For many years companies implemented remote access technologies as a matter of convenience. These systems let team members work after hours from the comfort of their homes. Or they could work from a hotel room while traveling for business. These systems were often limited compared to working in the office but were enough for occasional use.
Remote access is no longer a convenience today, but a necessity due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. Companies might have to quarantine some employees returning from international travel for up to 14 days. Taken to extremes, companies may have to quarantine entire offices if they discover a case within the organization. The CDC is recommending that sick employees be separated from the team and sent home to avoid spreading the virus.
Is your company prepared for this type of event? Do you have a remote access infrastructure today? And is it robust enough to support the kind of use this pandemic may demand? Fortunately, companies have many ways to grant remote access to employees and limit potential exposure to COVID-19 or any virus in the future. Some of the largest companies have already implemented large-scale remote work policies to protect their employees.
The most basic method of remote access is through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This allows users to establish a direct connection between their PC and the corporate network through the firewall. VPNs are simple to set up and use, offering a very similar experience to working in the office. But some applications may not work well over a VPN. Also, establishing a direct connection from a home network can expose the corporate network to outside threats. Care must be taken to mitigate these risks.
Remote Desktop Services
Using Remote Desktop Services (RDS), such as Citrix, organizations can offer a “virtual desktop” to remote users. With RDS, a user's PC acts as a “terminal” to remotely access the desktop that resides at the corporate office. Most applications will function well in an RDS environment. Since there isn't a direct connection between the home and corporate networks, the security risk is significantly reduced. However, RDS infrastructure can be costly and may not scale to support the entire organization in extreme situations.
Many companies have started to move their IT to the cloud for various reasons. Remote access is inherent in any cloud strategy. By default, team members can access these services from anywhere. This strategy can range from hosting your existing servers in the cloud as virtual machines or moving to Software as a Service (SaaS) based applications.
Many companies, including SymQuest, offer cloud platforms that provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). In this model, the same servers you use for data such as files, email, databases are instead hosted in a remote data center as virtual machines. The end-user experience is the same as if they were inside the corporate network. Again, the ability to access the servers from anywhere is built into the model by default.
Other companies have moved to SaaS-based applications that users can access via the Internet by default. Perhaps the most common example of these is Microsoft Office 365. Team members can communicate and collaborate from anywhere using Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams. This allows office productivity to continue regardless of where employees are located.
Remote access and connectivity is more crucial than ever for all organizations given the current crisis, no matter the method. Every organization should assess its remote access capabilities and determine if they're prepared for the worst-case scenario.