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How small businesses can navigate remote working

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke)

Remote working has become the norm for businesses of all sizes during these trying times. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in remote workers never seen in the business world before. Even organisations who have been shy to remote working are now adapting their strategies to enable employees, if able, to log on from home on a greater scale.

Working from home isn’t a new concept, especially for smaller businesses who are leading the charge with workplace transformation and achieving unparalleled mobility. As millions follow government advice to stay home, we’re seeing a surge in conversations around the advantages of mobile and remote working for businesses and employees alike, and whether this somewhat unplanned experiment will be the future of work. However, what’s certain is that this rise of remote workers doesn’t come without its challenges – from having the right employee technology in place to remote-access network capacity and, unsurprisingly, security concerns.

So, what are these obstacles? And how can smaller to medium businesses overcome them?

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Invest in the right technology for maximum productivity

Small, more agile businesses are leading the way when it comes to mobile and remote working. While large enterprises have long- established ways of working, and often have cumbersome legacy processes, SMBs are much more adaptable and open to change. For SMBs, remote workers not only offset the pressure of securing fixed office space but also boosts employee engagement and productivity.

In order to maintain productivity, there are common requirements that all remote and mobile workers need. Most importantly, employees need to be equipped with the right technology. In the last month laptop demand has risen sharply in response to a greater demand for remote working, with device manufacturers seeing significant increases in sales. Businesses need to ensure they are investing in lightweight and portable, yet powerful devices designed to accommodate the remote workforce. Connectivity and performance are critical, so employees can connect with colleagues through the multitude of web-enabled collaborative tools available, overcoming any obstacles of distance and preserving collaboration within teams.

Look to new technology to overcome network capacity concerns

The challenge for any business adding connected devices and solutions to their network is the amount of data these devices will create and how they manage and process this data effectively and securely. Unsurprisingly, the rise in new remote users as a result of the coronavirus has stepped up and SMBs perhaps have the advantage over larger enterprises in that they are often newer companies who are less reliant on legacy systems. However, they still need to have the right technology and infrastructure in the first place.

Completely overhauling networks can be time and resource-intensive, especially for SMBs with limited resources. For those who can’t “rip and replace”, edge computing offers a viable solution to resolve this, and at the same time creating new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence. Processing data at the edge reduces strain on the cloud so users can be more selective of the data they send to the network core.

Think carefully about security

Probably the most prominent challenge which comes with remote working is security. Universal remote working presents unique cybersecurity challenges that smaller businesses won’t have seen before. The NCSC recently warned of cybercriminal groups exploiting the coronavirus outbreak with sophisticated phishing, malware and ransomware campaigns. For small businesses, in particular, cyberattacks can have a devastating effect as they often lack the in-house expertise or the resources to fully recover.

As more devices access potentially sensitive corporate data away from the office, this opens up the threat vector for cybercriminals to compromise networks. It’s no surprise, then, that security is now a top priority for small businesses, constantly needing to be reviewed and updated. In the first instance, businesses need to ensure employees are equipped with the right tools and security features to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. This, in turn, reduces the need for remediation resources should an attack occur. Devices with facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, reducing the risk of unsolicited login to the device. Other defences include zero client solutions which ensure devices themselves do not retain sensitive information. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system so if a device is lost or stolen, this information remains secure.

There’s no doubt that the current global situation has brought us into a new phase of remote and mobile working. As with any business change, there are number of stumbling blocks to think about – especially from an employee device, bandwidth availability and cybersecurity perspective. More so than ever, no matter what your size of business, it is imperative to navigate the challenges of remote working.

Nick Offin is Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations at dynabook