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Recent severe weather highlights need for secure remote working contingencies

BeCrypt : 21 January, 2010  (Special Report)
Ben Ross of BeCrypt explains the benefits of a simple and effective home working policy using bootable secure USB drives enabling home PC equipment to be used as "dumb" terminals of the company network
The recent high levels of snowfall across the UK have highlighted a degree of unpreparedness across a number of areas.

The government and many local authorities have been criticised for being unprepared, allowing stocks of grit and salt to dwindle to dangerously low levels. There have also been many calls for answers as to why many roads were left untreated and unploughed.

But whether it be transport issues or absenteeism, businesses are bearing the brunt of the fallout. The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that during the recent disruption 10% of the UK's workforce was unable to get into the office, with an impact on the economy of up to £0.5bn.

However, many employees have taken to working from home to counteract this disruption, highlighting employers' need to provide secure access not just to email and documents but also to the entire corporate network as part of an overall business continuity strategy.

Of course remote working is not a new concept. Since the government published the Flexible Working Regulations in 2002, flexible working is now an acceptable part of office life, with businesses appreciating the productivity increases and better work-life balance for staff.

It does, however create a number of logistical issues for businesses, not least, how to give employees the opportunity to work remotely and access vital information whilst protecting the corporate network from viruses and unwanted intrusions, as well as complying with data protection legislation. Nowadays, this doesn't need to be cost-prohibitive for businesses, for example a secure, bootable USB stick allowing remote access to the network from unmanaged PCs can be given to employees, rather than company laptops.

Providing employees with a secure remote access solution via a bootable USB stick for use, say, on their home PC, means that businesses can be sure that employees' access to the network complies with its information assurance policy. This means that data and applications are protected, and only accessed and used in a secure manner. It also ensures that 'corporate' data does not leak out onto numerous unmanaged home PCs.

An efficient remote-working policy also provides a business continuity strategy. If there is disruption, an organisation with a remote-working strategy already in place will suffer the least disruption and loss in terms of man-hours, that those without would face.

Remote-working solutions will need to be reviewed at least annually, to ensure compliance with the latest data regulations and company policies. Employees will also need to be regularly updated and, if necessary, retrained in new company data handling and access policies.

There are also a number of potential spin-off benefits from adopting a remote working policy in this manner. Not least of which is the ability to free up obsolete PCs to be used as dumb terminals for hot-desk use.

Once the foundations of a remote access policy are in place, it can cushion the affects of unforeseen events, like the recent snow.
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