Working From Home Best Practices

Listen to the latest episode of TechTalk Detroit

Join Chuck and Brian as they discuss the technical aspects of working from home.
Listen now or read the conversation below.


Chuck:

Welcome back to TechTalk Detroit. We apologize. We know that we missed a couple of weeks here with everything that’s going on things have  pretty crazy around the office. And, uh, around well not so much around the office since we are working from home, but in the business. So we’ve been very busy and apologize that we missed a couple weeks. We’re trying to get back on track here. So we’re doing this across Zoom so we’ll see how this goes. But, Brian, how you doing today?

Brain:

I’m doing all right, you know, just getting real settled in here. Ah, I got a lot of big plans for the weekend, so you know. Yeah, I’m doing good. Just adjusting like everybody else is at this point, you know.

Chuck:

Yeah. Yeah. I like the picture that’s been going around on social media about looking at a map for their social plans, and it’s a, like a layout of the house. You know where they were going to go?

Brain:

I ran out of closets to organize, and drawers to rearrange. So I don’t know what I’ll get into this weekend. We’ll see.

Chuck:

Can we take a walk around your backyard?

Brain:

Yeah, maybe see if there’s a new bush I haven’t found.

Chuck:

Things have been going crazy, you know, As obviously everyone’s well aware with COVID- 19 you know, in Michigan here where we are on Monday, there was a shelter in place order put in place. So, you know, I kind of meant that everybody had to start working from home. Now, you know, we were on, I think week two officially today of working from home ourselves. And, you know, even though we had everything in place to be able to quickly go to that because it’s something that will do from time to time, anyways, when you start looking at it as more of an extended thing I don’t know about you, Brian, but there’s definitely been some things that I I have learned that I hadn’t thought of previously. When you’re working from home for a day or a couple of days versus like I said going on two weeks and, you know, looking like it’s gonna be a little while here before we can get back, There’s definitely some extra things I hadn’t thought about. For that long term for working from home scenario.

Brain:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, the for one, the coffee. You’re on the hook to make yourself, now, you know, you don’t have you can’t split up the duties bonds, everybody else in the office. Um, I think for me, it’s been trying to find a good, comfortable spot to work where, um, I could really be the most productive, um, I’ve kind of floated all around my house. But, you know, I think you learn to appreciate a dedicated workspace like you typically have an office. Um, that obviously, I think there’s just a lot of challenges in terms of, collaboration. You know, um, the good and bad of collaboration is we’ve kind of moved into that type of work force and a lot of different aspects, and we rely on collaboration a lot. But I think for us, the reality is we still collaborate in person. Typically, you know where you collaborate 20 feet away. So I think not having that security blanket of just being able to walk over and poke somebody real quick and you know the things you really shouldn’t do. Anyways, it kind of forces you to use your tools and quickly. You know, you quickly realize maybe, ah, some areas where you hadn’t thought of and built out yet. So we’ve been doing a lot of adjustment on the fly. And, you know, ultimately, though, I think it’s gone well, but definitely some investments.

Chuck:

Yeah, I agree. Definitely has gone smoothly, but you know that you mentioned the comfortable factor. That was a big one for me as a very quickly. I realized that, you know, I didn’t really have a good office chair. You know, a lot of times, if I’m just working from home for a day, you know, I might sit downstairs at the kitchen table or something like that and work there for the day. But we ended up going run into the office before the shelter in place, went in and picked up my office chair so that I could have the nice, comfortable office chair. And then I think the other big thing that a lot of people haven’t thought of a no I hadn’t really thought of was having you at work. We’ve got these setups with dual monitors and the docking stations and all of that kind of stuff that really lends itself to the productivity of the day. And, you know, So when you’re working from home and you just got your laptop, that’s it. You lose a lot of that. So, you know, there was another thing that when I when I went to the office, pick up the chair, picked up that hole dual monitor set up in everything. And I’ve kind of got that dedicated workspace now created here at the at home. And, you know, again, it’s that something that you’re gonna do for if you’re just working from home for, like a day. But if it’s gonna be an extended period, it’s nice to be able to keep up that productivity with all the different tools that you have.

Brain:

Yeah, absolutely. We gotta add it to our global pandemic process for next time.

