Consulting with a Conscience™

A cruciallogics blog

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Written by Nim Nadarajah
on July 20, 2020

Microsoft CEO Sathya Nadella recently remarked, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly changed the way that workforces are conducting day-to-day tasks. At CrucialLogics, we pride ourselves on our extensive planning and strategic development prior to any deployment we support. However, planning was one luxury that was unavailable as enterprises across the globe scrambled to respond to the social distancing and health and safety protocols necessary to protect the workforce in recent months.

A shift to remote work took place without the ability to plan a security infrastructure to support such a wide scale shift. And yet, in a poll we recently conducted, 43% of respondents were confident in their execution so far (though they could also see the benefit of making some improvements).

Somehow, against all odds, the fact is that as a global community, we pulled this off. And today we have the opportunity to take a breath, establish a plan for the future, and roll it out in a manner that protects our data and security priorities within this brave new world.

Traditional vs. Modern Workforce
We’ve taken our laptops home. Where previously an enterprise would only have a handful of remote workers, the balance has shifted. The majority of employees are operating outside the network, presenting the challenge of multiple entry points into your secure environment.

It’s for this reason that taking a “Zero Trust Approach” is prudent. From a technical perspective, the focus is on identity verification, regardless of where the individual is coming from. With an emphasis on cloud infrastructure, enterprises can manage devices and control access to maximize security. We make the assumption that a breach will occur, and design the environment to protect against it.

The vision shifts from a single point being secured, to a broader secure environment that covers both on-premises and remote access. Keep in mind: Security breaches are also a breach of compliance regulations- an eventuality that is best avoided.

Network Optimization and Security
The ideal scenario in a modern workspace is that everyone would have a remote endpoint, and the endpoint would be properly managed through various tools. However, many companies would still require a physical network presence in order to access legacy applications.

Thankfully, there is a way to scale within a reasonable budget. It is possible to optimize and segment the network for enhanced performance. The network should be based on the least privileged user, and use a split-tunnel model. Legacy data still goes through the network, and anything that is a cloud based application would go through the home office for the user. This means that we are able to balance performance and security.

By leveraging the investment in Microsoft, we can look at the walls within the existing network and streamline the end user experience. We can maintain the good habits for collaboration while enhancing security. This presents the opportunity for financial savings as well. Firewalls can be downgraded, saving licensing and hardware costs.

Microsoft Teams: The New Normal
If any single program has taken the spotlight in recent months, it’s Microsoft Teams. The platform has enabled users to interact and collaborate in the new remote environment, seamlessly sharing and connecting with confidence.

The typical change management that would be necessary to deploy something like Teams has been thrown out the window. But in the rush to get the program up and running in answer to the pandemic, we skipped some of the end user training. Teams replaces the phone system, the chat platform, a file server, and a collaboration engine for workloads. That’s a lot to transition.

From an end-user perspective, the task at hand is to inform employees of how to best utilize the platform. Just because you’re using it doesn’t mean you’re using it correctly. The best way to harness the security functionality is to utilize the granular configurations and construct an environment that is equipped to prevent the specific breaches relevant to your organization.

Modern Communication: Cloud-Based VoIP
During our time at home, Team users have become accustomed to the computer-based telephone interaction. As the workforce returns to the office, it’s preferable to leverage this experience to continue to entrench the use of Teams’ VoIP technology versus the traditional office telephone system. This could very well be among the largest change management tasks that will need to be implemented.

Best Practices for Teams Deployment
To maximize the security functionality of Teams, it’s recommended to put policies in place regarding the following actions:

- Meeting creation
- Live events
- Messaging
- External and guest access
- App permission
- App setup

These policies can be implemented within global settings, and then further tailored to a user-specific configuration. The granular settings to secure the organization should be thoroughly considered moving forward. And while this does sound like a labour-intensive IT undertaking, there are ways to leverage the “out-of-the-box” standard settings, making it ultimately easy to deploy and maintain.

Strategic vision and expert execution
Admittedly, the future of the workforce remains uncertain. As the COVID pandemic waxes and wanes, and health and safety measures relax and potentially restrict again, it’s best to be prepared. Over the last few months, your team has quickly adapted, and learned “on the ground” about your practical needs. You now understand where there is room for improvement, and today there is an opportunity to use those lessons to your advantage.

If your organization is interested in further securing your remote and on-premises network environments, reach out to our team today.


 

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