Most of us are now working from home. This isn’t an easy task. I have two children who need homeschooling. We have two dogs who are running around. In between all of this, we need to do our day jobs and run our businesses.
Working from home also presents some technical challenges. We’re used to communicating with our clients and colleagues face-to-face at the office and we’re used to IT being the way it is and easily accessible.
Working remotely can also present some IT security challenges. Once we’re working outside of the security of our corporate office, things can sometimes can tricky.
I have been very impressed with the large technology providers during this pandemic. Lots of them have stepped forward to offer businesses free software and services to help them work remotely and reduce costs during a time of world disruption.
In this blog, I am going to explore some of these free offerings. You can also watch my video on this top on YouTube
Microsoft Office 365
The first one is the mighty Microsoft. They are offering a product called Office 365 E1 completely free of charge for six months.
Office 365 E1 includes a cloud-based email system and cloud storage for your files and folders.
Now, I will be honest here. If your business already uses Office 365 (which the majority of SME’s do!) then this offer probably won’t apply to you.
But if you haven’t made the move to Office 365 yet, now is an excellent time to do so.
The best thing about Office 365 E1 is Microsoft Teams. Teams is one of the fastest-growing software packages ever. It’s a collaboration tool that helps you keep in regular contact with your colleagues through Chats and also includes video conferencing facilities.
With the video conferencing feature you can hold regular meetings with your colleagues where at least you’ll get to see and hear them.
Video conferencing sales have shot through the roof over the past few weeks. If Microsoft Teams isn’t your thing then you could look at Cisco WebEx who are also offering free licenses of their product.
Cisco are one of the worlds leading IT security companies and their WebEx product is popular amongst larger businesses.
A quick note on Zoom. Since the start of this pandemic, sales of Zoom have increased by over 500%. The UK government seem to use it for cabinet meetings.
However, there have been some recent concerns about the security of Zoom, so you might want to tread carefully.
VoIP (or Voice-over-IP) is your telephone system with a fancy title. Every business has a telephone number for its main premises. This might route through to a receptionist or a hunt group where multiple phones ring at the same time.
What have you done with your business telephones?
I know lots of people have just diverted the main office number to a mobile phone, which is OK, but there is a better way.
With a cloud-based telephone system, you can install a bit of software on your computer/laptop which is called a softphone (short for software phone). You can use a headset and have a fully functioning telephone system.
Any calls destined to your business premises can be routed through to the various softphones of people working at home.
A UK provider of VoIP is called Gamma. Gamma are offering their fully functioning phone system free for 3-months.
People will be working from home either on work supplied laptops or using their home computers (not recommended).
I would hope and expect that any work supplied laptops already have antivirus software installed. If you absolutely have to use home computers, then it must have some antivirus software installed.
A couple of leading antivirus software providers are offering their products free a period f time.
One of the downsides of working from home is that your home probably won’t have a robust firewall like in the office.
People are free to browse whatever websites they want to. This can include websites with malware or it can be wasting more time on social networking sites.
Mimecast are offering their Web Protection suite free for 90 days.
Mimecast works on two levels. It can scan websites quickly before you browse to them for any type of security issue. Plus you can control the websites people access so you can try and improve their productivity whilst working from home amongst all the other distractions.
Two-factor authentication (2FA for short) is something I like to beat the drum about, even in normal times. My belief is that 2FA can drastically improve your IT security.
In addition to entering a username and password to access an online application like Office 365 or even log onto your computer, you also need to enter a 6-digit code which is normally delivered to an app on your phone.
The code changes every 30-60 seconds. The premise here is that even if someone has access to your password, they still can’t log in because they won’t have your smartphone with the code.
WatchGuard, a provider of IT security products have a 2FA application called AuthPoint. AuthPoint is available for free for a period of xxx
Now is the perfect time to implement 2FA within your business.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it secures your internet connection.
When you’re in the office, your connection should be in a protected area. When you connect to the internet outside of the workplace then you are never quite sure who is on the same internet connection as you.
A popular example of this is browsing the internet in coffee shops. Anyone can connect to this WiFi, there is no security. This is known as ‘Public WiFi’.
So why would we need to protect our internet connection at home? Do we know who is using our internet connection at home?
Yes, we usually do. But we can’t verify the security of their devices. Take, for example, our children might be browsing the internet using a device riddled with malware.
Cyber Security Awareness Training
Unfortunately, with all tragic events, there are always people who want to take advantage of the situation for their own gains.
This pandemic has seen a huge rise in Coronavirus specific email phishing attacks. Bogus emails are sent offering government grants or safety equipment in the hope that people will click on the links. Once you click on the links, someone could have access to your computer.
Now would be a suitable time to ensure that all member of your team has the right Cyber Security Awareness training.
If people know what to look out for, they can be the first line of defence against these criminals.
KnowBe4 is one of the best Cyber Training companies around. They will provide the software for free for 21 days. Again, please contact me for more details.
I hope you've found this blog useful.