Chuck:

And I think getting used a different conferencing absence has definitely been one, too. I mean, were we used Teams extensively, so we’re very familiar with that. But I’ve been using Zoom quite a bit now as well, you know, I’ve been done not go to meeting, but JoinMe me a bit as well now. So I think it’s That’s another thing, is just kind of getting used to a lot of the different tools that are out there.

Chuck:

that help us to collaborate and keep in touch with people. Since we can’t really see anybody outside of the family.

Brain:

Absolutely. Yes. So figure today, you know, we can, a lot of this stuff, you know, we’ve kind of hit some good talking points in the past podcast. That really kind of led up to this unknowingly, you know, we’ve hit on the virtual desktops we’ve hit on, you know, the ability to work remote and things like that. But now that you know, we’re a few weeks for most people into this, um, you know, quarantine. Ah, lock down mode. Um, we thought it would obviously just be good to kind of rehash a couple things and then also to kind of just share from our experiences in terms of, um, just the businesses we’ve worked with, Um, some of the feedback we’re seeing. Maybe some of the concerns that weren’t necessarily thought of on a grand scale that come to the surface now. Um, but we thought we would take some time today just to share that of it as well.

Chuck:

Yeah, I think you know, we’ve learned quite a bit over the past few weeks as well. Um, you know, I think we’ve  found just talking to other businesses, talking other businesses, even in our industry. What we found is that a lot of businesses were not prepared for this you know, as far as, the quickly have a large amount of the staff working from home. So, you know, I think it shows us in the future that, you know, it’s something that that maybe some more thought needs to go into to be prepared to, so that if if anything like this would ever come up again, hopefully it wouldn’t. But if it were to that, you know the infrastructures in place, the systems are in place. The security is in place to make sure that if we do have to quickly, go to work from home scenario, we can do so and know that basically, the business is gonna keep running moreover less like usual.

Brain:

Absolutely. Um So why don’t we start a bit with just hitting on the actual options, you know, that most businesses should be looking at if they’re not already that that the likely remote from home. Ah, work from home solutions that are in place. Um, the most common one is is I hope that everybody at this point has, you know, he had our advice in terms of getting Office 365 in place. And really, I think everybody should be in a position where you’re seeing where you can actually leverage a lot of the products that come with most subscriptions for Office 365 I think SharePoint, this is the scenario where if your file system, if your file folders were already, um moved into SharePoint, you’re seeing the full advantage of it doesn’t matter where you’re at as long as you have Internet connection. You can get to your data. Um, and if you’re working out of that model, there probably have been a time of change to you by by going to this work from home for us. Um, in addition, I think the other big key is a lot of businesses are moving towards, um using the VPN the secure connection to your business firewall. Um, so then, um, connect in these computers from home into the business network so you can access your file sharers around a traditional file server and also, you know, your line of business application. So, um, both solutions can work great. But I think that the key is is to understand that there’s gonna be some drawbacks, um, to then extending your business data to, in particular, home PCs.

Chuck:

I think the other thing to always keep in mind, too. Is that, you know, even if if this stuff is in place to a certain degree, if it’s not fully set up or you don’t have enough licensing for everybody, it’s going to take some time. So if you’re let’s say you’ve got, um, five VPN licenses, but you have, a, workforce of 50 people. Now all 50 people must be able to work from home. You’re going to have 45 of those people there could be a work for you at best, probably a couple of days. I mean, it takes a little bit of time to give somebody a VPN licensing, you know, stuff like SharePoint almost every Office 365 or Microsoft 365 plan includes it. But if your data is not already there, it’s not like you can just say tomorrow. Hey, we want to start working in SharePoint online. You know that this is all stuff that really needs to be planned out and thought of ahead of time and then taking it a step further as you brought out. Now you got also worry about those home computers. Are they being updated? Do they have antivirus and, um, have the home user upgraded to Windows 10 yet? there’s a lot of things that that now come into play from a security perspective that could, if not handled properly, be detrimental to the business. If if you have somebody that’s accessing business data on, say, a Windows 7 computer and especially when that may or may not have anti-virus on it, even if you’re going across that VPN, that’s a huge security threat right there that could ultimately with that VPN connection to your business, could take down all of the data in the business. If there’s a ransomware attack or anything like that,

Brain:

