Enabling Working from Home to be Efficient and Secure
The move to working from home is clearly here to stay for many organisations.
With potentially large numbers of employees working in this way, companies need to ensure that home worker productivity is maintained by providing the right tools, and that IT and the network services used to support home workers are both effective and secure without adding overwhelming complexity.
WFH Security and Remote Access to Corporate Systems
Key to employees being able to work remotely is providing them with reliable, secure access to the company’s corporate network and systems. To facilitate this, we use Blaze SA™ (Secure Access). Blaze SA™ is an in-Cloud Remote Access platform that ensures remote and mobile employees, customers, and partners have anytime, anywhere secure VPN access to corporate network resources and applications. Developed from Pulse Secure’s world leading remote access SA (Secure Access) technology, with Blaze SA™ we have built the most resilient, secure and permanently connected remote access solution for our customers.
With Blaze SA™, SSL sessions enable laptops, smartphones and tablets to securely access an organization’s resources without the cost and complexity of installing, configuring, and maintaining client software on the user device. The temporary VPN connections that SSL browsers establish also eliminate the firewall and network address translation (NAT) issues of traditional IPsec VPN products.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) as required by most, if not all, compliance standards adds an additional layer of security, by providing a 30-second temporary secondary password, which when used in conjunction with a complex primary password, dramatically increases security.
Policy driven access enforcement on resources locks down corporate data as much or as little as the customer requires.
Blaze Networks SA Host Checker performs endpoint checks on hosts before allowing employees to connect to protected resources. Host Checker can check for third party applications, files, process, ports, registry keys, and custom DLLs on hosts. Based on the results of the checks, it can then deny or allow access to protected resources.
From a security viewpoint, wherever possible, Blaze designs Private Networks for companies which avoid intra-company traffic passing through the internet. Ideally this will include connectivity for home offices, and Blaze can provide broadband connections to workers homes at highly competitive rates, creating a direct connection into a company’s private network (and not via the internet).
End-User Support, Uninterrupted
With people working in complete isolation from the business, small problems that can’t be fixed remotely are going to be magnified, even losing multiple days if a device fails altogether. Blaze therefore offers remote support services on a 24x7x365 basis: supporting end users right across the UK, including in remote locations, we are always available when employees have a problem.
Designed around your business’ specific requirements, our remote end user support covers the full spectrum of computer issues from network and connectivity to backup and restoration of data. We are experts at troubleshooting both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems and iOS devices (we have Mac certified support technicians). Blaze can also keep home workers’ computers fully up to date and more secure with our patch management service.
Blaze have particular skills in installing and supporting Microsoft products (Blaze are a Microsoft Gold Partner).
As well as expertise in Microsoft Teams we also have fully qualified Mitel engineers across three tiers of support for companies who wish to equip home workers with Unified Communications phone systems.
Keeping Employees Communicating with Unified Communications
While use of simple divert of an employee’s DDI to their mobile phone is often the first “go-to” solution for remote working, this does not provide the integration and easy access to features which many corporate phone systems provide.
Features that are often sacrificed or degraded include:
- Ease of access to directory services
- Call transfer
- Call / Video conferencing
- Call distribution
- Integration with IT systems (CRM)
- Presence (availability signalling)
- Choice of number displayed for outbound calls (a privacy issue when employees are using their own mobile or home phones).
It is becoming clear that remote working as the norm must be sustainable over a long period of time. Compromises which impact productivity (such as loss of functionality listed above) should be avoided so that the business remains efficient whilst employees are remote working.
We provide a Unified Communications (UC) solution using Mitel’s UC platform, MiVoice Connect. When used in connection with Blaze Secure Access (Blaze SA) remote workers can connect to the Mitel system exactly the same as being in the office.
As an alternate to the above we also offer Microsoft Teams Phones System. This enables businesses to leverage their existing Microsoft 365 investments whilst integrating telephone features into Microsoft Teams.
Getting the Right Setup for Homeworking
In the move to working from home, many people experience logistical challenges from their home equipment setups. We therefore provide a simple way for companies to get any or all of the complete equipment package to home workers. This includes business-grade laptops and the accessories which can make such a difference both to ergonomic well-being and personal productivity: mice, keyboards, webcams, WiFi signal boosters, and monitors. To make life simple for businesses, Blaze can supply, image, deliver, and manage laptops and other devices directly to home workers.
A new computer offers a high degree of futureproofing – not just in terms of warranties and new, reliable hardware, but because they are likely to have the best compatibility with the latest applications, and to remain compatible for much longer. Full compatibility with the latest operating systems will also allow your machines to take advantage of core security features – such as the dynamic encryption tool BitLocker in Windows 10 Pro – making them more secure than older hardware at a time when cyber crime is on the rise.
Being at home need not mean working in isolation. Just as when in the office, employees will need to work together on tasks, sharing files and documents and collaborating on them in real time. There has been a boom in this functionality in recent years – and Microsoft 365 offers various ways of working like this, including through Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive. Blaze can advise on and provide a full range of Microsoft 365 for Business services.
