random access memory (RAM), and replace and repair hard disk drives (HDDs), but otherwise, when you outgrow the computer, you’ll need to replace the entire machine.

You also get what you pay for with an all-in-one computer. If you go with a low- to mid-priced device, you basically get a laptop on a stick. The components used to build that desktop are often the same as you would find in a laptop. So, depending on what your computer needs are, you may want to invest in a higher-priced all-in-one or consider the component parts alternative.

Still, all-in-one computers are a good option for offices that want more flexibility. Of course, laptops are best when you want to be able to move easily between locations, but for agility within the office environment, an all-in-one is a convenient choice.

Buying all-in-one computers also allows users to enjoy business-wide consistency. Users keep traditional functionality but in a neat machine that makes a smaller footprint in their workspaces.

Considering your options for business computers? A managed service provider can help you select the best solution. Our experts learn your needs and recommend a fit for your business budget and processes.

We can also set up the new computers and ensure your system network is secure. Let us focus on IT while you focus on growing your business. Call us today!

The Importance of Testing Your Backups

The Importance of Testing Your Backups 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Most businesses are aware of the need for data backup. Without it they risk losing important files in the event of a hard drive failure or cyberattack. Yet having a backup in place isn’t enough: it’s important to also regularly test that backup. You need to be able to restore that essential data when you need it.

The many reasons to establish data backups include:

  • protecting against natural or man-made disasters (including hacker or insider attack);
  • ensuring compliance with tax, financial, and other industry standards;
  • preserving relationships with clients;
  • reducing downtime;
  • improving productivity;
  • establishing credibility with customers, investors, and employees.

We recommend backing up in three places. You might have one on a local, on-site computer. You’d also have a backup on a remote device and another in the cloud. The cloud option gives you the most flexibility. It can be accessed from anywhere, regardless of conditions in your particular environment.

Yet while many people know they need backups, too few do recovery tests. The worst time to find out there’s a problem with your backup solution is when you need it the most.

Testing Data Backups

Regular data backups can offer peace of mind, but you’ll really know you are ready to go if you regularly test your ability to recover your system from a backup.

Testing your backup lets you verify the necessary data is available for recovery. Plus, testing helps you learn how to actually implement recovery following a data loss. If a backup test fails, you can take the steps needed to ensure you don’t actually lose valuable information. Otherwise, you’re throwing money at storage space and backup services that are no help, and you’ll find out too late.

Regular monitoring helps you keep track of any software or hardware changes that may have an impact on data backups. Via testing, you might also learn some staff members are storing data somewhere that isn’t being backed up, and you can now intervene with those employees or extend your backup protocols to prevent that data getting lost.

Scheduling data backup tests can also help you to identify a misconfiguration in the backup software or ways in which you’re not adequately addressing your backup needs. For instance, you might not have set up a complete backup in the first place. This might mean you’re backing up the data but not the settings. Most backup software will send error messages if there was an issue backing up. Still, they’re easy for an overworked IT team to miss.

Actively testing backups allows the business to confirm fallback data accuracy and effectiveness. Additionally, you’ll be able to gauge:

  • how long it takes to perform the backup;
  • any issues that arise during recovery;
  • what steps need to be taken to address those problems.

All of this is something you want to consider proactively. Some people say they work best under pressure, but most of us think more clearly and perform better if not in the midst of a data catastrophe.

A managed service provider can help your business with data backup and recovery testing. Our IT experts can monitor for failures and make any changes needed to get the backup running properly again. You’ll be glad you did recovery testing in advance when things run smoother and quicker in the midst of your disaster recovery.

Give us a call to correct your backups, make sure they are working the way you want to, and set up regular backup restore tests.

Invest Now in Your Top Tech Priorities

Invest Now in Your Top Tech Priorities 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

As 2020 comes to an end, and the global economy is in a slump. But believe it or not, now could be a good time to invest in technology priorities. The Christmas break may be the perfect time to get those IT projects done.

You may already have streamlined processes. You had certain technology tools and systems in place to get things done. It all was working fine. Yet 2020 brought many challenges to the way business functions. The technology you relied on in the past may not be the best answer to your current business needs.