Yeah, absolutely. And you know that’s the thing is, there’s two layers to the security of a VPN connection. The VPN um, encryption security level itself, which is basically creating this tunnel from, you know, in this case, ah, user’s home Internet directly into the office. That connection from the outside end is very secure. Um, you know, somebody that’s trying to hack into that VPN and tunnel. That’s gonna be a very tough thing to do. So it’s a very secure connection that’s in place where the problem is, is you’ve now created this direct tunnel into the business network. So it’s the endpoint security that really becomes the problem. There’s a couple layers there. Home users, they’re most people are probably just using their provided, um, router and firewall that that’s given from the ISP. Um, and it’s who knows if it’s even set up properly to even be blocking anything. You know, I know for a lot of the providers there also broadcasting public WiFi from the equipment that you rent so that prevents another issue is is that locked down? Is your neighbor’s connected to that WiFi and, um, that public WiFi and do they have access to your data right on the home network. So I think there’s a piece of that element from the network security level. You know, you’re talking about a business having a business. Great firewall to most home office is not having anything like that in place. Then the other big pieces threat actual endpoint security. Um, the obvious things like you mentioned. Does the user A have, do they have an active anti-virus subscription? That’s set up properly. Is it even set up to scan right? All the things that we managed for our clients, you know, you can’t guarantee that the home user is doing the same. Um, and then the other big thing is obviously we hit earlier a couple months ago on the, um, kind of support for the Windows 7 operating system. Um, and I think, you know, we’re seeing a a decent percentage of home computers that are still on Windows 7.  Um, you know, the average home computer. I don’t think people are unlike businesses where you typically upgrade every 4 to 5 years, I don’t think that’s a common practice for home computers, right. Um, I know it wasn’t when I was growing up so, um, you know, you’re gonna expect to see that a bit. And, um, the reality is, is when you do create this secure tunnel, you’re also bringing in all the potential vulnerabilities of that home computer. So I think having a true, uh, you know, bring your own device. Um, policy in place becomes supercritical. If you want to maintain the integrity of your business.

Chuck:

Yeah, anything you want to be clear. It’s not that we’re seeing that people at home, they’ve necessarily done anything wrong and especially not intentionally, you know, people for people’s home computers, they’re not as worried about security. A lot of times they’re not is worried about being up to date with the latest and greatest all the time. But now, when we’re talking about moving the work force from a business computer to a home computer, now you do have to worry about that. So you know, and there’s certain things that you can do, you know, even if there is Windows 7 in the environment, you certainly don’t want to just install a VPN and give them access to your data that you don’t want to do because now you’ve got an unsecure computer just by nature that has access to your data. But you can still, there are still options that you could do where that doesn’t involve them, having to figure out how to go get a home new home computer when you know it’s hard to do so right now. All right, so you know that’s where stuff like the Windows Virtual desktop comes into place or remote desktop. If it’s if things are properly secure now, connecting to like a Windows virtual desktop from a Windows 7 computer is less of an issue for a couple of reasons, right? I mean, one issue is one reason is if you have Windows virtual desktop, it gives you extended support on Windows 7, so you can still keep getting those updates so that could be put in place. But the other one is just that it’s a more secure platform, right?

Brain:

Yeah, for sure, because ultimately, your, you know, you’re extending this this Windows 10 desktop to any computer, but that desktop resides within the security blanket of your business network. So you’re actually as opposed to extending your data down to a home computer you’re asking the home computer to go up into the secure cloud and access the data from there. So you actually, you you’re not sinking the data to the user’s home computer and you’re not creating this direct, um, access to like your shared drives and such were really you put yourself at risk. So yet that the virtual desktop is is a perfect scenario for that. And really, it is that, you know, we’re talking about SharePoint, right for file shares. That’s the key. If it’s in place, you’re loving that choice right now. But if that’s not in place, that’s not a solution you’re gonna be able to spend up, you know, even in a couple weeks, would be an aggressive play, depending on how much data you have, because there’s so much that goes into that. I think, you know, rush into a SharePoint deployment and not think it out. It’s something that you probably would not be happy with, so that’s not really a solution right now at this point. But the Windows Virtual desktop absolutely is. I think it’s very, um, cost effective in terms of what your per user costs would be, and then also, you get the security concerns you can’t really put a price tag on, um, securing your business and the accessibility. You know, the fact that you can get to it from anything. Um, Again the iPhones, Androids, tablets, home computer where computer doesn’t matter, you can get to it, and it’s just hit right through a Web browser. So you know that that’s the ultimate solution that that I didn’t think I would endorse in a time like this. If you don’t currently have a work from home solution, I would absolutely look at the Windows Virtual Desktop is to go to, um, it can be spun up and implemented within a couple days, max. And that’s properly testing, installing applications, um, you know, configuring. Um, you know, taking advantage of all the features and stuff. It’s a very fast turnaround. Getting that solution to employees.

