As we near 2021, many business owners and working professionals are reflecting on this past year. 2020 has brought all sorts of challenges, most notable of which is the global pandemic that has changed the way that Americans work and travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in every industry, and managed IT services professionals have had to scramble to help facilitate the unprecedented shift from brick-and-mortar offices to remote work. The mass transition from office-based operations started for many last March, and these are just a few of the challenges that professionals in managed IT services have faced in the remote work era.
New Challenges for Professionals in Managed IT Services
Managing the tech needs of an office is one thing, but addressing security concerns and hardware needs for scattered end users in the middle of a pandemic is another thing entirely. Many professionals in managed IT services have worked closely with their clients to develop an infrastructure that allows their business to carry on as usual while employees work from home. This involves sourcing hardware, introducing programs that allow for file sharing and collaborative computing, and managing new security vulnerabilities.
Transitioning to Remote Work Setups With VPNs
Howard Tech quickly helped clients ramp up and shift gears from in-office setups to remote connectivity so employees could have work functionality while remaining at home. To accomplish this for our different clients, Howard Tech was able to utilize a few different options depending upon current infrastructure. One way is to install VPN (virtual private network) connections which extend a private network across a public network. Basically, a VPN allows end users to send and receive data across shared (or public) networks as if their computers were directly connected to the private office network. A VPN is reliant on a client’s firewall.
Secure Alternatives for Remote Access
Another option was installing SMA (Secure Mobile Access) appliances for remote access. An SMA allows users to use a personal or work computer to access business files securely. An SMA does not rely on a firewall interaction as a VPN solution does, resulting in faster remote connectivity for an end user. Lastly, another alternative option was onboarding a user’s personal machine virtually and installing our HTA agent and ESET security antivirus software. All of these solutions allow end users to have more flexibility to do their jobs safely from home with the same experience of accessing files and data in the office.
Changes in Endpoint Security
Managing endpoint security has become significantly more complex in 2020. With end users situated at home instead of in a centralized office, managed IT professionals have had to develop security solutions that protect users and their data without having the benefit of an office firewall. Howard Tech supported businesses with the implementation of VPNs, multi-factor authentication, and robust company device policies to protect company data and limit vulnerabilities. Specifically, two factoring webmail and the SMAs have added a level of protection for the end users working remotely. Now when people want to access their email via the web or log into their corporate work network, the second ‘prompt’ via Two Factor Authorization (2FA) provides an additional level of security to ensure the proper person is accessing the information. Howard Tech is encouraging clients to implement these added security features especially as remote work continues into the new year.
How Managed IT Services Professionals Address Hardware Shortages
Giving employees the necessary hardware to work from home has been another hurdle that managed IT services professionals and their clients have had to address. Sourcing laptops, headsets, web cameras, monitors, and other essential devices can be much more complicated than usual. Manufacturing shutdowns, shipping bottlenecks, and a surge in demand have contributed to shortages of all kinds of tools, and businesses are competing against individuals, schools, and other companies in a mad dash to get the hardware they need.
Address These Concerns and More With Managed IT Services
Fortunately, businesses working with partners in managed IT services are getting their needs met by experienced professionals. The team at Howard Tech is working hard to keep our clients ready for any technological challenge that comes their way. We’ve worked with our partners to order hardware ahead of time, explore alternative options, and use our technical know-how to solve all kinds of unexpected issues this year. Our sales and procurement team has tapped into multiple vendor partners to obtain necessary equipment and hardware at competitive prices and optimal delivery times. On occasion, Howard Tech has provided loaner equipment to ‘bridge a gap’ if warranty expirations and shipping of replacements didn’t match up. Creative thinking and flexibility became invaluable skills during this year of roller coaster supplies, pricing and shipping expectations. The experts at Howard Tech worked hard in 2020 to provide secure solutions to local businesses in various industries, and we’re looking forward to doing it again in 2021.
Need Technical Support? Choose Howard Tech Advisors.
The team at Howard Tech Advisors is committed to providing managed services and customized IT solutions to our clients in Howard County, Baltimore, Columbia, and Ellicott City. We specialize in managed IT services for small and midsize businesses, particularly those near our office in Elkridge, Maryland. To learn more about our business and our work in the community, contact us at (410) 997-2500 or visit our website. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our service offerings and tech tips.