How IT Pros Can Make Remote Working a Breeze—Even for Themselves

(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on PC World)

These unprecedented times are causing anxiety for IT pros.

The largest work from home (WFH) experiment is underway, and IT pros face the enviable task of ensuring all digital elements making remote work possible remain operational—or else. And most of them will have to manage this with limited direct access or visibility over corporate networks or devices.

Here’s how IT pros can ensure productive work from home experiences for the business without losing their sanity in the process.

Always Be One Step Ahead

If they haven’t already, IT pros should begin forming a list of services experiencing high levels of demand from remote employees. For instance, IT pros can rightfully assume cloud traffic will spike exponentially and overwhelm the business network in no time.

Furthermore, with everyone distancing themselves, staff meetings or catch-ups will be done online, raising performance concerns regarding the use of conferencing applications.  In short, anticipate and prepare for the worst. This should be the default stance of any IT team on any given day, but it should especially be so during these trying times.

These are some things IT pros can do to help prevent critical issues:  

  • Track Scalable Service Costs  Keep an eye on any “as a service” functions, particularly those capable of auto-scaling to demand, like cloud services. Double-check and understand the exponential costs of higher traffic volumes and data interactions on these services. Doing so can help prevent unpleasant surprises in the form of skyrocketing charges in the future.
  • Check Licenses for Digital Tools Most digital tools, especially ones facilitating online collaboration, allow a limited number of users per license. To prevent disruption of workflows and complaints from teams, IT pros should examine licensing limitations beforehand—particularly if the tools were adopted by teams without the IT pros’ knowledge.
  • Be Prepared for Latency Issues Though they may not have control over video conferencing services, IT pros can expect a flurry of emails or complaints regarding service performance. Managing this requires IT pros to remain vigilant over the status of these services through their websites or social handles and communicate updates with frustrated teams. IT pros can use tools like SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor or SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer to quickly troubleshoot issues with increased collaboration system load as a result of remote work.
  • Automate Wherever You Can  The added pressure of managing more devices across multiple environments means IT pros will have little time left for crucial tasks like monitoring. To compensate, IT pros should adopt network solutions with some measure of automation to identify threats, highlight issues, and notify IT teams with minimal intervention. Implementing self-service capabilities can help remote users gain access to information they need in an instant, giving IT service desk professionals time to focus on more complex tasks.
  • Switch to the Right Tools  The greatest loss for IT pros is their network tools, which were designed to govern internal digital infrastructure. This conundrum requires IT pros to get creative. They can adopt remote management tools for troubleshooting, adopt better network performance monitoring tools capable of giving them visibility over external devices, and implement security and VPN monitoring measures to combat new threat vectors. 

Work From Home Vigilance

Organisational cybersecurity—especially when off-site devices are concerned—deserves a section of its own. Indeed, as IT pros adapt their digital stack, they must do so primarily from a security standpoint. This is because any device connected to the business network could become a potential vector of attack at any given time.

The sheer number of variables involved when talking about external devices would dismay any cybersecurity expert. IT pros would do well to bake security and vigilance into any work from home policy or solution.  Ideally, they should already have fundamental cybersecurity measures (like user permissions, device access managements, mandatory two-factor authentication, VPN, and deep network monitoring) in place. If they don’t, now’s the second-best time to put these measures in place.

IT pros can tap into free vendor services—eliminating the need for time-consuming budget approval—to step up their cybersecurity profiles and ensure data breaches or cyberattacks remain absent in their organisations’ crisis management list.

Keep Calm and Carry On

There are other things IT pros can do (besides technical support) to make the work from home experience smooth and pleasant. For starters, they can publish a “good practices” guideline offering detailed instructions on how to connect periphery devices or sensible advice telling people to do things like avoid bandwidth-heavy streaming or downloads during video conferences.

Another way IT pros can provide value and alleviate anxiety is by setting up corporate chat rooms for staff with popular chat services like Slack. Above all, IT pros should remember they’re doing the best they can given the suddenness and severity of current events. They must set aside time to recuperate and even upskill; doing so gives them clarity and the right frame of mind to tackle issues when they occur.

Like everyone else, IT pros need some time to readjust to the new work reality and the challenges accompanying it. Doing so methodically—and sensibly—will improve the odds of them coming out triumphantly on the other side.

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