Protecting the remote workforce will be enterprises’ prime focus in 2021, according to a recent survey of IT leaders.
IT teams struggled in the early days of the pandemic, rushing to meet the urgent need for widespread remote access. Connecting users often came at the expense of other factors, such as security, performance, and management.
To select a suitable remote access solution for your business, you need to think about a variety of factors. We’ve talked to several industry professionals to get their insight on the topic.
Adam Greenwood-Byrne, CEO, RealVNC
As the world abruptly shifted to a predominantly online working culture, remote access has become an even more essential part of a business’ overall strategy. Making the right decision when it comes to your remote access software provider can be tricky, but there are a few main things to consider when taking your pick.
Prioritize security – In the wrong hands, remote access can spell disaster for a business. Ensuring your vendor has robust security practices, supports compliance with industry standards, and is transparent with their policies should be a given.
Ease of use – It’s unlikely everyone using the software within your organization is going to be an IT expert, so keep usability in mind when testing your options. If the software is too complex, it could lead to low adoption from users.
Compatibility – Many large enterprises still use several legacy systems as part of their infrastructure, along with multiple newer operating systems across departments. Establish exactly which systems you need to support and make certain that your software of choice works seamlessly across all of them.
Most vendors offer a free trial, so make sure to take full advantage of this and test all functionalities important to your use case with different prospective users.
Morey Haber, CTO & CISO, BeyondTrust
Selecting a remote access solution for your business requires a few critical business decisions and use cases as part of the selection process.
Here is a list of questions which might be useful when choosing a remote access solution:
- Who will be the primary users: help desk, employees, vendors, contractors, auditors, etc.?
- Will the solution be hosted in the cloud, in the end user’s data center or DMZ, or be present in an isolated or air gapped environment?
- What platforms are supported? Unix, Linux, Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Raspberry PI, etc.?
- What level of security and encryption does your business expect? i.e. FIPS 140-2?
- Can the system integrate with my other tools for help desk tickets, security event information manager, etc.?
- Is there a need to record and playback sessions for training, forensics, or for compliance and auditing?
- Does the solution support native protocols like RDP, SSH, VNC, and HTTP and proprietary protocols for high security situations?
- Can sessions allow for multiple users to view a single live session?
- Does the solution support chat, file sharing, require an agent, etc.?
While this represents a short list, I recommend a short RFP style checklist for all clients looking for a remote access vendor to support their unique requirements. It is important to note that while there are truly dozens of vendors that provide this technology, implementations vary greatly, and these will be deciding factors for most organizations.
Jerry Hsieh, Senior Director of Security and Compliance, Splashtop
Security features: Enterprises should look for remote access that offers security features, such as SSO, 2/MFA and device authentication that are in line with Enterprise security policies, so that there are no exceptions.
Compliance: It is not enough to be compliant with ISO, SOC2, PCI, GDPR, and SCC, etc. The solution must be capable of supporting an enterprise’s compliance program. And it should be able to help the enterprise to remediate existing deficiencies.
Provider security posture: Being compliant is just not enough. Is the provider ZTA ready? Challenge every request to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validating security configurations. Providers’ security operations should adopt a CI/CD concept, seeking continuous improvement.
Scalability and availability: To ensure there are no service outages, use auto-scaling, high-availability and self-healing capabilities.
Also, the best remote-access solutions should:
- Have an easy deployment and be compatible with the existing infrastructure. Any required changes to an existing enterprise infrastructure should be minimal to avoid any violation of security policy and operations.
- Integrate with ITSM, SIEM, EDR and MDR solutions.
- Provide consistent remote-access experience across all operating systems and devices.
- Encrypt data in-transit and at-rest.
- Be capable of robust reporting, monitoring and alerts.
- Have a flexible licensing model. Offer on-demand subscription and pay-as-you-go services.
- Have a support, customer service and deployment program.
Raghu Kulkarni, President and CEO, RemotePC
With the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changing the normal office environments, companies and employees needing to access their critical software, documents and information while working from home became an immediate need.
Remote access was and still is an important part of the solution, and businesses needed to pivot quickly to accommodate employees working from home. Within that time period, businesses needed to select a full featured, security focused solution that met their needs.
Deployment, ease of use, mobile access, security, and scalability are key features businesses need to look for when considering a remote access solution.
Another important aspect is affordability, in today’s world, many businesses are struggling and have budget constraints, but still require remote access. That is why doing your due diligence is also very critical to not only meeting the demands of your WFH staff but also offer cost relief to businesses that are already struggling.
Working from home, working from anywhere is no longer a fad, and remote workers need the best of breed solutions to stay productive outside of the office. Enabling your employees to leverage a remote access solution is a go-to need for any business remote tool kit.
Adam Lotz, Senior Director, Desktop and Applications Group, Citrix
Once viewed as a short-term solution to the global pandemic, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay. IT leaders need to focus on the best ways to support new flexible work locations – desktop virtualization, remote PC access, or DaaS technologies are powerful tools to consider.
In their haste to enable work from home, many IT departments sent employees away from the office with the hardware off their desks and armed them with VPN solutions they could use to connect to the systems and applications they needed to keep business running. In doing so, they created a new set of performance concerns and security risks to manage – many while working remotely themselves.
