When COVID-19 hit, companies nationwide found themselves forced to go virtual practically overnight. Some already had work from home policies and infrastructures in place, making the transition a bit less painful. For others, with no existing work from home culture, it was more challenging. Regardless of the situation companies found themselves in, now that the virtual office is here to stay for the near future – and likely indefinitely in some form – the right IT infrastructure to support it is essential. In fact, many companies are looking to dump their physical office space altogether and never look back. For better or worse, COVID-19 has rapidly changed global work environments.
As we’ve worked with our clients at MyTek, a Phoenix, Arizona managed IT services company, these past few months to establish secure, productive remote IT infrastructures for remote environments, we’ve honed-in on the key technology and process needed for success.
We wanted to share this knowledge with other leaders who are considering establishing a remote workforce. Think of the information as a checklist of the IT components you’ll need for success. We’ve also included some information about supporting your company culture in a virtual world, a critical piece of virtual workforce success.
Let’s get started with the checklist of things you’ll need to make the move to remote, whether temporary or permanent.
Move a Physical Server to the Cloud
It’s no secret here at MyTek, we’re big fans of cloud hosting, and we’ve written about the benefits of cloud hosting for a remote workforce. According to Gartner, the trend toward cloud hosting for business is on the rise with a 17% increase by year’s end. And with good reason with benefits including:
- Better security
- Lower operating costs
- More flexibility
- Scale as needed
- Prevents data loss
- Enterprise-level backup and disaster recovery
The process of migrating a physical server to the cloud is a process described as decoupling and migrating a server’s operating system and data from a physical server to a virtual machine guest hosted on a virtualized platform (or the cloud). The physical to virtual migration allows you to retire aging servers. In order to make the move from a physical server to the cloud, the physical server must first be virtualized. Then it can be migrated to the cloud. Migrating a physical server to a cloud-based one is something you should seek IT expertise to do.
Data Storage and Sharing
It’s rare to encounter a company that does not have their data storage cloud-based, whether they are using Google Drive, Dropbox or Sharepoint. Therefore, many will not need to address this step. However, if you’re already using Microsoft products to run your business, consider Sharepoint for data storage. Often when new customers come on board, we discover that they are paying for Microsoft Office (which includes Sharepoint) and also paying for data storage with Dropbox or another vendor. We help them migrate their data to Sharepoint and be more efficient and save costs.
Establish a VPN
First off, let’s establish what a VPN is:
- A VPN stands for “virtual private network.” It is a secure tunnel for online viewing. It creates a secure and encrypted connection over the Internet between a device and the server, masking the device’s identity and encrypting the data that a computer or mobile phone distributes over the Internet VPN.
While there are numerous benefits to a cloud-based business, data theft and loss are no joke. According to a Ponemon Institute survey, 67% of SMBs admitted to being attacked last year. Without a VPN, any data sent over the Internet is wide open without protection for hackers to see and exploit in cyberattacks. With a VPN, the VPN server routes the requests and connects them on your behalf. The VPN server is the server of origin, taking the risks off of your company.
The Benefits of a VPN:
- Securely supports a remote workforce where you have employees working from home as well as freelancers where you need to secure communications and browsing on non-secure (HTTP vs HTTPS) websites.
- Supports a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy which reduces infrastructure costs but increase risks if not connecting through a secure network.
VPN solutions are surprisingly cost-effective for the security they provide. Once you have set-up a VPN, mandate that it is kept on and all business work be conducted over the Internet through the VPN.
Establish a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy
We mentioned the value of BYOD for reducing infrastructure costs earlier. Having a VPN will help offset the security risks of allowing BYOD in your workplace. With many employees now remote, connecting all devices – whether company or personal – through a VPN when conducting business work should be a top priority to protect business data. Additionally, there are a number of technology options to help secure employee-owned devices.
If your company allows BYOD, you must have a BYOD security policy in place. Here are the elements that should likely be included in such policy:
- Password Provisions: For company information, password protection is critical, with password changes every 30 or 90 days. Some companies also implement 2-factor authentication for apps used on employee-owned devices.
- Privacy Provisions: Determine how you will address privacy in a way that protects company data and employee privacy, although doing both may be challenging and some companies forego employee privacy in favor of data security.
- Approved Applications: Apps are a big part of how we work and conduct business, however, unapproved applications should be forbidden.
- Date Transfer Provisions: All data should be encrypted, password protected. Data should only be transferred on company-approved applications.
- Maintenance/Updates: BYOD can add additional work for your IT team; whereby, they are responsible for both updates to company and personal devices. However, keeping devices and applications up to date is important for both functionality and security.
- Common Sense Provisions: No device use while driving, do not take video at work, no work selfies.
- Termination: Once an employee is terminated, the company must ensure that all company data is removed from the device. Additionally, all permissions to company applications should be removed.
- Data Wipe Procedures: This can get sticky as trying to sort out what is company data and what is personal is not black and white. Clear policies on BYOD will make data wiping easier.
- Accountability Provisions: A policy should detail how accountability will be tracked and enforced.
