Analysis: The 'naked' laptop

Sep 12, 2008 9:24 AM
Filed under Security

Naked home workers may be the stuff of fantasy but flexible working is now a corporate reality, according to Tim Dickinson country manager A/NZ Kaseya.

Ready availability of broadband combined with the reliability and speed of wireless communications has transformed home and remote working.

However, flexible working is also proving to be a major business risk. Organisations struggle to impose adequate data storage, back-up and security policies for remote workers.

With increasing volumes of valuable data at risk through storage on laptops and home PCs, the flexible working nirvana is losing its shine. It’s the home worker’s laptop, which is rarely backed up and secured, that is truly naked.

Organisations are increasingly creating flexible contracts for workers, allowing home working one or two days per week. Customer facing employees are now in constant communication with head office irrespective of location.

In an environment promoting improved work and lifestyle balance, the flexibility offered by reliable remote working is transforming the workplace.

No longer chained to the desk, home workers are free to choose the attire, location and time for work – giving rise to the notion of the naked home worker!

While offering many clear benefits, ad hoc policies for remote working also creates significant corporate risks.

After years of investment in data back up and security, organisations are now victim to vital company data leaving the organisation unsecured, unprotected and un-backed up.

More often than not organisations are delivering laptops and VPN access with no more than generic LAN-based policies for regular back ups, security and data synchronisation.

The result is intermittent local backups at best, a tendency to override data synchronisation with the corporate network to save time and sporadic virus/security checks.

As a result, vital corporate information is being left exposed. It is often only shared with other workers via email, undermining management policies and challenging expensive compliance strategies.

More critically however, any damage or theft of these remote devices will result in employee downtime and complete data loss while vital documents and information – from new business propositions to customer correspondence – may be lost for good.

So how can organisations protect the growing volume of data now located outside the safe confines of the corporate IT infrastructure?

Larger organisations with deep pockets are imposing complete control by combining VPN access with automatic security updates, back up and synchronisation whenever a remote machine logs onto the corporate network.

Further safeguards are imposed with often severely restricted access to corporate applications when outside the network.

However, even tightly defined policies can cause problems. By only allowing restricted access to corporate applications and significantly reducing the facilities available on portable devices, organisations are running into problems with knowledge workers who are simply not able to work effectively.

In addition, synchronisation and updated backups/security upgrades are only conducted when the user is connected to the corporate network because the majority of tools automating these processes are LAN based.

The only way organisations can truly impose control over the remote workforce and protect data outside the corporate network is to adopt web-based technology that provides monitoring and support irrespective of location across every wired and wireless Internet connection.

By extending internet-based monitoring and support of devices from within the IT infrastructure to every remote device organisations can regain control over their flexible workers.

Combining real time security downloads with automated back-ups transforms the safety and reliability of the remote working model.

Indeed, even if an organisation opts not to enforce automation, real time monitoring ensures visibility whether or not employees are following back up and security procedures remotely.

Using such a model data can either be streamed to an off site repository, or backed up onto a local device controlled remotely from within the corporate business, while security scans and updates can be scheduled and enforced should a machine be off-line at the scheduled time.

Snapshots of the entire machine taken at regular intervals ensure that should failure occur, the device can be remotely rebuilt and reinstalled within minutes, transforming productivity.

With ever growing demand for flexible working policies that embrace home working, hot-desking and the use of satellite offices, the pyjama wearing employee is a growing breed. But if they are to continue to deliver corporate value, organisations have got to recognise the dangers posed by unsecured data and unprotected machines.

Today, too many in-house and outsourced IT teams are veering from imposing excessive controls that constrain productivity to no control, leading to remote data anarchy.

Unless this risk is addressed, organisations will begin to rapidly rethink the value of remote working. It is only by leveraging web-based tools that organisations can achieve the remote monitoring and automated back up and security required to cost effectively bring the remote workforce back into the controlled environment of the corporate infrastructure.
 
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