This is where app and desktop virtualization technologies can help, by presenting users with a managed desktop experience, accessible from any device. Delivered from the cloud, these solutions are easy to deploy and make it possible to:
- Provide a consistent experience, in or out of the office
- Allow employees to pick up right where they left off while changing their work location
- Grant secure access to just the right set of applications or data through a web browser or lightweight client, regardless of where the data is hosted
- Enable IT to monitor end-user activities and assess user behavior and patterns and performance
With the right technology in place, IT can deliver full access to apps, content and services employees need to get work done – wherever it needs to happen – and ensure their corporate information and devices remain safe.
Marc Lueck, CISO EMEA, Zscaler
Traditional remote access solutions connect a remote person to a network. In a world where staff have become used to working from anywhere, this needs to be reconsidered. It only adds complexity and security risks. Organizations shouldn’t think about remote access in a siloed way, but reimagine their network, application, and security infrastructure.
A more architecturally savvy approach for connecting an employee to an application is through a trusted broker in the form of a cloud security provider, as it no longer depends on source and destination. In a model of Zero Trust Network Access, the conversation is about the minimal requirement to connect a person to a dedicated application by establishing a trusted session.
Organizations must ask “who needs access to which applications?” and start the categorization of the user base with the help of an identity provider. The next question must be ‘where is that application located?’ to provide a secure path to the desired destination. These destinations can be in the data center or in multicloud-environments.
To meet the user’s expectations for fast access, the system must connect the user to the application via the shortest possible route, without latency. This is where zero trust network access can help to guide the user to the relevant application based on rules and context.
Karl Markgraf, COO and CIO, TeamViewer
Identifying the right remote access solution for your business starts by understanding the needs of your workforce and the specifics of the working environment. Then creating criteria that will ensure that your solution has the right capabilities, and core functionality to deliver sustainable success.
The next step must be security – which means choosing a solution that encrypts your data end-to-end, as well as providing features like two-factor-authentication or conditional access to limit the access to data.
Combined with security screens and log files to audit the connections, you will be safe in the knowledge that your data and employees will not be put at risk.
Step two is performance. To put it simply, if your remote access connection lags, user experience and productivity is lost. Choose a remote access solution that can support the increase in performance needed with remote workforce.
Finally, to navigate the complexity of 2021 and the uncertainty of a global pandemic, you must stay agile. Your remote access solution must therefore be able compatible with other tools and scale as you do, particularly as lockdowns continue and the remote workforce seems here today.
By following these simple steps, you can choose the remote access solution for your business, regardless of where your employees are located.
Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer, Kaseya
With the current work from anywhere environment, we are seeing even stronger demand for remote management software that is unified in its ability to support the entire IT infrastructure of workstations, servers, routers, firewalls, VoIP, IoT, storage, mobile and cloud.
Businesses need a solution that is complete to manage everything, automated for ultimate efficiency and priced right to deliver exceptional value as IT teams must continue to contend with the demands to do more with fewer resources.
IT leaders should invest in integrated remote management solutions that allow technicians to manage their entire IT infrastructure from one console. This allows technicians to reclaim the “space between,” or the valuable time IT professionals waste moving between disparate applications and processes, and ensures a more efficient allocation of internal resources.
Integrated remote management solutions also allow routine processes like software patch management to be automated more seamlessly, which saves time and makes it easier for businesses to stay compliant and secure.
Because the number of cyberattacks on remote workforces will only continue to grow, IT leaders should also prioritize remote management solutions with robust security controls like multifactor authentication as well as solutions that are easily integrated with the organization’s existing security platforms like antivirus and antimalware software.
Jay Ryerse, VP of Cybersecurity Initiatives, ConnectWise
When selecting a remote access solution for your organization, it’s important to find a solution that is fast, reliable and secure so your users can get back to work quickly, reducing downtime. The following criteria are crucial to consider when selecting a remote access solution for your business.
Instant connectivity: This is important so your users can connect easily from any device (whether that’s the desktop, Android, iOS or Windows) with an internet connection.
Secure access: With secure access being the main priority, find a solution that gives you control over which IT teams are able to have remote access to certain networks within the business. Understand if the solution provides audit logs of session activity, as this can help to track down security breaches and data misuse.
You’ll be able to see timestamps of users who have gained access as well as any files being transferred. Other security measures that need to be considered are two-factor authentication, session timeouts if a user is idle for too long and access to video recordings of each remote engagement to give you transparency about the data accessed.
Flexible solution: Save costs and only pay for what your business needs require. If you’re an SMB, you may not need superior support features that an enterprise may need.
Mathivanan Venkatachalam, VP, ManageEngine
Until recently, remote work was a secondary consideration for most organizations. Today, many now find it is their primary work mode and will be the mainstay moving forward. With everybody accessing everything remotely, remote access platform has become the backbone of any digitally collaborative workspace.
There are three aspects you need to consider before selecting a remote access solution:
- Security: Will the solution access any sensitive information? Is it secure and encrypted end to end? Does the solution comply with regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR?
- Seamlessness: Does the solution bridge the digital divide between your corporate network and your remote workforce? Will it empower your technicians to collaborate with your team and resolve issues without any glitches?
- Usefulness: What feature set does the solution boast? Features such as file transfer, wake on LAN, remote shutdown, and voice/video chat are a must while considering any remote control solution.
Some solutions can overwhelm you with an encyclopedic array of features, some of which you will use daily and many you will never use. Remember, remote access management is central to remote work success, so go for a solution that makes your life easier by focusing on the tasks you actually perform and stripping out irrelevant features.