You might have been putting off cloud migration, as most work was onsite, or you resisted remote working out of concern that employee productivity would suffer. Perhaps your business didn’t want to secure a “Bring Your Own Device” workplace.

Now, you need to rethink how your employees report for work. You could be facing any familiar challenges such as:

  • a server that could support your teams overburdened by remote workers;
  • a reliance on email document exchange causing difficulties with version control and accountability;
  • not having enough software licenses to accommodate employees working from home;
  • employees lacking the technology to get work done offsite.

Businesses need to act now to address their new technology needs. Keep in mind that many vendors are offering discounted services, plus, you may find it easier to access business loans for tech investments.

Stepping Up Your Tech Game

Some businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. Others are waiting out the current situation to see how things shake out. Then there are those that are rolling the dice and betting on a rebound. Improving the IT environment can be a foundation for future business success.

Plans may have already been in place to invest in a systems or hardware upgrade or migrate to the cloud. Continuing the digital transformation journey, when everyone is adapting already, could make sense. Reduce negative impacts by making the change while employees are working remotely. Downtime may not be as big of a challenge.

Your business may also invest in data backups and disaster recovery solutions. Didn’t have business continuity plans in place? You’ve likely realized their importance now. These plans prepare your business for data breaches, ransomware attacks, power outages, or natural disasters. Contracting for cloud data backup pays off when you can recover quickly and cut damage done.

Starting a partnership with a managed service provider (MSP) is also helpful. An MSP gets to know your business and its systems and needs. They can help find cost savings and identify opportunities for greater efficiencies. They can also offer expert IT advice, manage and track your data backups and cybersecurity, or take on day-to-day tasks, freeing up your IT team for revenue-generating innovation.

If you’re thinking of making a tech investment, contact us today. We’re available to consult on the best solutions for your business needs.

Our experts can put your plans into practice while you focus on your business recovery. Contact us today!

4 Advantages of Consolidating Your Tech

4 Advantages of Consolidating Your Tech 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Technology is the lifeblood of business today, and you likely have a lot of it. But you may have accumulated software and hardware as you grew. Now, you have a hodgepodge of technologies never designed to work together. Consolidation can help.

Large corporations can afford an in-house IT team to keep track of all the hardware and software, but small- to medium-sized businesses often need help. Managing computers and mobile devices, and telephony print and fax systems can be overwhelming. Then, there’s all the software you need to secure, not to mention setting up data recovery in case of a disaster or emergency.

Consolidating your technology offers several benefits to companies of all sizes. A managed service provider can help.

#1 Increased Efficiency

If there’s a problem with your printers, phones, or Internet connection, you call your provider. When many vendors offer each of these services, you make several calls, which means waiting on the phone with a printer tech, phone company, or internet service provider (ISP).

When you connect with customer support, they can address only issues in one area of concern. The ISP isn’t going to know anything about your phone service, and the phone company knows zilch about printers. This disjointedness can waste a lot of time.

With an MSP, you need to make one call only. The support person will know and understand your entire system. They offer input based on how different technology interacts.

#2 Cost Savings

Lacking a holistic view of your technology and its interactions, you can end up wasting money. You might invest in a new feature for voice over IP, duplicating a capability you already have online.

Consolidating your technology with a single provider can also streamline costs. The first thing an MSP will do is to map out how your technology works together. Armed with an understanding of business needs and goals, they’ll make recommendations. You may be able to cut back on services in one area with a simple upgrade in another. Perhaps you’re paying for software licenses you no longer need. Plus, the MSP identifies opportunities for cost savings gained from bundling services.

The MSP typically charges a monthly, consolidated fee. Instead of managing several bills for every technology, you pay a single, consistent fee, which also makes budgeting much easier.

#3 Business Agility

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business needs to be nimble. Yet your ability to react can be slower working with many different vendors. Simplifying your processes can streamline your response times.

An MSP will take a proactive approach to overseeing your technology needs. They want you to avoid disruptions in the first place. Partner with an MSP to keep technology current, security up to date, and systems upgraded. This frees up what IT staff you have on-site to do more business- and revenue-generating work.

