We are increasingly being approached by customers who want to understand what options are available for remote working, given the situation with Coronavirus (covid-19). In this post, we look at the different options available for organisations who want to explore working remotely, as an option or as part of contingency planning.

The process of contingency planning for corona is very similar to traditional BCP/DR planning – but for many organisations, they want clear and concise options now. You mustn’t look to undermine the security, integration or data protection obligations of your business.

Important: We want to emphasise that this article does not try and uncover every possible constraint, scenario or challenge, nor is it a replacement to comprehensive DR and BCP planning. The purpose of this article is to provide inspiration and ideas that may enable remote-working if that is something your business needs to explore.

As you would expect, with every option we discuss, there will be nuances, constraints and gotchas. So we would suggest you speak to your IT team, IT provider or another reputable firm with experience of these matters.

It is important to note that working remotely is not a new concept; many successful organisations function fine with a remote workforce. You will find the common trait amongst these firms is the effective use of technology. Whether in response to Coronavirus, or a general acknowledgement that remote working is a good thing, we will start with the basics:


Assess existing setup

There is a good chance that your existing IT and network setup may already have the features and capabilities to support remote-working. Before embarking on an exercise of investment or change, we would recommend organisations undertake a quick feasibility study to understand your existing skills.

Technical questions and considerations may include:

  • Desktop environment
    • Does your business have support for VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) or RDS (Remote Desktop Services)?
    • Do your staff have laptops or desktops? Do you have any spare systems?
    • If you have desktops, do you use Windows 10 Professional, Apple or other?
  • E-mail
    • Is your e-mail system accessible outside of the organisation, on phones/PCs/tablets?
    • Does your business use Office 365 or hosted Exchange?
  • Security
    • Does your business have endpoint protection/antivirus?
    • Does your business use 2FA/Two-Factor authentication?
  • Productivity apps
    • If your business uses Office 365, do you know the subscription level (i.e. E3, Business Premium)?
    • Do you know if your Active Directory domain is synchronised to Azure?
  • Firewall / Internet Edge
      • Does your organisation have a firewall solution?
      • Does the firewall support VPN or remote access?
      • Are there any connection/concurrent user limits imposed by the firewall?
  • Internet connection
    • What internet connection does your business use? Do you know the upstream/downstream connection speed?
    • Can the connection speed be increased if necessary?
  • Mobiles
    • Does your business use MDM (mobile device management) software?
    • Does your business have a BYOD (bring your own device policy)?
  • Voice
    • What type of phone system does your business use? Traditional hard-wired, IP based, or hosted?
    • Can you add remote-working options to your phone system?
    • Do you have a list of all phone numbers or DDIs?
    • Does the phone system have a mobile or windows software client?

Preliminary: Understanding working practices and options

Before we can consider the most appropriate technical solutions, you need to have a good understanding of your business operations, workflows, teams and their use of IT systems. You can also explore other, less traditional options for remote-working.

  • Staff
    • How many staff members do you employ?
    • In theory, how many could do their jobs using a remote terminal and phone?
    • Are your staff members logically grouped into teams or departments?
  • Business functions
    • What software applications are used by your staff? Can you rank them by priority and importance? Are they custom applications or supported by a vendor?
  • Working environment
    • How many staff have a suitable location at home where they could work remotely? i.e. Home office, table, spare room.
    • Do your staff have a suitable internet connection at home?
    • Would you be willing to let staff bring their desktop PC or laptop home to work (subject to additional controls)?
  • Customers
    • Is your business governed by any regulations or laws that may prohibit staff working from home?
    • You may need to consider a policy or campaign to educate your customers to set expectations and be open.
  • Other considerations
    • Do you need to consider insurance implications if staff are working from home?
    • Should your business consider subsidising expenses incurred by staff working remotely?

Access the workplace remotely

When we talking about the ‘workplace’ that really means your systems, data and working ‘environment’ (or a digital representation!).

1) Staff access their workstations remotely using VPN

If your business uses Windows 10 and has an enterprise firewall that supports VPN (virtual private networking), one option is to allow your staff to access their workstations from home remotely.

To do so, they would:

  • Install a VPN client on their home PC
  • Connect to the workplace using a VPN (and ideally, two-factor authentication)
  • Launch RDP and remote onto their PC

There are some pre-requisites:

  • A firewall that supports VPN.
  • Two-factor authentication is recommended.
  • Your desktop PCs need to support Remote Access and have RDP enabled.
  • Some necessary changes and instructions for staff.

2) Staff access the VDI/RDP environment remotely, using a VPN or otherwise

For organisations who already use VDI/RDP, accessing the workplace can be an easier task (depending on  your policies)

  • Install a VPN client on their home PC
  • Connect to the workplace using a VPN (and ideally, two-factor authentication)
  • Launch RDP/Citrix/VMWare and launch a VDI session

or simply:

  • Ensure your IT policies and ACLs allow remote-access
  • Launch RDP/Citrix/VMWare and begin a VDI session

3) Install remote access software on each PC

This is not a recommended solution, but potentially a quick-fix if your business doesn’t have a VPN, RDP/VDI or similar

  • Selection of a remote access software.
  • Install on each workstation.
  • Ensure you enforce security policies and two-factor authentication. This is vital.
  • Staff launch the remote access client at home, select their PC and connect.

4) Staff access the workplace remotely using VPN

If your business has VPN support, staff members can follow the steps contained in Item (1) but instead of accessing their PC – they can natively access servers, applications and systems from their home PC. This is only possible if your business uses web applications – but it still presents a valid option.

Alternatively, if the staff members bring their work PC home, they can VPN in, and their applications and systems will function as normal.

This is a relatively easy option, but it does rely on your business and staff members having a reasonable internet connection (particularly the upstream)

5) Cloud-Native Approach

If your business natively uses Cloud technologies such as Office 365 and Sharepoint – then you may have a range of secure options at your disposal with very little cost outlay or disruption to your business.

  • Users will have access to Microsoft Office on the web or desktop applications
  • Staff can access company documents in Sharepoint, securely and from home.
  • Teams, Office and Sharepoint all promote secure, remote-working in a flexible manner.


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