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Risk

5/14/2009
03:07 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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SMBs Can Trim Costs With Remote Workers, But Do It Securely

If you're looking at ways to trim operating costs without trimming staff, sending employees home to work may be near the top of your list. Just be sure, before you do, that the employees' home workspace is as secure (or more!) as your business facility.

If you're looking at ways to trim operating costs without trimming staff, sending employees home to work may be near the top of your list. Just be sure, before you do, that the employees' home workspace is as secure (or more!) as your business facility.Ben Tomkins' excellent and thorough post on the cost savings small and midsized businesses can achieve by sending appropriate workers home to work carries an implied responsibility for the business, one that I'd like to make a bit more explicit here:

Security.

Quite a few security issues come to mind when thinking of employees working from home, but here are my Top 10:

1)Anti-malware and other defenseware -- Are the employees' home setups equipped with the same protection from malware, spyware and intrusions as the equipment at the main facility? Not just similar, and not just same-level. You should have identical levels of protection deployed on all equipment that will be handling company information or processes.

2) Upgrades And Patches -- Are the employees' auto-update settings all enabled to ensure that virus defs and patches are current and stay so?

3) Shared Use -- Do other members of the employee's household use the home office? This one is important -- inadvertent exposure of company information as a result of an employee's child or spouse's actions is no less troublesome for your business... and in some cases can put you in legal jeopardy.

4) Home Network Security -- Is the household running a wireless network? How secure is it? Believe me, you may not want to know, but believe me, you had better know. And so should your IT manager.

5) Backup Practices -- How will the employee backup the day's work (or whatever backup period your business requires)? How will you ensure that the backups are made, and that the backed up data is accurate and secure?

6) Encryption -- How much of your business data would be safe from prying eyes if the employee's home were burglarized and the work-from-home computer stolen?

7) Disaster Recovery -- What happens to your data -- and your access to it -- should your employee become incapacitated? Do appropriate members of the employee's household understand your ownership of data residing on machines in their home -- machines that may be the employee's personal property? Do you, for that matter, have the necessary passwords to access that data if the need or circumstance arises? 8) Termination Troubles -- If the work-from-home strategy proves not to solve your overhead concerns and you are forced to terminate the employee, how confident are you of your ability to reclaim all company data? Like the point immediately above, this one can be further complicated if the employee was using personal equipment for business purposes.

9) Compliance Considerations -- Many of the points raised above come into even sharper focus (and concern) if any of the materials the employee is working with are subject to regulatory compliance. Make sure the law lets employees work with information at home before you send the information home with them.

10) Peace Of Mind -- Okay, this one's wholly subjective, but you should ask yourself -- and discuss with the employee -- your mutual comfort levels with company information being handled, worked on, stored at the employee's home.

We'll be looking, in the weeks ahead, at some of the issues and questions that these issues and questions raise. (Should you equip the employee's home with a dedicated machine and connection for business use only, for instance.)

Until then, let me hear your ideas an insights about sending your employees and your information home to work.

And don't forget that bMighty's bSecure SMB Security On A Budget is now available on-demand.

Check it out here:

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