Microsoft Teams, Enhanced for Outbound Voice Calling
The core Microsoft Teams product is provided within most Microsoft Office 365 Business licences and supports Video, Audio Calls, Conference Meetings, presence indication, screen sharing, Instant messaging and collaboration on files.
In addition to the core Teams functionality, Blaze customers can benefit from a Microsoft ExpressRoute connection from the Blaze Private Core Network directly into Microsoft’s datacentres. This delivers an improved experience for all Office 365 and Teams users, including those home workers whose home offices are connected to the Blaze network. Employees benefit from lower latency, and reliable, direct private connection directly into Microsoft’s networks rather connecting over the internet. This is particularly important to provide Quality of Assurance for audio and video calls, as well as providing a higher level of security.
Blaze’s services for Microsoft Teams can also provide Cloud PBX functionality which provides phone system functionality in your Microsoft Cloud environment. As an additional service, while Teams normally limits voice calls to be made between company employees on the same Teams system, Blaze’s Microsoft Teams Phone System customers also have the option of making outbound calls to any number, world-wide.
This is possible because Blaze has leveraged our Blaze Private Core Network established interconnects with leading telecommunication providers (incorporating appropriate security measures), enabling Teams to make calls outside the business – to any telephone number.
Connectivity for Home Offices
The imperfect connections which many home workers use has become increasingly apparent in recent times. Aside from data speeds (often a problem in itself), the quality of calls is dependent on the quality of connection: Speed and latency is critical for voice, yet we find congestion and slow speeds on consumer-grade broadband from pay TV companies, “value” suppliers and the like.
Where this is a problem (particularly for key employee roles) a Blaze private broadband connection should be considered. Blaze is able to provide fast, business-grade broadband which connects an employee’s home to your company’s Private Network, while maintaining full security including use of Internal Segmentation Firewalls.
WiFi routers can be provided for employee’s homes with WiFi segmentation, and where your Blaze Private Network is based on SD-WAN we are able to provide companies with exceptional agility: any access policy or other changes can be done on your behalf in a highly controlled, secure, and rapid manner across all your connected home offices on your network. We also monitor connections constantly, often spotting problems before they have to be reported.
From the employee’s perspective, their WiFi can be segmented into business use and home use zones. These separate zones are not accessible to each other and resources are allocated so that the business use segment cannot be impacted by peaks in usage within the home use zone (for example, when the kids are streaming films). Additional traffic shaping, time of day policies and filtering policies can also be applied.
Other members of the household can be given access to a generous data rate and will likely see the quality of their connection improve (particularly for video and voice communications). Both employees and their family members benefit from connecting to the internet through a very secure system which will automatically screen out the majority of threats which might otherwise be encountered on the public internet.
Informal Homeworkers v Home Offices
Many companies will wish to distinguish between employees who are either in fully mobile roles (perhaps sales people or field support staff), those who may work from home occasionally (or for unpredictable lengths of time), and those who work at home for the majority of their working hours. For the latter group, a business is likely to have formal requirements for the setup of a home office at the employee’s residence.
From an IT and Network perspective home offices may justify a different level of investment, particularly around the provision of broadband, WiFi routers & firewalls, and Unified Communications equipment.
Whatever the case – Informal or Home Office – security of corporate data and of the company network needs to be designed into the services provided to employees.
Blaze is extremely well-placed to help you think through what is needed and to help put your home working plans
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In doing so, Blaze have access to a vast array of products that allow us to overcome our customers’ business challenges and requirements.
Blaze is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Tier 1 Microsoft CSP Partner. We specialise in Microsoft 365 (including Teams and Teams Phone System), in Microsoft On-Premise and Hosted / Cloud Infrastructure, and enable businesses to continue their digital evolution by fully exploiting the latest capabilities of Microsoft products as they evolve.
Blaze is a Managed Secure Solutions Provider (MSSP) Advanced Partner of Fortinet, a global industry leader in the supply of secure networking infrastructure systems. Fortinet are our technology partner of choice when building customer-specific Private SD-WANs. A Leader in several of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, Fortinet equipment combines excellent performance with advanced security features, superb manageability, and excellent Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) per Mbps.
Veeam is a highly respected leader in cloud-based backup and recovery software, data protection and advanced monitoring in the data centre. We have combined Veeam technology with our highly secure Blaze Cloud™ infrastructure to produce BlazeVault™, a highly dependable, secure, and resource-efficient solution which will keep downtime to an absolute minimum in the event of data loss in operational systems or ransomware attack.
Bitdefender is a global cybersecurity leader protecting over 500 million systems through OEM technology partnerships, including with many global IT companies. Tests show it is unmatched in Attack Prevention. Based on Bitdefender technology, Blaze Endpoint Protection hardens endpoints to prevent malware and malicious attacks, and it provides the investigation and remediation capabilities needed to dynamically respond to security incidents when they evade protection controls.
Cisco has long been the world’s pre-eminent network systems vendor, particularly for technology used at the core of major corporate networks and the internet. In addition to using Cisco equipment within our customers’ private networks, Blaze incorporates Cisco technology into the heart of our own network operations; the Blaze Private Core Network is built utilising Enterprise-class CISCO core routing equipment.