#4 Supportive Partner

Individual vendors focus on selling you their particular services or systems. The overall interplay of your technology isn’t their primary concern. Yet ensuring all your technology interacts effectively and efficiently is what the MSP does best.

Working with an MSP you gain a business partner that cares about your success. The MSP’s job is to determine whether:

  • your business could be performing better;
  • your team could be collaborating more;
  • your processes could be more efficient;
  • you have the right answers to cybersecurity risks and issues;
  • your business has the best technological tools to meet its needs.

An MSP offers a single point of contact. That contact will understand your entire setup and how it works together. The MSP will help you make better purchasing decisions. Plus, as a true business partner, an MSP supports your agility and success. Find out more about what we can do for you today!

Hey You, Get Off the Public Cloud

Hey You, Get Off the Public Cloud 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

The Rolling Stones sang, “Hey you, get off my cloud,” yet businesses might want to think instead about leaving the public cloud. Weigh these possible public cloud concerns against the advantages of alternate cloud solutions.

When most people think of the cloud, they are thinking of the public cloud. Apple users are on its iCloud. Others may be storing files on Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Cloud, or other services. These all typically have a free level of service. You can pay a monthly fee to upgrade based on the resources you use. [Also please remember that if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product!]

Cloud data is easy to store and access. This can enhance business productivity and efficiency. Added advantages of hosted cloud services – public or private – include the following:

  • Speed. Hosted cloud services come on demand or self-service. It’s possible to have cloud resources up and running in a matter of minutes.
  • Performance. Cloud providers focus on running secure data centers with the latest infrastructure. It’s their job to worry about hardware setup, software patching, and network reliability.
  • Scalability. Add cloud capacity without buying equipment or software, or training employees.
  • Mobility. Employees can access the cloud from anywhere, on any device.
  • Disaster recovery. Providers build in redundancies to ensure uninterrupted service.
  • Responsibility. You don’t need to invest in on-site equipment, maintenance, and management.

Yet there are some drawbacks to the public cloud. The public cloud is affordable because businesses share resources. The cloud service provider relies on economies of scale. They bring many businesses together for the same services, and it all adds up. But if you’re in an industry with high compliance requirements, the public cloud is a risk.

Advantages of the Private Cloud

The private cloud offers the same benefits as the public cloud – and more.

A private cloud solution is dedicated to your business: yours is the only data on the server. This is a more secure solution offering greater visibility and infrastructure control.

A private cloud can be on- or off-premises. On-premise, your IT team sets up, manages, and maintains the cloud infrastructure. Off-premises, a cloud services provider customizes a dedicated and secure cloud.

The private cloud is appealing to regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services, or those needing strong controls. Costs will vary depending on your requirements but allows businesses to easily access data, applications, and backups, and with reduced security risks and the ability to meet those compliance requirements.

Cloud Flexibility with a Hybrid Option

A third alternative is the hybrid cloud. The business takes advantage of both public and private cloud solutions. You decide which apps and data workloads need more security. Meanwhile, the public cloud is available to offer cost savings and efficiency, plus, it can be a backup for sporadic traffic spikes.

The hybrid option, though, requires strong integration between private and public cloud deployments. Managing the mix of architectures can prove challenging.

Understanding the difference between these cloud offerings can help you choose the best for your business.

Need help migrating to the cloud or changing your cloud solution? Our IT experts can help you weigh the trade-offs and determine the best one for your needs. Contact us today to talk about your cloud options.

Why You Need Both Software and Hardware Firewalls

Why You Need Both Software and Hardware Firewalls 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

A firewall sounds like a pretty intense thing – unless you’re an action-movie stuntman. Yet when it comes to internet security, you may not have as much firewall protection as you need.

Many internet security products bundle antivirus and firewall software, and many users think this is enough. But first, let’s be clear about what a software firewall actually does:

  • It regulates data through port numbers and applications.
  • It allows you to block incoming traffic from certain locations.
  • It distinguishes between computer programs allowing data to one program while blocking another.
  • It blocks traffic attempting to leave a device to access other devices on your network.

There are drawbacks, though. Software firewalls work only on the computers on which they are installed, and you’ll need to buy multiple licenses to protect several computers.

