How to Set Up a Remote Office: Your Top 4 Questions Answered

Remote Office Infrastructure

With many companies transitioning from the traditional in-office workforce to remote, there are several questions around how to keep users connected and their data secure, which is why we are here to help. We have teamed up with KJ Burke, Solution Architect Manager at CDW, to answer the top 4 questions Canadians are asking about enabling their workforce virtually and securely.   

What services do my users need to connect to from their remote office?

As we make the shift from traditional, in-office to a more modern and remote workforce, there are certain considerations and areas of your organizational infrastructure that may be at risk of being overloaded. To determine the current state of your infrastructure, you need to identify which services your users require and what the networking path is that they will use to access those services.

  • For services that remain in your data centres such as mail services, file services and on-premises applications, VPN connectivity and capacity will be important.
  • For cloud-based services that are primarily accessed via high speed connections from the office to the cloud provider, it will be important to look at edge devices and ensure that licensing and capacity is available to service users entering from online instead.

Though many customers are looking at procuring laptops to enable users to work from home, adding licenses for remote access and SSO services are also great options to help enable your teams.

Another option is through virtual workspaces like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) services and Citrix. VDI can either come in the form of cloud native VDI services like Windows Virtual Desktop and Amazon WorkSpaces, or Cloud IaaS by leveraging workloads managed in one of the public clouds or on a solution like VMC on AWS. Customers that have already invested in VDI can take advantage of growing the existing VDI infrastructure, but this will require capital investment and physical setup in the data centre.

Next, there are a host of collaboration tools that provide essential ways for users to share files, connect and socialize. While there is typically no change to the tools as a result of a work from home strategy, there will be an increase in consumption levels to prepare for. Video conferencing tools like Cisco WebEx, Zoom and Microsoft Teams all act as a way for teams to get together virtually and continue to engage with each other through real time messaging. You can also check out this blog for more information on the collaboration tools available.

What can I do about capacity issues in my environment?

In many cases, you will be swapping out high speed connections from the office, to the data centre or cloud for home internet connections. As a starting point, this will put additional stress on edge VPN services, security appliances, traffic analyzers, load balancing services and VDI infrastructure. Sometimes adapting to this change is as simple as a license upgrade, but you will need to look at the utilization of these systems and plan for the sudden influx of users. Like laptop procurement, procuring additional hardware to resolve these bottlenecks may be challenging. One alternative would be leveraging cloud services to redirect specific types of traffic through the cloud and reduce the demand on the physical infrastructure at the edge of your data centre. Another option is to deploy virtual appliances on premises and traffic can be spread across them to help reduce the load on edge services.

Many manufacturers are offering ready to order VDI solutions to help with the procurement timelines. For instance, HPE, Dell EMC and Cisco all have server bundles ready to go. Similarly, there are several storage partners that are ready to help our customers, namely NetApp, Pure Storage and HPE.

Many collaboration services are also offering extended free trials of their software or free licenses to help with sudden increased demand. Citrix and VMware both have offers to help new and existing customers grow licensing to meet the new levels of use for virtual workspaces.

What can I do to help safeguard data and services when so much is changing so rapidly?

During times of significant change, bad actors will use the confusion and flurry of changes to find fresh weaknesses in our security systems.

One way to combat this is by securing your users at time of login. Single Sign On (SSO) and secure landing pages for corporate applications are both great ways to improve the overall security of working from home and Microsoft, Okta and Centrify all have great SSO solutions. If your organization has not adopted multi-factor authentication (MFA) yet, it is another great way of securing your users.  MFA provides an additional check for security which significantly adds to your security footprint. Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, FireEye and Gemalto all offer MFA solutions, many of which have also extended their trials or reduced pricing to help customers adopt or grow the size of their MFA footprint to meet additional demands.

VDI, Citrix and secure application landing pages are also great tools to enable bring your own device solutions to access business services in a secure manner. If you are unable to procure or image your users’ laptops, securing a virtual workspace can allow you to provide access to business services in a locked down manner, which helps to prevent unauthorized access. By better controlling the sign on process with SSO and adding an additional security check with MFA, you are providing additional layers of protection for your organization.

How do I back up and secure my data?

With your users potentially using laptops imaged by the business, or virtual workspaces, or maybe even BYOD computers and mobile devices, having plans in place to protect data should be top of mind.

Cloud services like OneDrive and SharePoint work well and have native integration with tools like MS Teams if you are using Office 365. Google Drive can offer similar functionality if you are using G-Suite.

For users that are less connected and don’t have cloud shares or access to on premises file servers, endpoint backup solutions may be the best option to their data safeguard data. Veeam and Commvault have endpoint backup options that you can leverage to make sure that data being generated is also protected.

To conclude, enabling your users to work from home can be challenging, but there are hosts of tools at your disposal to help users stay productive and secure while working through this current challenge. We have the expertise to scope, design and deliver these solutions quickly for our customers, and are happy to help as well.

Contact our experts today to learn more about our design, deploy and manage services and product offerings geared to meeting your remote office needs.