Chuck:

Right, because then you along with that, you can choose to, more long term, move your servers to the cloud as well. But in the interim, for the quick turnaround, you can just connect that Windows Virtual Desktop to your office and access all of your applications and data, and everything that’s still resides in your office so long as your office is up and running has power, has Internet. Now you can really just keep functioning like normal, regardless of where people are at. So I think that’s the big thing. Is, you know it’s not something that’s going to take as you mentioned weeks get, uh, implemented. It’s something that within a couple of days you could have your entire workforce working from home in a secure manner and and then moving forward. Once this all passes and we get past, it’s something

Chuck :

that you could easily keep in place and, you know, have it be the way that people work. You know, a lot of companies want that option to be able to have that as a you know, when people aren’t feeling well instead of them taking a sick day, maybe they can stay home and work from home. Um, you know somebody’s kid a second needs to stay home from school, they stay home and work from home, and you don’t lose the productivity they couldn’t keep the business running like normal. So I think that’s a huge part of that.

Brain:

Yeah, and I think you know, it’s the best way to explain it is really with the Windows Virtual Desktop, could be a built on to your existing environment. It’s not a a whole new solution that replaces, um, the way you work. You know, you still come into the office, you have the option. You can either work out of that desktop, or you can work off your normal work computer. You have the flexibility, but it’s a built on, so you don’t have to go and worry about moving all your servers up to the cloud. Or if you just invested in the infrastructure for your servers, that doesn’t get affected. You still run your normal servers off of the normal hardware. But this just bolts on and gives you another means to access it securely. So I think that’s the key. Um, you know, But yeah, I think the big thing is just the Windows 7 operating systems is what we’re seeing a lot off, and, you know, it’s something that I think businesses should should be concerned about. You know, I think if you are the type of business that’s rolling out VPN access, you don’t have this remote desktop server, you don’t have a virtual desktop server. I think a business should take a hard stance on, um, not allowing, you know, Windows 7 PCs to have VPN that’s what I would say. I think when you when you when you’re sitting there and you’re thinking about the potential risk of what that means and you’re thinking about what the tradeoff is, it’s certainly not worth it. You know, um, we you know, the crypto virus and stuff that goes out there and, um encrypts all your data and you can’t access it. That stuff is still very real. There’s still a lot of that going on, Um, and you know, this is a type of scenario where there’s a lot of data out there showing there’s an uptick on, um, security breach attempts right now because they know everybody’s working from home and they know they’re able to get in and do what they need to do without having to breakthrough a corporate firewall. So, um, you know, I think that’s the most obvious thing is, is the Windows 7 should be a absolutely no on any companies, you know, bring your own device, tight policy.

Chuck:

Yeah, and I think that’s very important. You know, to the point that you mentioned there, to reiterate is you know, the bad the bad people are called the bad people for a reason. Right there. They’re looking at any way they can to try to, uh, get into the network to try to get data they can use to try to steal whatever they can steal. So it’s not like they’re going, “Oh, you know, there’s this global pandemic going on. We should hold off for now, because it’s not the right thing to do.” They’re saying this is an opportunity. Now people are accessing data in a less secure fashion. So now I have an opportunity to be able to get that data easier than it was say, three weeks ago. So, you know, that’s why it’s very important to stress the security factor of all of this is, you know, it’s just it’s such a so many security holes. Let’s say you’ve got a company of 50 people and say everybody’s gonna work from home and say 10 of those haven’t updated their home computers yet. That’s now 10 access points into your environment into your data that weren’t there the day before. Everybody went and started working from home, so you know, it’s It’s just such a huge security concern to think about. So, you know, obviously, if you’re connecting to the office, you do need VPN. That’s step one. Call it, but you have to make sure that the home computer is probably secured. That’s, you know, call it step two. So you got, Windows at least 8 or above, and it’s got a decent antivirus that’s properly updated. Excuse me and configured. But now the next step is really, you know, the multi factor authentication on that VPN correct?