You also need expertise to administer the firewall to keep up with changing threats. And there are security threats. Bad actors target software firewalls. They’re right there on the computer they seek to exploit.

Beefing Up Your Firewalls

Many businesses also use hardware firewalls to add security. A hardware firewall around your office network acts as a perimeter boundary. The hardware firewall is like the border guard keeping an eye out for dangerous traffic. The firewall inspects incoming internet traffic to protect you from malware and cyberthreats.

IT experts can set up firewalls to pass only safe data. This adds a layer of protection to your network and also secures network-connected devices. Workstations, printers, digital equipment, and telephone systems often don’t have software firewalls.

So, combining firewalls protects both local computers and other devices on your network. The hardware firewall checks traffic coming in from and going out to the internet, whereas the software firewall secures what’s coming into or out of the computer, even from internet sources.

Think about it this way: A cybercriminal is trying to access your systems. They take many approaches, one of which is trying to breach your network perimeter. Another is sending targeted communications to sucker someone into clicking on a virus-laden email. The hardware firewall could stop the perimeter attack, but the software helps stop the malware infection spreading from the user’s computer to others in your office.

Partner with a Firewall Expert

Firewalls can give your business tremendous control over:

  • how users connect to the internet;
  • what information is retrieved from the internet;
  • whether files can leave the company over the network;
  • what devices are accessible and from where.

Yet both software and hardware firewalls need the right expertise to install correctly. Firewalls must be regularly monitored and managed, because threats are constantly changing.

Combining firewalls adds protection but only if you configure them to minimize weaknesses. You’ll need someone to identify compatibility issues and avoid blocking legitimate data.

Partner with an IT expert. We know how to work with firewall rules, and understand what they mean and how to react to alerts generated. Have you heard of a breach that compromised Target’s point of sale systems? That fiasco involved ignored firewall alerts! Don’t let it happen to you.

Greenlight has been awarded the WatchGuard APAC partner of the year. We can help you set up and maintain the firewall protection you need. Contact us today. We know firewalls!

How Microsoft Intune Can Benefit Your Business

How Microsoft Intune Can Benefit Your Business 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

The use of mobile devices is becoming standard in business. Smartphones and tablets have taken their place as tools your employees want to use. Whether for communication or collaboration, expect people to have mobile devices at hand. To make this work, your business needs mobile device management, that’s where Microsoft Intune can help.

More work is getting done in the cloud, especially with more people working remotely. Employees want to be able to access the same applications and data they’d get on a desktop or laptop, right there on the device in their hands, wherever they may be.

This presents a security challenge. When all devices connecting to a work environment are on-site, it’s easier to control the connections. The business could put “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies in place to control:

  • what devices employees use to connect;
  • how much access they have when connecting;
  • what applications they can use on devices connected to the business network.

And, most important of all:

  • the ability to remove company owned data should the employee leave.

Still, mobile device management software can benefit your business. You’ll be able to reduce IT workload, improve experience, enable greater efficiency, and reduce risk.

Cloud-based Mobile Device Management with Intune

Microsoft Intune offers cloud-based mobile device management (MDM). This enterprise security offering combines MDM and mobile application management (MAM).

In a use case, Accenture used Intune’s MDM to enforce mobile device encryption and use of a PIN. MAM helped secure the Microsoft Office suite, without having to control employee devices.

Intune allows users to access critical business data and applications on any mobile device. Intune provides a unified way to securely manage Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS devices.

Further, Intune streamlines and automates deployment, provisioning, policy management, app delivery, and updates. Plus, the globally distributed cloud service architecture is highly scalable.

This helps your IT team support the diverse mobile ecosystem more efficiently. There’s no need to set up each device individually, as the software deploys across all devices at once. IT can track licenses, rollout updates, and get hardware configuration and software installation information, all in one place and without having to buy any added infrastructure. Meanwhile, employees can move between mobile devices and desktops without jeopardizing company security.

Your business might ask employees to enroll any devices they use to access Office 365 data, yet there may still be devices you don’t know about or that your partners are using to access your important data. Intune provides you with precise control. You can specify what data different users can access. You can also say what they can do with the data within Office and other mobile apps.

