Working remotely has clearly been the talk of the nation. But how do you implement that? What tools do you need? What will it cost? How quickly can you get set up? Here are a few pragmatic, no nonsense, real-deal answers.
The original remote work tool. It’s evolved to an all-you-can-do workhorse with VoIP calling and video chats on your cell, but the good old telephone still fulfills its core function exceptionally well: connecting people over distance.
Here’s the thing: If you have a VoIP (cloud phone, IP telephony, softphone, etc.) system, you very likely already have all the features available to connect your business phone to your cell, home phone or even laptop. That means you can continue business as usual over the phone at least, no matter where you are. If you’re not sure how, contact your provider! Here are detailed instructions for Nex-Tech cloud phone customers to use the mobility of their cloud phone: LINK
If you don’t have a VoIP system, don’t fret! Most of our business phone service plans include manual call forwarding services. Hit *72 and enter the number you would like all calls to be forwarded to, and voila, all your calls now forward to your cell. Here are some detailed instructions. For a minimal fee you can even access that feature remotely, so you don’t have to be on-site to set your call forwarding services. For multiple lines, most calling plans include rotary hunting, automatic roll-overs to the next line to make sure no calls are missed.
If you think now’s the time to act, implementing cloud phone systems can be fairly low-impact and quick, so check your options if that’s the route you want to go, but consider carefully if this is the best long-term strategy for your business.
If you’re trying to connect multiple employees or offices, Microsoft’s got your back. The company announced that in the wake of COVID-19 they will offer users to signup for Teams for free.
What is Teams and what can it do for me?
Teams has a variety of productivity features built-in. Currently the hottest one will be the chat function and video conferencing.
If you have an Office 365 Essential or Business Premium subscription, Teams is included and now is the time to use it!
If you don’t, here’s where you sign up for a personal account. The free version is limited to ad-hoc video calls and chats, so you won’t be able to schedule meetings. But it will give you the ability to easily connect with people. If you need your whole office on Teams, or want to switch to O365 for good, get in touch. It's a great solution, the install can be done mostly remote, it's simple to use, and works well from a video and audio quality standpoint.
And the person on the other end does not need to have Teams! They can join via a browser!
If you would like more capabilities, such as scheduled conference calls, consider switching to O365 – it’s not too late and the install can be done mostly remote. Get in touch and we can walk you through the options. It’s an extremely cost effective solution, is very simple to use, and it works well from a video and audio quality standpoint.
ACCESSING YOUR NETWORK
If you need your employees to access your network, there are a few options. This applies if you have important applications, such as inventory or billing systems that employees need access to.
LogMeIn and Similar Tools
If you have an IT provider that provides AV, automatic patches and or remote monitoring of your end user devices, they may have a tool like LogMeIn that allows users to log into their machine at work and use it as if they were sitting in front it!
Our Nex-Tech PC Security customers have this additional tool available to them! No additional SSL VPN connection needed, as the encryption is built in. However, there are a few caveats:
- Bandwidth and Internet connectivity are key.
- It requires Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). There are free tools out there that we can help set up.
- You will need to get every user set up via our Help Desk.
Contact us for more information on how to get you set up and if this will be a good option for you!
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
If you already have RDP set up in your environment, contact us (or your IT provider) – chances are that we can increase capacity for additional users to be connected fairly easily. It’s usually a matter of adding licensing and virtual resources. Best practice is to usually scope all deployments for some growth, so there is probably a lot of room. It gets trickier if you run into hardware limitations, as hardware is becoming more difficult to source across all areas.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Setting up a VPN connection for your home users is another route to go. If you have a firewall, all you’d need to do is add VPN licenses. Call you IT provider for help!
A few gotchas about VPN:
- A stable and good Internet connection is key.
- Be aware that your firewall will most likely have limitations of how many remote users it can handle.
With many people in panic mode, it’s easy to act quickly, but do not compromise security for convenience! We have already seen a spike in malicious activity and bad actors will exploit the vulnerabilities that remote work can cause. Here is a guide on how to stay secure when transitioning to working remotely. Just as usual: stay alert and vigilant and take the same precautions you do at the office!
Finally, the last tip may be the most important one: Take care of each other! This is an unprecedented situation for all of us. Working remotely causes stress. Add kids at home, social isolation and the general uncertainty of it all, and it you have the perfect storm for burn-outs and exhaustion. Check in often, take breaks, and don’t forget to breath! If you’d like more in-depth tips, here are a few great resources:
Access the video tutorial for this article.