Move Your Phone System to a VoIP
VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) is not a new technology. VoIP converts your voice into a digital signal, allowing you to make a call directly from a computer, a VoIP phone, or other data-driven devices. It is also referred to as IP telephony, internet telephony, broadband telephony or broadband phone service.
Moving your phone system to a VoIP system is an excellent and cost-effective option for a virtual workforce. For those already using Microsoft 365, there is an excellent low-cost solution called Microsoft Voice, an enterprise-grade phone system that allows you to make or receive calls from anywhere within Microsoft Teams. This allows you to simplify your communications by unifying calling, chat and meetings under the Microsoft Teams app.
As with all Microsoft 365 products, Microsoft Voice is managed in your Microsoft 365 admin console, where you can easily add phone numbers. Best of all is the cost at $20 user/month. While there are certainly many VoIP options, if you’re already using Microsoft 365 products, notably Teams, Microsoft Voice is a natural option for VoIP.
Move Payroll and Accounting Entirely to the Cloud
While most companies use cloud-based accounting and payroll software, many still maintain onsite files to store hard copies of invoices, contracts and critical human resources documents.
However, most payroll and accounting software allow for cloud storage of these documents, enabling a company to go paper-free.
Benefits of cloud-based accounting and human resources:
- Go Paperless (Perfect for the Remote Office!) – Import data from your paperwork (expenses, receipts, invoices, contracts, non-disclose agreements, etc.) into the cloud.
- Access Data Anytime from Anywhere – You don’t need to worry about wasting time with downloads and updates that come with regular software because the cloud is hosted remotely. Most cloud-based accounting and payroll apps also offer a mobile app for even greater flexibility.
- Real-Time Data – Get a complete up-to-date view of your current financial situation. Maintain up-to-date employee data in one location.
- Automate and Save Time – With most cloud-based accounting and payroll programs, you can automate your workflows such as reoccurring vendor payments and reoccurring invoices with customers. For payroll, you can automate payroll, workers comp payments and more.
- Improve Collaboration – Cloud-based accounting makes it easier for to collaborate with your accountant and provide them with access to the software. You can easily generate reports that your accountant might need from you. You also control who has access and at what level within the software. For example, if you have someone who is responsible for running payroll, you can just grant access to that function of the software.
- No Installation or Updates – Since cloud-based software is hosted online, you don’t need to worry about a program to install and update on a computer. This saves money on IT resources to deal with software updates or technical issues. Most cloud-based programs offer support via phone, email or chat as part of the subscription cost.
Set-Up a Lock Box Service with Your Bank
For checks that are sent to your company by mail, you can set-up a lock box service with your bank. This alleviates the responsibility of depositing checks sent via the mail. A lockbox at your bank is like a post office box. It can be set-up at different locations around the country to receive checks or bill payments from customers.
With a bank lockbox, the bank can collect payments, capture information about the transaction for your bookkeeping and even deposit the money into your business account. There are different kinds of lockbox systems, so speak with your bank to determine which is best for your business needs.
Maintaining Company Culture Virtually
You’ve covered the main IT infrastructure needs for a virtual workforce. Your company has entered a new frontier with how you work and do business with colleagues and customers.
Now, how do you maintain your company culture virtually? Here are some ideas…
Virtual Team Building
Look for ways to use technology to virtually build your team. Strong teams combat loneliness (one of the drawbacks of working remote), increase productivity and build relationships.
Here are some ideas we rounded up for virtual team building:
- Trivia contests for prizes like Amazon gift cards
- Use Teams in creative ways to build connection
- Virtual social hours and coffee breaks to chat informally
- Favorite things questions (Favorite thing about working from home, Favorite ice cream flavor) – give everyone a chance to answer. You can create a quiz in Teams to ask questions.
- Weekly game session
- Tiny Campfire
- Share a photo from your week (something funny, fun, your family)
- Myers-Briggs Assessment
- Fun Facts Session – everyone submits a fun fact about themselves in advance and the team tries to match the fact to the person
Skills Sharing & Cross Training
Tap into your own team’s expertise. Have team members present on their area of knowledge to others in the company. Leverage team knowledge to cross-train others and diversify skill sets within the company.
Team Huddles and Shout Outs
Remote work can be isolating, especially for your extroverts. A team huddle at the start of the week will help maintain connection, accountability and productivity. Start off with reviewing progress on goals set the previous week. Give each team member a few minutes to share what they are working on, where they need support and what they plan to accomplish that week.
Help keep your team feeling good by promoting movement breaks, chair yoga sessions meditation/mindfulness pauses. Consider offering wellness training workshops on self-care and stress management. If possible, offer incentives and financial support for online fitness courses.
For additional information, you may find our Remote Work: A Guide for Managers and Employees to Thrive helpful. This guide was created specifically for managers to addresses many of the key issues that undermine productivity, happiness and a healthy culture in a remote environment
We hope this information has been valuable to you.
Happy remote working!
The post How to Make the Move from a Physical Office to a Virtual Company with Confidence appeared first on Entrepreneurship Life.
Mohit Tater 2020-11-26 07:01:31
The post How to Make the Move from a Physical Office to a Virtual Company with Confidence appeared first on Market World.