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The complete guide to remote IT support for small businesses

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Organizations must be equipped to support remote and hybrid workers to improve business outcomes.

Several companies have been putting various telecommuting and remote work policies in practice. According to findings, 16 percent of companies worked with a fully remote workforce globally, and 40 percent of companies were hybrid offering a mix of remote and in-office options to their employees.

Businesses must ensure that their remote workforce is provided with secure access to data and productivity tools without any disruption to the business workflows.

Furthermore, maintaining streamlined operations during a pandemic will demand the implementation of proactive strategies to achieve business continuity.

Here is a complete guide to help small businesses initiate remote IT services.

Begin with considering these critical aspects to support employees who work from home.

Check if employees have access to the required productivity tools

The productivity tools available for the remote workforce should help in maintaining situational awareness while providing better visibility into business workflows.

Your remote teams should have complete access to all the essential cloud-based productivity tools. This will help facilitate the sharing of files, effective communication, easy collaboration on projects, and initiation of meetings.

Consider a situation where employees experience technical issues with centralized productivity tools during a pandemic outbreak like the Covid-19 pandemic. This critical scenario demands the need for the availability of a robust remote platform that works offline while providing access to all productivity tools.

Furthermore, an emergency notification system will help as a mitigation tool if normal business operations are interrupted due to an emergency.

Ensure employees have internet connectivity

Make sure that your employees have a reliable internet connection that can withstand the increased traffic and workload. Their internet connection should be able to support cloud-based services and be available throughout their working hours. In case of poor connectivity of the lack thereof, they should be provided with alternatives like corporate-owned smartphones that can be tethered with their desktop or laptop for establishing internet connection.

Provide access to updated and secure devices

Your employees must have access to corporate-owned smartphones, state-of-art laptops, or desktops. An antiquated computer will hinder their productivity and may compromise data security. They must also be provided with options to use secured devices like:

VoIP business phones that enable access to workspace phone lines with softphone capabilities.

A virtual desktop infrastructure that will help employees connect to their work computers, including operating systems and official information through their home computer.

Additionally, the below mentioned best practices will help in the smooth functioning of remote IT services.

List tasks that can be handled remotely

This will help stakeholders plan the completion of important tasks to be prioritized and specifically handled from home.

Audit available technology resources

Obtain an overview of hardware and software resources that are available and if there is a need to purchase or upgrade resources. This will include an upgrade of internet packages and cloud-based productivity suites.

Take charge of cybersecurity

Remote employees should be educated about the sensitivity of data they will be handling and the risks that accompany this task.

For example, cybercriminals may take advantage of the current Covid-19 pandemic to entice victims into clicking on malicious links that offer information about a “cure.” Such instances can be better managed by having all the employees connect over a virtual private network (VPN) remotely.

Furthermore, only authenticated users must be provided access to critical data. Users should be allowed to access specific resources they need to accomplish their job responsibilities. For better security, administrators should be able to onboard and remove users only after proper authentication.

Set a communication protocol

It is important to put into effect a protocol that defines how regularly communication among the team members needs to take place to improve collaboration. This should include the following:

  • Appropriately schedule check-ins and meetings, breakout sessions, and project updates on a particular time of the day
  • Have a structured facilitator and agenda to take care of the preparation work in advance
  • Ensure to send follow-up emails to summarize discussed points and outcomes of meetings
  • Test the technology used in advance when addressing a larger audience

Though communication is the key to the success of a remote team, it is equally important to note that the internet services used for this purpose must provide end-to-end encryption for improved protection. Corporate service plans must include Data Loss Prevention (DLP), Content Monitoring and Filtering (CMF) or Extrusion Prevention System (EPS) solutions. These solutions come with real-time monitoring for email and chat conversations that help in preventing sensitive data exfiltration across communication channels.

Train employees on cybersecurity

Employees should be provided with comprehensive training on handling sensitive data, the features available in tools provided, and how best to use them. This kind of training will help them understand their responsibilities and remain productive.

Maintain helpdesk support services

It helps to maintain a 24*7 help desk support services for the remote workforce to address any technical or functional issue. This helpdesk support service should be able to troubleshoot and answer questions remotely.

Manage the team with empathy

A survey by Buffer reveals that remote employees grapple to unplug from work, tackle loneliness, and have problems with collaborating with their team. Organizations must address these social elements and use technology to overcome these challenges during a pandemic. Managers can plan one-on-one meetings or team meetings through video conferencing. They can also arrange for brainstorming sessions to generate ideas. This will help improve team collaboration, thereby taking charge of employee interests.

Wrap up

Implementing effective work-from-home policies is slowly but surely becoming the new normal. The above-mentioned aspects and best practices will help organizations in the seamless transition of their workforce to the remote working environment. This information will also provide you with a deeper understanding of the significance of maintaining productivity tools and data security for the remote workforce.

Chris Souza, CEO,Technical Support International (opens in new tab)

Chris Souza is the CEO of Technical Support International (TSI), a New England-based IT support and cybersecurity firm.