Data Protection for Remote Work: What MSPs Must Know

Managed services providers (MSPs) already know the value of robust data protection. However, when the coronavirus pandemic struck this year, a sudden shift to remote work likely had most businesses scrambling to understand how to best maintain backups to avoid data loss.

This guide will consider the implications that home working has on data protection, including the security vulnerabilities associated with home networks and the impracticalities of maintaining local-only backups. This article will also recommend special precautions that remote working MSPs and IT providers supporting remote working customers can take to help ensure adequate protection of customer data.

Why does data need to be protected?

Most companies have access to and retain key pieces of sensitive information that they should protect. This can include employee records, customer details, and transactions. Sensitive or personal data can be valuable to criminals, especially if they can use it for further identity theft.

Common data businesses might store includes:

  • Addresses
  • Emails
  • Telephone numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Bank and credit card details
  • Health information

How do you protect business data?

If some or all of your employees and customers are working from home, you’ll need to consider the impact on data security. While many employees are working remotely now due to the pandemic, any number of reasons for working remotely will require you to adapt your data protections. This is partially because home-working employees are likely using a home network to connect to the internet, which will not have the same rigorous security measures in place as a corporate network.

During non-COVID times, employees may also work from alternative spaces (like cafes) and connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. They may also use personal devices without adequate built-in security. These possibilities require companies to implement additional security measures to account for remote working environments and the vulnerabilities they create.

Business owners, employees, and company leaders should accept equal responsibility and accountability for data protection. It’s crucial that employees are educated on data security and that they understand their own data protection responsibilities. In order to strengthen data security when working remotely, companies should implement certain practices and procedures to strengthen data security. Here are some examples of measures you can take to protect data when your team works from home:

1. ESTABLISH A CYBERSECURITY POLICY

Even if every employee understands the importance of data security, some may not be fully aware of which data they should protect—or how they should protect it. A comprehensive cybersecurity policy can help ensure your employees fully understand their data security responsibilities so nothing slips through the cracks. An established and documented policy will also allow you to better enforce data security measures when appropriate.

To make things as straightforward for everyone as possible, the policy should provide details of all the various security protocols employees must comply with. It should also state how the business will support them in achieving compliance (i.e., with tools, resources, and training). For maximum effectiveness, you should have every employee read and sign the cybersecurity policy.

2. HELP ENSURE INTERNET CONNECTIONS ARE SECURE

Unsecure Wi-Fi networks open users and businesses to security risks. This is a risk with remote workers because at home, their Wi-Fi may not have the latest security updates or may use old hardware. If they’re travelling, they could be using unsecured free Wi-Fi at conferences, hotels, or cafes (and remember, just because you’re on a password protected free Wi-Fi doesn’t mean others on the same network can’t eavesdrop). A virtual private network (VPN) can help keep employees safe in this situation by encrypting traffic so prying eyes can’t see data sent to and from the employee’s device.

3. STRONG PASSWORDS AND MULTIFACTOR AUTHENTICATION

Weak passwords provide cybercriminals with an easy route into your accounts and systems. If employees reuse passwords across personal and business accounts or simply use easy-to-guess passwords, this can put your company at risk of being breached. In a remote working arrangement, employees are more likely to become lazy with their password practices, which is why it’s important to create a clear and strict password policy for employees. This policy should require passwords to be sufficiently complex and unique.

Another data protection measure you should consider is multifactor authentication. This method confirms a user’s identity in two or more ways, usually by requiring another piece of identifying information on top of a user’s ID and password. For example, a PIN can be sent to a user’s cell phone to help confirm their identity.

4. FIREWALL, ANTIVIRUS, AND ANTIMALWARE

Firewall, antivirus, and antimalware solutions provide additional layers of protection for systems and accounts. To protect data under remote working conditions, users should enable firewalls at home, antivirus, and antimalware. Additionally, it’s worthwhile having mobile device management in place so you can remotely wipe or lock devices if they’re lost or stolen.

Handling backups when working remotely

Despite all the measures MSPs can take to protect data, there’s still always a chance of a savvy cybercriminal finding a new vulnerability to exploit. In the event a breach is successful, backups are critical to preventing data loss. What many companies often overlook, however, is that backups are also complicated by remote working practices. When working in physical office spaces, some companies rely on local backups. If your company is working remotely, this can be a time-consuming task.

Moreover, if remote working becomes a permanent arrangement, keeping local-only backups is unlikely to be cost-effective, because your company will have to pay to either rent or buy the physical space where the data center is located. This is just one of the reasons why many organizations have chosen to adopt a direct-to-cloud server backup solution when working remotely. These remote backup services allow your technicians to manage and maintain backups from anywhere with an internet connection, making it possible to achieve data protection with the convenience and flexibility of working from home.

Other than the remote working possibilities that remote backups open up, there are numerous other benefits associated with using a private cloud backup or remote backup service. These include:

1. LEVERAGING EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE

Cloud-first backup can be efficient and reduce costs because it can integrate with your existing infrastructure. You won’t have to buy new hardware to protect your data as they’ll be encrypted and stored at one of your vendor’s data centers.

2. RELIABILITY

Cloud backup solutions offer maximum protection and can help provide a reliable copy of data to prevent data loss. By moving backups to an off-site data center, you also avoid the risk of your local backups being damaged or lost due to a natural disaster or other unexpected event at your data center.

3. FILE TRANSFER SECURITY

Cloud backup solutions will encrypt files before they are transmitted, helping significantly reduce the chance of cybercriminals infiltrating files while in transit.

4. IMPROVE COMPLIANCE SAFEGUARDS

Meeting compliance standards may require you to store data in a particular location. If you have clients in multiple regions, a cloud backup provider can offer data storage in other countries. Plus, you can improve security standards by having your data stored in multiple data centers, adding redundancy.

Working remotely with SolarWinds Backup

Ensuring that data is backed up and stored appropriately when your team is working from home is a crucial part of protecting data. If you’re looking for a cloud backup tool that can support remote teams, look no further than SolarWinds® Backup.

SolarWinds Backup was designed specifically for MSPs and can help protect your servers, virtual servers, and critical applications from a single cloud-based console. The system’s at-a-glance status is built to help you spend less time monitoring and more time managing your business. This tool also features a unique LocalSpeedVault that can help you deliver against tight RTOs without the complexity or expense of appliance-based solutions. SolarWinds Backup offers support for VMwareHyper-V, Exchange, Microsoft-SQL, SharePoint, and virtual disaster recovery.

It’s important to remember that although remote work can create additional security risks, it doesn’t have to jeopardize data security. Once remote workers are trained appropriately and cybersecurity procedures are implemented, they can quickly adapt and commit to safe remote practices. This helps ensure that everyone in the organization can feel confident in their approach to data protection and security, even when working from home. An enterprise-grade cloud server backup tool like SolarWinds Backup can help you achieve this.

SolarWinds Backup also provides backup for workstations, documents, and Microsoft 365. With fast data transfers and multiple recovery methods available, SolarWinds Backup makes backup processes significantly easier and less time-consuming—even when you’re not in the office. A 30-day free trial of SolarWinds Backup is available.

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