Brain:

Yeah, that’s something we didn’t hit on. That’s absolutely key. Yeah, most business firewalls, um, have the ability for you to turn on multi factor authentication for your VPN connections. I think that that’s another necessary and great security measure to put in place. You’re gonna ensure, because now that you’re creating all of these VPN accounts for people to access that only the computer’s only the user’s that you’ve granted permission to use the VPN can actually do it. Um, yeah. So that’s another great point.

Chuck:

Yeah, and then beyond that, if remote desktop is in place, that’s good. But I think, you know, as we’ve as we’ve made clear, probably your most secure, not probably. But your most secure and best option is a cloud based virtual desktop. You know, we we have talked a lot about Windows Virtual Desktop because we’re Microsoft partner and that’s where our focus is right now is on Windows Virtual Desktop. But I think at a very minimum, you gotta make sure that you’ve got a VPN that home computers are set up properly. You have the MFA in place from there now you can make it a lot more secure, too. But I think that’s your what you would call what, your base security. You know that for people working from home.

Brain:

Absolutely, absolutely.

Chuck:

Well, you know, I think we’ve gone a little bit longer than typical, but there’s a kind of a lot to talk about right now. You know, we’re gonna try to keep on the weekly schedule here as best we can. Our industry, you know, thankfully, with that shelter in place order that went into place, uh, are in our industry. Information technology was considered an essential business. So we are still, excuse me. I got something in my throat here, we’re considered, an essential business or keeping things running like normal. So, you know, we’ve got a lot of things going on in the background. The  service team has been super busy with the calls coming in from a lot of it is getting people set up properly to work from home. So, we’re gonna do our best to keep on ah, weekly podcast here, but you know, as things go here, things are busy, we may or may not stick to that, but we’re doing our best to.

Brain:

Absolutely. And just two pieces of info to add to that. Real quick is we did put together a pretty detailed webinar on Windows virtual desktop. Chuck, I’ll let you give the phone how to access that. And then the other piece is, um you know, if anybody if you listen to this, you’re going through some struggles in terms of trying to transition workforce to remote. Um, please feel free to take advantage of shooting us. Some questions would love to see questions, and we’ll gladly get those answered on the next week’s podcast.

Chuck:

Yeah, absolutely. So access that webinar. If you go to our website, it’s VCSolutions.com and then go do forward slash “remote” so Vcsolutions.com/remote, on the bottom of that page, there’s a link to view the webinar It is titled “Can your business survive a two week quarantine?” And you know we’re going through, we’ve got Abby on that one as well, who we had on a previous podcast. And, um, she’s on there talking about SharePoint as well as Brian and I talking about Windows Virtual Desktop and just some other things as well. Or if you just go to our home page, you can go under “Resources” and go to “Events” as well, and that’s another way to get to it. I also wanted to mention something that we’re that we’re taking advantage of, a good friend of mine owns a catering company, Hickory Barbecue and Grill. And they started doing this, uh, this program where you can, sponsor lunch for one of the local ER staff, doctors and nurses and Visions sponsoring to this coming Monday, we’re going to sponsor one at, Providence in Novi and one at St.Joe’s in Ann Arbor. We feel like it’s such an important thing, you know, we get to work from home, right? We get to be safe and stay in our homes, but these healthcare workers have to go out every single day and work in the front line, so to speak, taking care of everybody that’s being affected by this. So, uh, my buddy came out with this, uh, this idea and we really liked it, so we’re doing it. You know, if it’s something that anybody else is interested in doing, we’ll have some stuff on our social media about it as well so you have links to it. But if you look up Hickory BBQ and grill, they’ll be able to help you on as well. It’s, you know, they share some of the expenses as well, so that they’re donating some we are donating some and ultimately the ER staff gets to have a nice meal and a little bit of appreciation for everything that they’re doing right now.

Brain:

Yeah, I think it’s a great cause. I was. I was happy when we decided to, make that and, um, partnership with them. And yeah, I think that’s a great point. As you know, they’re the frontline workers right now, so we gotta do everything we can to support them.

Chuck:

Yeah, so thank you very much for joining. We’ll talk to you again next week and everybody stay safe and have a good week until then.