As more and more businesses allow employees to work remotely, they must do everything they can to keep their data safe.
Our never-ending pandemic is taking its toll on businesses. The top concern, by far, is staff retention. In an effort to boost morale, many businesses are now allowing employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
However, these companies are ignoring the number-one issue with remote work: data security.
Before you allow your team to work remotely, you must have policies and procedures in place to keep your data safe.
For instance, if employees use their personal laptops for work, you could require installation of antivirus/malware/ransomware and keystroke tracking software that’s supplied by your company. Or, you may have a policy requiring employees to use only company-supplied laptops or desktop computers which provide access to only business data and software. (Admittedly, this option can be expensive for small businesses.)
Whatever your policies and procedures, make sure all remote employees sign off on them. You might create an agreement like this:
ABC Corporation agrees to allow John Doe to complete all job duties and interaction with management and other employees remotely. In return, John Doe ensures that all data, documents, strategies, and client communications are handled in accordance with the goals set up by management. John Doe also agrees to restrict usage of the device to work-related tasks OR as agreed upon in advance by management. Furthermore, John Doe agrees that all company data will be safeguarded, and antivirus/malware/ransomware will be maintained as agreed upon. Failure to do so will result in termination.
This agreement may seem harsh, but your business is important, and you need to ensure that working from home won’t distract employees from keeping your data secure.
Now let’s look at the three most important considerations with data security:
- Hacking/malware/ransomware prevention
- Data control
- Data privacy
When analyzing antivirus software (I’ll refer to this as antivirus for simplicity’s sake, but it should also include malware and ransomware protection), pick a package that works well with your operating system, is all encompassing, and is easy to use. The software should also allow administrators (if you have a tech team) to control monitors and push updates without needing involvement from individual users. You’ll find plenty of packages that meet these requirements. The key is choosing a package you can afford and can scale as you grow.
The software should be installed on EVERY computer, not just the remote computers (data security breaches can happen anywhere!). If you don’t have a tech team, no worries; simply provide update and maintenance instructions to all employees, per the software’s recommendations. Check in periodically to ensure the software is working and is regularly updated as instructed.
Data and information about your company, your clients, and your employees should be considered sacred to everyone in your organization. For this reason, I recommend you use data storage software. Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive (which comes with an Office 365 subscription) are inexpensive options that employ a redundancy model. This means that all your data is backed up to different servers. This prevents data from being lost or even hacked.
These storage software packages allow you to organize your data just as you would on your computer’s hard drive. You can create, edit, and review all data on your desktop, and once you save the file, it’s also saved on the storage company’s remote servers. What’s more, your folders can be shared with other team members of your choice, so you can collaborate with ease.
For an added layer of security, you can also request file encryption. And since your data is now accessible from the web, your data is safe from a ransomware hack.
By working with a storage company, you reduce the risk of data destruction from a bad hard drive or computer failure. That should be a huge peace of mind!
Keeping a log of passwords and requiring employees to regularly change passwords should be in your remote procedures contract. Along with that, keeping passwords private helps keep your data private. It takes only one data breach to give your competitors an advantage or make clients question your loyalty.
If you take only one thing from this article, it should be that your remote employees are an extension of your brick-and-mortar office. You should expect employees to behave the same way at home as they would down the hall. You can ensure this by planning how you allow for remote working, communicating thoroughly with your staff, and holding them accountable. You can always hire an expert to help you with this.
By setting the stage properly for remote work, you’re setting the stage for a fruitful working relationship that keeps your team—and ultimately your customers—happy.