If COVID-19 has put terms like Zoom, VPN, SANS and Bitdefender in your daily lexicon, you’re probably a new citizen in the remote, digital workplace world. Relax. You are not alone.

At Human eSources, we’ve been a “remote-working” organization since our founding 23 years ago. But if working remote is new for you, your company or team, it may still be a challenge getting all this technology set up to work for you, rather than the other way around.

In this blog I am going to share the solutions the we choose to use, many of which have been in place for years. This is not intended as an advertisement for those products and companies, just examples of what works for us.

One of the first steps is surveying your team to determine each member’s internet bandwidth. This will give you an idea of each team member’s ability to receive, work on and send large files and to use video services like Zoom. There are a variety of easy-to-use, free to nearly free tools available to test bandwidth; one of the most popular is Speedtest from Ookla.

Beyond this essential step, a great second step is putting a virtual private network (VPN) solution in place for all your team members to protect against hackers. I happen to use ExpressVPN, which has been good, but there are many options. If you are new to VPNs, you can learn more about the best options at CNET.

On the hardware side of things, I would suggest that you have your team members use a separate router installed behind the router provided by their internet provider. This allows your team to work on a separate network than their home network and avoids mixing personal and work documents and information. This is not a crucial step, but one to consider if confidentiality is a key aspect of your business.

If space permits, a desktop with a webcam and two screens to work from as part of their home environment is great. For some, a notebook with a built-in camera will be more appropriate depending on the location and available space.

If you haven’t already modified your security policies, you will want to do that now. A great resource we use is SANS. Visit their website to find a number of templates that are extremely helpful.

If you don’t have a security training program and need something, we happen to use Knowbe4, but there are alternative options available.

Lastly, I am sure every organization already has virus protection software, but also very important are management tools that allow you to see that all of your staff and their devices are appropriately protect. We presently use Bitdefender to give us that insight.

The communication needs of your organization changes with distance. Adopting tools and procedures to keep your team engaged and connected is critical. Employing tools like Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, or Slack (all of which we use) are highly beneficial in keeping team members in touch. Several of these collaboration software providers are offering their software for free during the crisis.

Securing data and deciding where to store files can be a challenge. Choices include storing files locally, on a server back at the office, or in the cloud. We use secure cloud storage services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive that allow team members to share large and small files seamlessly, wherever they are.

As for productivity software, MS Office 365 or Google G Suite are great cloud-based solutions. Both options available for low monthly subscriptions per user, along with cloud storage for your team, and administrator controls for you.

The days of Windows and Apple operating systems and software not playing together nicely are largely gone. Ensuring your team has the latest operating system software on their machines should mitigate most compatibility issues between the two systems, and working in the appropriate version of MS Office for their PC or Apple should mitigate the rest.

The good news is that there are a plethora of remote work tools available to easily make the shift to a remote working environment. And, thanks to the evolution in the remote working software and service segment, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to get it up and running.

Most medical experts tell us that we are likely to be socially distancing for a while. Further, many remote working experts believe we’re at a tipping point where the majority of businesses are learning that a remote workforce is productive and happy, especially in these uncertain times.

So, the investment of time and money in making your new remote team will be worth it. I will be covering the other half of this issue in my next blog, “Managing your team remotely”.