Tools for a Remote Workforce

Written by Cassa Niedringhaus on March 25, 2020

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What are the right tools for a remote workforce? For IT admins quickly shifting their organizations out of their offices, it’s a critical question.

Although there’s a near-infinite number of tools that support remote work, we’ll try to narrow the scope to three key areas:

  • Collaboration solutions 
  • Access management solutions 
  • Security solutions

These areas are critical to help IT admins enable and secure their workforce, from wherever they now do their work. 

Collaboration Solutions for IT Admins

First up, we’ll explore collaboration solutions. This is an incredibly broad category, so we’ll focus on a few specific areas:

  • Productivity suites: Organizations benefit from these all-in-one solutions — like G SuiteTM and Office 365TM — that include email, document editors, calendars, and more. Via productivity suites, remote teams can edit shared documents, schedule meetings, and show their availability throughout the week. Google recommends that remote teams hold daily meetings, with their faces visible, to stay up-to-date on one another’s work and avoid the isolation that some feel when working from home.
  • Project tracking: Project tracking software can help teams align on their initiatives and set and meet deadlines for individual projects. Project management system, for example, recommends that organizations encourage virtual employees to develop accountability, collaboration, and engagement (ACE) traits, and they can do that by sharing projects, status updates, and deadlines. For developers, Atlassian tools are often used to track and manage projects.
  • Video/audio conferencing: As mentioned above, organizations recommend that during this period of remote work and stay-at-home orders around the world, teams hold virtual face-to-face meetings regularly. Organizations can also migrate to cloud phone systems for calls with customers and other external calls to maintain company phone numbers without the associated hardware.
  • Chat/messenger: Organizations can share announcements, groups messages, direct messages, and even emoji. Instant messaging platform SlackTM, for example, recommends using a group chat for administrators and managers to post important announcements, and that’s read-only for the rest of the office. We’ve also written about how IT can integrate a Slack-native helpdesk system that’s easy for both admins and users to master. 

Access Management Solutions for IT Admins

This next area might not include solutions that your users directly care about, but they’ll certainly care about the results that these solutions produce. Admins need tools to connect users to all their IT resources, regardless where the users or the IT resources are located. There are various approaches admins can take for identity and access management (IAM):

  • Directory services: There are both on-premises and cloud options that admins can explore. In the work-from-home age, cloud directory services can be more agile and flexible for admins who can’t visit the office and attend to on-prem servers, or who need to manage access permissions and devices for geographically dispersed employees. 
  • Identity bridges: If admins are already using a legacy directory like Active Directory®, they’ll likely need identity bridge solutions to federate AD identities everywhere they’re needed. A comprehensive identity bridge should be able to federate identities to all resources that AD has historically struggled to manage, including Mac® and Linux® systems, web applications, and cloud infrastructure.
  • Web application single sign-on (SSO) solutions: In the same vein, web application SSO solutions extend digital identities from the core directory to web applications, and they often include an online portal through which users can access all their permitted applications. We’ve developed an SSO buying guide with features for admins to consider as they select an SSO solution — including capabilities for both SAML and LDAP authentication, multi-factor authentication, and automation via Just-in-Time (JIT) and SCIM provisioning.
  • Remote computer access connection software: This software allows admins to provide remote support and management of user systems, and it also allows users to access their office computers in the event they don’t have laptops or otherwise need access when they’re working remotely. For example, Splashtop notes that its software allows organizations to quickly enable remote workers who still need access to the corporate network.

Security Solutions for IT Admins

Finally, for the purposes of this article, we’ll discuss security solutions. A mobile workforce is even harder to manage and control securely, but there are  a number of new solutions that make it easier:

  • Anti-phishing: Anti-phishing software can check URLs and attachments before using them, and admins can further guard against phishing by enabling multi-factor authentication everywhere possible so that even compromised credentials aren’t useful to bad actors. Admins can also institute security training, educate users about red flags in emails they receive, and encourage them to forward all suspicious emails to IT/security teams to investigate — rather than clicking the links themselves. Admins can also invest in anti-virus/anti-malware software to better protect each system against bad actors. Perhaps the most innovative anti-phishing approach is to control passwords from your end users’ Windows® or Mac® systems. Updates there can then automatically flow to all their web resources with the right cloud identity management system, and users aren’t incentivized to click suspicious password-change emails.
  • Endpoint/system management: Beyond the measures listed above, admins can seek solutions for endpoint/system management. Ideally, such a solution is operating system-agnostic and able to enforce security policies across a fleet of machines — including setting screen lock, disabling USB ports, and enforcing full-disk encryption. It might also be able to monitor systems for key metrics like OS version, available memory and CPU, and network connectivity,  
  • VPN: Depending on the directory service an organization uses, users don’t need a VPN to connect users to the corporate network. However, VPN use is recommended if users work on an insecure or shared internet connection. We’ve developed a guide with common VPN best practices you can share with users who are working virtually for the first time.

Learn More

At JumpCloud®, we put IT security at the forefront of everything we do. Our Directory-as-a-Service® is the first full-suite cloud directory service, and it can also serve as a comprehensive identity bridge with our Active Directory Integration feature. Regardless what directory service you have in place today, we’re here to help you enable and secure your remote workers. Click here to learn more about how JumpCloud supports work from home.

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