SysAdmins: Tips to Consider When Most of Your Workforce is Working from Home...Including Yourself
ith the spread of COVID-19, many organizations are quickly shifting to remote-work plans to accommodate its employees and reduce the spread of the virus. While you hear a lot about the shift from working effectively in the office to working effectively at home, you don’t hear a lot about how best to manage and support remote workforces when you too are remote.
As a sysadmin if you are currently working remotely, here are some tips to consider on how to be effective while you (and most of your office) are working from home:
- Make sure you have enough VPN licenses.
You probably provisioned those initial licenses expecting only a fraction of your workforce to be on the VPN at any given time. Make sure you get a new count of those needing VPN access to internal resources and purchase licenses accordingly.
- Maintain access to your on-premises patching server.
Speaking of VPNs...recall that shiny, new on-premises patching server you just bought? If you didn’t address the first bullet, then the majority of your organization won’t be able to access it. You’ve now gone from a handful of remote employees who are laggard with their patching, to almost all employees. Your exploitable attack surface for known vulnerabilities has gone from a manageable percentage of remote employees to the entire inventory of company laptops.
- Enable remote server and desktop management tools, such as iLO and iDRAC on your servers and endpoints.
You may have some servers in your office that you haven’t bothered to do this for because it’s easier to go to the server room. Now that you’re remote, you don’t have that option. If you have to reboot a server or an endpoint after a patch, what if it doesn’t boot back up again?
- Ensure that all of your monitoring systems and dashboards are easily available from home.
You might be used to having everything on a big TV or monitor at work, and now your screen real estate is more limited. This is the perfect excuse to get that third or fourth home monitor. If you rely on VPN connectivity to view the status of your remote endpoints, make sure you have a well-thought plan to keep your employees connecting to the network to ensure compliance with corporate patching protocols and configuration updates. Or, maybe it’s time to consider a cloud-based solution that removes the barrier of having to connect to a VPN to receive patch updates.
- Get yourself a rock-solid software deployment solution.
Now that everyone is working remotely it’s going to be harder to troubleshoot and tinker with any issues in deploying software. Look for opportunities to leverage free use of your workplace software. Companies like Zoom, Microsoft, and Google are now offering their software for free and “have taken pains to make sure they can accommodate the growing demand from users.”
- Set your remote employees up for success.
For some employees working remotely is a dream come true, for others not so much. Educate your remote users on how best to work from home, how to connect to the VPN, and how to reach you if they need help. If you don’t already have a helpdesk system, now’s a good time to get one. Additionally, consider investing in good headsets and microphones. There’s nothing that makes virtual meetings as annoying as bad sound quality.
- Set YOURSELF up for success.
As an IT admin, having redundancies and contingency plans is the key to keeping businesses online and operational. It’s no different at home. Have a backup plan if your internet goes down. The easiest way to do this is to make sure your phone data plan has a tethering option. Also, have a backup router in case any of your home hardware fails.
- Make sure you’re ready for a zombie apocalypse.
And, while you’re doing all of the above you may as well be prepared for an invasion of the walking dead. Stock up on food, supplies and defensive weapons, and consider putting up some chevaux de frise around the perimeter of your home. Just leave some toilet paper on the shelves for the rest of us.
With some thought and preparation, you can keep your employees and your equipment protected from known exploits and viruses when working remotely from home. But, consider this: Once you’ve established your remote-work response, this short-term solution could be a viable long-term plan.
Take this opportunity to research and invest in modern, innovative technologies that can effectively set your organization up for success and keep your endpoints secure for the long haul — in crisis or not. It’s a no-brainer.
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