Boosting Cybersecurity Protection with Intune

Intune’s integration with Azure directory also allows the business to enforce access policies. You might limit access based on user, location, device state, or app sensitivity. Powerful AI and machine learning also helps to proactively protect the business environment. Integrating Intune and Microsoft Defender helps prevent and limit the impact of a security breach.

Your business can review and establish security policy and configuration setting baselines. It’s also easier to meet legal and company cybersecurity requirements. Data protection, encryption, and anti-malware are all done in the admin console.

At the same time, you avoid intruding on users’ personal devices. Contextual controls can distinguish between business and personal use of apps.

Improve cybersecurity resilience and support employee productivity on mobile devices. Intune allows you to track devices, manage policies, ensure updates, and protect data, all from one location.

Intune is included in certain Enterprise Mobility and Security subscriptions. Contact us today to learn more about this solution. Learn how it suits your mobile device management and mobile access management needs.

Do More with Microsoft Forms

Do More with Microsoft Forms 600 329 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Most people are familiar with their Microsoft 365 subscription providing Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint. Those are the familiar options. But Microsoft is always evolving its cloud-based services. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace integrating people, content, and tools. There’s also a Planner, To-Do application, Flow for managing notifications, and Power Bi Pro analytics. That’s to name just a few.

Another good one to get comfortable with is Microsoft Forms.

Microsoft 365 Forms Makes Data Collection Easier

Microsoft Forms allows your business to create surveys, generate quizzes, conduct polls, and capture data.

This easy-to-use application simplifies form creation: you simply select “New Form” or “New Quiz,” input the form details, add images if you want them, and you’re ready to go. You can click and drag to choose your question types from multiple choice, text, rating, or date options.

Ready-made themes allow you to pick different colours or graphics to personalize your survey. Before you go live, you can also preview and test your survey. You can even share with a colleague to collaborate on the survey design.

It’s that easy. In a few minutes you can create the tool you need to:

  • collect employee input;
  • measure customer satisfaction;
  • poll your team about how they feel about returning back to the office;
  • quiz employees doing virtual learning.

Once you have your finished link, you can paste it into an email, post it on social media, or put it on your website. You can also generate a QR code for mobile device use.

Get Results with Microsoft Forms

OK, you’ve shared your new survey, and the responses are raining down on you! There’s a dashboard for that. You can track the number of responses and average completion time. Plus, you can drill down into particular question data.

For any question, you can display your results in charts or graphs for that PowerPoint.

Since this is part of the Microsoft suite, Forms integrates with Excel, too. You can import the data there to leverage the full power of Excel’s analysis tools.

If you want to get even more advanced, upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Voice. Formerly Microsoft Forms Pro, this application helps you gather real-time customer feedback.

There are plenty of survey tools available online today. SoGoSurvey, SurveyMonkey, or TypeForm are top examples, but free versions can limit the number of questions or respondents surveyed.

Microsoft Forms integrates with other Microsoft 365 tools in your subscription. For quick intake or call center satisfaction, Forms is an intuitive application. It’s easy to keep in touch with customers and employees.

You can do more with Microsoft 365. We can help. Our IT experts get to know your technology and business needs, then we’ll identify the Microsoft 365 tools that can simplify the work you do. Contact us today!

Remote work from home

Top 6 Tips for Effective Working from Home

Top 6 Tips for Effective Working from Home 1920 753 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we are increasingly having conversations with our clients about working from home, so we thought it timely that we share some of our recommendations to help us all get through the next few months with as little disruption to business as usual as possible. While every business is different, here are just a few of our suggestions to help enable more flexible work places.

1. Make effective communication your top priority

This is more of a leadership issue than technical, but it is extremely important for your staff to know what is expected of them. Create a detailed list of what you expect from each team member working from home. List the activities required to do their job well, then have a discussion to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once these are in place, use the collaboration tools mentioned below to keep things running.

2. Ensure that your team are ‘work from home’ ready

It is very easy to assume that everyone has fast internet and a quiet place to work uninterrupted. Not everyone has NBN just yet, and ADSL might not be good enough to collaborate on large files, so the tools and way we interact as a team needs to be considered. Home environments are also an issue. It might be the case their partner is at work and children are at school and they can work quietly and effectively from their apartment, but circumstances can change rapidly. 

