The holiday season may not be relaxing for the most zealous shoppers, but it's no picnic for IT pros either. Many IT pros can expect to be on call during the holiday season — a necessary evil, as one in three IT pros have experienced a severe network outage during the break.
Some common problems persist this time of year: Many support teams deal with lost passwords, while even more IT professionals deal with troubleshooting applications that perform poorly, and more than half of IT pros in the past suggested that they struggle with the inability to access the network remotely. As an IT pro, supporting network access through your holiday probably can't be avoided altogether, but you can still lessen the amount of time you'll spend on call. Here's how:
1. Private Networks in Public Hotspots
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a proven method for securing remote access, used (not surprisingly) among laptop users. And according to Lisa Phifer, President of Core Competence Inc., a consulting firm specializing in the safe use of emerging Internet technologies, it absolutely will keep their data secure.
"A VPN ... ensures that only authorized users gain access to resources they should have access to," Phifer says. "It prevents traffic sent over insecure home networks or public hotspots from being eavesdropped upon. And it gives users a way to detect and avoid falling for fake servers and messages — notably in public hotspots."
That's an emphasis on public. With respect to traveling employees, VPNs especially help prevent data leakage in hotel, airport or airplane hotspots — where Wi-Fi networks are the most congested.
In bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments, a self-enrollment portal can install a VPN profile and automatically configure this network on the new device. When it comes to changing time zones, this around-the-clock security detail ensures data is secure no matter where employees are working over the holidays.
2. Accessing the Same Tools With a Sleigh Load of New Presents
The holidays often bring an influx of newly gifted devices that employees want to use for work. So, when providing them remote access to the tools they're accustomed to using on-site, new BYOD devices can pose the greatest challenge.
"Perhaps the biggest impact [to company security] is caused by the new 'I got it for Christmas' devices that workers decide they want to activate," Phifer explains. "That creates a flood of new consumer devices that may pose security risks, so organizations may need to keep an eye out for unauthorized devices and apps to make sure nothing slips in under the radar at holiday time."
For onboarding new devices and retrieving lost passwords during the holidays, pay attention to the employees who plan on working remotely before the holiday season to ensure their software is up to date and they know all of their passwords before they split for vacation.
3. Help Employees Help Themselves, but Carefully
A self-help tool can improve your return on investment (ROI) all year long; the more employees can help themselves, the more your desk can focus on keeping the organization agile despite the expected changes in traffic over the next couple of months. They're especially helpful over the holidays, when demand is high but staff is low: "Whatever employees can do for themselves," according to Phifer, "whether it's simple password resets or enrolling a new BYOD with a mobile-device manager, will keep [them] more productive and happy."
But be sure they're appropriate for the services to which you give them access, specifically if they're handling sensitive data. Typical BI and analytics applications, according to Computerworld, aren't exclusive to power users but can still be wasteful if not given to the department that needs them the most — sales, for instance.
Investing in these tools can ultimately help you look forward to the new year, the top resolution for which is spending less time dealing with network problems.
Don't just sit by the phone and troubleshoot network access problems. Plan to weather them through the upcoming new year by assigning VPNs, preparing for each new device and investing in self-help tools your users need the most.