The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a monumental increase in remote work, with most companies embracing flexible location policies. As per Global Workplace Analytics, 25-30% of the global workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2023. However, managing hybrid workforces spanning both office and home settings creates complex IT infrastructure and security demands. From provisioning secure access mechanisms to centralizing data protection controls, the decentralization of work locations makes it considerably harder to maintain consistent technological experiences. This necessitates robust managed IT and partnering with dedicated managed IT services providers to extend expert IT support across dispersed teams. Managed service providers (MSPs) specialize in designing comprehensive networked frameworks interweaving cloud and on-prem components to enable uniform remote work capabilities.
Challenges of Managing Remote Workforces
Enabling secure, functional remote access introduces myriad IT management difficulties including:
- Myriad security vulnerabilities stemming from employees using personal devices on home wireless networks. These threats encompass increased malware/phishing risks, insecure Wi-Fi protocols enabling snooping by nearby devices, lack of control over device-level protections, and more.
- Intermittent home internet connectivity and bandwidth limitations depending on ISPs and geography, introducing latency in communication/collaboration apps and hindering productivity.
- Hindered communication and information scattering with teams not co-located. This makes collaborating via meetings, file sharing and discussions more cumbersome.
- Decreased visibility into remote employee daily activity and output levels without in-office line-of-sight supervision.
The Role of Managed IT Services in Remote Work Support
To overcome remote work obstacles, MSPs provide specialized assistance including:
- Designing and implementing zero-trust network access to enable employees to securely interface with company data and apps via identity and context-based access controls.
- Consulting on cloud infrastructure enhancements for improving application accessibility and performance for distributed users, encompassing solutions like desktop virtualization and SaaS collaboration tools.
- Streamlining collaboration through deploying unified communication/productivity software like Microsoft 365 and configuring consistency in user experiences by standardizing presence, chat, document co-authoring and video-based touchpoints across the workforce.
- Employing remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to track health metrics across employee devices and resolve small issues before they cascade into productivity losses or system downtime.
Security Measures for Remote Work Environments
With users accessing company networks from home devices and Wi-Fi connections, attack surfaces expand rapidly. MSPs implement layered controls to minimize risks including:
- Unified endpoint management (UEM) to remotely apply security policies encompassing threat detection, patch rollouts, drive encryption, access rules and wiping lost/stolen devices across user hardware.
- MFA mechanisms for restricting unauthorized system logins by requiring secondary credentials on top of passwords to verify identities.
- Managed SIEM implementation for centralized visibility into security events across on-prem and cloud environments with automated analysis of anomalies and alerts for potential threats.
- Simulation-based social engineering testing and security awareness education to strengthen human firewalls by reinforcing cyber hygiene best practices for remote workers to combat phishing.
Connectivity and Network Optimization
High-quality connectivity constitutes the lifeline enabling remote employees to stay engaged. MSP offerings around network optimization include:
- ISP procurement assistance for home internet meeting enterprise reliability, speed and service level agreement standards. MSPs leverage existing provider relationships to source cost-effective packages on clients’ behalf.
- Integrating site-to-site VPN infrastructure between home networks and corporate data centers so remote workers can directly, securely interface with on-prem apps and resources.
- Traffic monitoring and quality of service (QoS) configuration via SD-WAN prioritization to route mission-critical traffic along optimal pathways to ensure UC tools don’t lag during high-bandwidth video meetings.
Collaboration Tools and Platforms Management
Business communication clarity plays a key role in hybrid workforce efficacy. MSPs streamline this through solutions including:
- Provisioning best-of-breed real-time collaboration apps encompassing cloud telephony, video conferencing, team chat/channels and file sharing solutions (e.g. Microsoft Teams + SharePoint or Cisco WebEx + Box).
- Drive employee adoption by customizing deployment to company workflows and processes via bots/automation integration and providing training resources guiding workers in effectively applying tools.
- Ensure tools smoothly interoperate with existing Line-of-Business platforms like CRM and project management via API integration bridging core business systems with collaboration apps.
Proactive Monitoring and Issue Resolution
By establishing remote management telemetry across employee devices, MSPs rapidly mitigate small issues before they escalate and reduce IT tickets through automation. Capabilities include:
- RMM dashboard with device/system telemetry spanning availability, utilization and performance metrics to track infrastructure health.
- Policy-driven automation for self-healing actions like removing unused software that slows systems, updating outdated applications, rolling back problematic device driver installs and more.
- Direct-to-tech remote control facilitation across managed endpoints beefing up help desk efficiency in troubleshooting by providing direct device access.
Employee Productivity and Performance
Insights into remote worker productivity enable better goal management and work continuity through areas like:
- Aggregated metrics tracking user uptime, application/system usage, asset geolocation and other variables via RMM-delving into productivity impediments.
- Cloud-hosted project collaboration tools synced with corporate billing/client data to simplify tracking billable activity in distributed environments.
- Guiding managers on maintaining team cohesion/engagement by standardizing daily check-ins/virtual watercooler discussions and centralizing communication streams.
Ensuring Compliance in Remote Work Environments
From financial regulations around customer data to healthcare rules governing medical data privacy, remote work arrangements must uphold a range of industry compliance standards based on the business vertical which MSPs can facilitate through:
- Configuring access restrictions encompassing multi-factor authentication mechanisms for accessing covered data types, remote wiping of noncompliant/lost devices, and keeping data segregated from personal usage.
- Hardening cloud collaboration platforms via encryption, external sharing restrictions, retention rules and access logging where regulated data is exchanged like HIPAA-protected files.
- Assisting compliance teams in tailoring security policies like acceptable usage guidelines explicitly for hybrid work landscapes assessing gaps.
Challenges and Considerations in Implementing Managed IT Services for Remote Work
Despite immense value, MSP transitions also pose adoption challenges including:
- Many consumer devices don’t support advanced monitoring or management capabilities inherently. To maximize visibility, companies may need to acquire corporate-furnished hardware like laptops with standard configurations.
- Based on existing processes, transitioning workflows to cloud collaboration tools could necessitate redesigning deeply ingrained legacy procedures to enable more nimble information exchange.
- Field teams with highly specialized on-the-go needs may require custom-crafted mobile device management schemes adapting to their non-stationary work environments.
Upfront planning and regularly conferring with providers can help decision-makers predict and tackle these hurdles.
Future Trends in Managed IT Services for Remote Work
As remote work matures, MSPs will integrate innovations like:
- AI-enhanced cybersecurity via machine learning algorithms autonomously detecting and responding to endpoint threats without manual analysis while self-optimizing protections tailored to company risk patterns.
- Advanced software-defined perimeter implementations fully concealing on-premises networks from external visibility while using context factors for dynamic access control-minimizing attack surfaces.
- AR/VR spaces enabling seamless collaborative visualization of 3D prototypes and immersive virtual working environments promoting free-flowing innovation across distributed teams via specialized headsets.
Remote work is accelerating into mainstream adoption across every industry, necessitating managed services to connect distributed teams while allowing IT teams to centralize control. MSPs alleviate the patchwork complexity of managing vast hybrid workforces and empower secure collaboration plus visibility continuity by unifying cloud and on-prem infrastructure under cohesive policy and access governance. By partnering with seasoned providers like Company ABC offering bespoke integration across best-of-breed technology stacks, organizations can foster productivity and agility across virtualized workforces to drive growth in the new digital-first economy.