Earlier in this series, The Cloud Wave: An SMB Imperative, we highlighted five areas of your operation at risk if you maintain the status quo and took a closer look into the first of those, supply chain challenges. Here we’ll discuss the impacts and dangers a remote workforce presents to an SMB’s technology infrastructure — and how cloud hosting can minimize those risks. What is the current state of remote work, and what does the fall of the office have to do with the rise of cloud technology?
The state of work
Forty-five percent of full-time US employees worked from home either all or part of the time in Gallup’s September 2021 update of its monthly employment trends. And 91% of them want to keep it that way — so much so that one-third of employees said they’d look for another job if their employer eliminated remote work. The reality is that digital tools such as Excel, Google Docs, video conferencing, virtual whiteboarding, and chat channels like Slack or Workspace have made a worker’s presence in offices less essential. At the same time, though, those digital tools have created or magnified significant technology challenges for employers. We’ve outlined three of those challenges below.
Remote workers can be a bit messy
There’s mounting evidence that remote workers aren’t as neat as they should be when it comes to risky online behavior. A recent survey from Tessian uncovered some facts that are sure to keep management up at night:
- Almost 40% indicated their cybersecurity behavior at home differs from what they practice at the office.
- More than a third admitted to picking up bad cybersecurity practices and using security workarounds while working at home.
- A majority of remote workers allow household members to access corporate devices for personal use, and 82% of workers admit to reusing passwords.
Remote workers are also likely to use their personal devices for work, and they may also run mobile app versions of applications like Microsoft Teams or Zoom that can increase the risk that company data will pass through an insecure environment. Another study found that half of employees have downloaded or installed software not approved by their IT department.
The VPN ain’t what is used to be
Pre-pandemic, many SMBs relied on VPNs to provide remote access to a subsection of their workforce — typically purchasing enough VPN capacity to serve about 10% of their employees at any one time. Once everyone began working from home, these companies were hard-pressed to buy, install, and configure the additional VPN concentrators needed to keep newly remote workers working. The result? Slow, intermittent connections and frustrated, unproductive workers.
In fact, executives in a poll conducted by Tanium in June 2020 named overtaxed VPNs as the second-biggest security challenge they faced as they moved to more distributed workforces. (The number one challenge was identifying new computing devices on the network, as remote workers logged on with their personal devices. More on this below.)
An endpoint explosion
The number of network endpoints has tripled during the pandemic — and more endpoints mean more risk. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cyberattacks are launched through network endpoints. One remote work security report surveyed security leaders and found that 79% pointed to network access as a top concern for securing a remote workforce.
There’s good reason for their concern. A report from KuppingerCole shows that globally in 2020, endpoints connected to the internet experienced 1.5 attacks per minute! Another study by the Ponemon Institute found that 68% of organizations have experienced one or more endpoint attacks that successfully compromised data and/or their IT infrastructure.
How cloud can help
With an ever-increasing number of network endpoints, slow and over-taxed VPNs, and lax employee security habits, SMBs face a digital crisis. Fortunately, it’s a crisis that can be mitigated through the deployment of cloud technologies.
For example, hosting the company’s ERP and other business productivity tools in the cloud minimizes, or even eliminates, the demand on VPN resources. Advanced, cloud-based endpoint protection tools along with multi-factor authentication provide increased security to remote connections. Today’s SMBs are wise to embrace the technology tools that support a remote workforce. Cloud applications provide remote workers with secure, fast, and reliable access to business applications while providing for essential security measures. If you’re considering a move to the cloud, reach out to a member of our cloud consulting team. And stay tuned for our next post in this series where we’ll explore the third risk in maintaining a technology status quo — data security.