Secure Collaboration for Today’s Hybrid Workplace
The outbreak of COVID-19 forced an unprecedented shift to working from home (WFH). In most cases, the move happened on an accelerated timetable that left many organizations without sufficient time to create a solid strategy or plan.
Practically overnight, the number of U.S. employees working from home surged from 17% to 44%.1 This large scale change helped prove that the existing trend towards a hybrid workplace isn’t just viable but can also provide organizations and their employees with additional benefits such as personal flexibility and reduced travel. In fact, Bloomberg reports that a new study finds the WFH boom will lift productivity in the U.S. economy by 5% in 2021, mostly because of savings in commuting time.2
But despite the successes of the great WFH experiment, a downside emerged: data security.
During the first few months of the pandemic, harried IT departments shuttled employees onto their networks using virtual private network (VPN) connections. Many employees were forced to use their personal laptops and devices. If collaboration systems were not already in place, they were either hastily adopted or the number of user licenses on existing solutions were dramatically increased.
Collaboration Space Challenges
This created two main problems.
The first was cost. The dramatic spike in collaboration-platform licenses was not only unexpected but also unsustainable for many businesses over the long term.
The second was data security. Most organizations did not have a robust VPN infrastructure designed to securely support a fully remote workforce. This left employees to use their home networks—often insecure Wi-Fi connections that other household members or even neighbors can access. These home networks are a far cry from typical corporate networks that have physical and virtual devices that mitigate cybersecurity attacks. These home networks also make it impossible to implement the enterprise’s detection and response plan should a breach occur. Beyond these challenges, many companies struggled with remote patching and software updates, an important step in data security.
For IT leadership, this situation created an ugly chicken-and-egg scenario in which the cost constraints of additional collaboration licenses negatively impacted needed investment in security. Additionally, companies quickly learned the limitations of certain collaboration platforms for their particular industries. For example, the healthcare industry is subject to much tighter constraints around Protected Health Information (PHI) as required by regulatory compliance laws such as the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
And while 100% remote work is starting to trend down as restrictions are lifted and employees can return to the office, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. A 2020 study by McKinsey of nine leading economies on three continents that found 20% of jobs overall could be done remotely three to five days a week, without loss of efficiency.3 In another survey, more than half (55%) of employees said they’d like to work remotely three days a week, while 82% of executives expect their companies will continue to have some level of remote work.4
In an increasingly hybrid work world, organizations will need to invest the time to find the proper mix of effective collaboration tools, affordability, and data security. IT leaders should explore collaboration solutions that are cloud-based for scale and operational efficiency and include built-in security features that don’t require a wholesale rethinking of their networks.
Considerations to Include When Choosing a Collaboration Solution
- How many people will need to access the collaboration platform?
- Does the platform offer volume licensing discounts?
- Does the platform allow multiple users to take advantage of a single license?
Admin-Level Security Features
- Does the platform enable role-based security that assigns different permission levels?
- Does the platform allow for administrators to allow or block remote viewing of shared content by participants?
- How are users authenticated? Can anyone join a session without email validation?
In-Session Security Features
- Does the platform have protected guest access that allows a guest client device to connect without granting access to the organization’s network?
- Does the platform provide full visibility of all participants and enable disconnection of suspect or inappropriate participants?
- Can the collaboration session be locked or ended quickly and easily?
Media Handling and Encryption
- Does shared content stay on the network or can it be captured and stored outside of the network?
- What level of data encryption is enabled? Is data encryption end-to-end?
- Does the platform allow for secure peer-to-peer collaboration?
Data Storage and Privacy
- Is user content or personal information stored on the collaboration platform?
- Is the platform PCI compliant?
- Does the platform meet GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) requirements?
With brighter days ahead, IT leaders can take the lessons of the past year and build a solid strategy moving forward to support a hybrid workforce with data security squarely in the center.
Learn more about secure and seamless collaboration with the Intel Unite® platform, click here.