Is providing your staff member a laptop and using 4G a consideration?  Do they need a second monitor, or an IP voice handset, or even a mobile phone? The way we managed this internally was to set up a shared spreadsheet, and asked everyone to update their individual situation to finalise the logistics of what each team member needs to enable them to work from home effectively.

3. Choose and implement the right communication & collaboration tools

Having a quick chat to the person in the cubicle, or quick team meeting is now going to have some challenges. Fortunately, there are already a number of collaboration tools to choose from. Email is great, but online chat, and video conferencing tools will help even more. Many vendors are also assisting by offering free access for the next few months. Some tools to consider include:

4. Think about how you will share files

Once we solve the team communication problem, the next challenge is how do we access our documents and file shares. Unless you already have a Remote Desktop or Citrix environment, this will pose some unique challenges. But there are options:

Option 1: Configure a dial-in VPN to the office and get your IT support team to map a network drive from your file server. 

With this option, your remote workers will see their G: drive (or whatever letter you choose) from their home PC just like they would in the office.   Only downside is that accessing large files can be slow, and is contingent on the internet speeds at the end users’ home, and more importantly at your office.  If your office still runs on ADSL, this is probably not a viable option. Security is also a concern with this option as although the VPN ensures data transmission from home to office is secure, you cannot always guarantee that a user’s home PC is not infected with any number of malware or even worse – ransomware – that could easily impact the server data over the VPN. A robust business-grade anti-virus/anti-malware installed on home user’s PC is essential in this scenario.

Option 2: Use a cloud-based file sharing platform

Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business can help. They will keep a copy of your work files in the cloud and both Google Drive and SharePoint Online allow simultaneous user collaboration of files. Microsoft Teams also allows this (since it is built on SharePoint Online).  If these tools are not already in place, have a chat to your IT team about getting it set up correctly to avoid problems in the future, especially when it comes to who has access to what files, as by default everyone will typically have access unless the structure is configured correctly from the start with specific permissions.

Option 3: Take a copy of the files and try to reconcile later

Our least preferred option would be to copy a batch of files to a USB drive and take them home.  Obviously, this has major security implications if the company data is lost or intercepted, as well as the problem of merging back the changes at a later date (which would be an extremely time-consuming process). This should only ever be considered as a last resort, and not recommended.

With any of these options it is also important to consider how you will continue to back up company data once it has been dispersed outside of the normal server infrastructure to either a cloud-based platform, home PCs or a combination thereof. With cloud-based platforms like SharePoint Online and OneDrive, products like Datto SaaS are perfect for ensuring back ups continue no matter how many staff the company data is shared with. If the data is being stored directly on home PCs this becomes more difficult (but not impossible) however company data stored in this way is not recommended.

5. Think about how you access applications

Once we have access to the raw data, we need some software both for the documents and your unique line of business applications. For Microsoft Office documents, customers with Office 365 Business Premium or E3 may be entitled to download and install an instance on their home computer.  Otherwise licensing might be a problem. Talk to your IT team about your options.

For your business applications, generally you won’t be licensed to run them from home and you probably have a server in your office where the database resides. So your options are: Use or create a Remote Desktop Server, or potentially remote control your office PC.  There are a number of ways to implement this, with varying security considerations, so it is best to talk to your IT team about what the best option with the least risk is for you.

6. Think about your processes

Some roles are more suited to remote work than others so we might need to adapt the way we manage and allocate work. Line managers may need to have daily morning huddles with their team and potentially break work down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Goals and tasks might need to be tracked in a shared spreadsheet or an online tool like Asana. If you don’t have scorecards for your team now is the time to implement them.

With a bit of planning businesses should be able to get through the next few months without too much of an impact on productivity from your remote teams working from home. Keeping in mind government and health official advice changes daily and no one really knows how prolonged this crisis will be. However once this crisis is over the way we work may be changed forever.  If you have any questions about the suggestions in this article please reach out to us.  As always, at Greenlight we are here to help.