Guest Column | June 3, 2020

How MSPs Can Help SMBs Successfully Work From Home

A conversation with Logically CEO Mike Cowles

Work From Home

Mike Cowles was recently named CEO of Logically, succeeding company co-founder Christopher Claudio who will remain on the Board of Directors and continue to serve the company in a business development role. Cowles was most recently the CEO of The Rainmaker Group and began his career as a technology consultant with Andersen Consulting (Accenture). Cowles previously served as SVP and General Manager of U.S. Financial Services for SAP and also spent 14 years in various leadership roles with Ariba, most recently as SVP and General Manager of North America. In this Q&A Cowles shares his thoughts as to MSPs can do now to help their clients manage the transition to work from home.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people work, including the technology landscape?

Cowles: Technology is constantly changing. Over the last 10 years, we’ve transitioned into a workforce that is remote and mobile. Even before COVID-19 hit, employees could work from anywhere due to cloud-based SaaS applications. Now that we’re living and working in a national pandemic, utilizing technology is necessary to maintain productivity and business operations.

Q: What best practices should MSPs be sharing with clients that are allowing employees to work from home?

Cowles: MSPs should be advising their clients to – at a minimum – do these five things:

  1. Encourage their employees to create a dedicated workspace. Ensure that you have a space in your home that you can work from productively. When possible, avoid working from your couch or bed. Having your workspace allows you to stay focused during the workday and (hopefully) allows you to disconnect at the end of the day.
  2. When possible, use company-issued devices. Company-issued devices should be utilized whenever possible as they are monitored and patched regularly by your organization’s IT department. Additionally, these devices allow for better technical and remote support as your IT team is familiar with the device.
  3. Move to the cloud. If you haven’t already moved some of your applications and data to the cloud, you should consider doing so. Cloud-based applications such as Office 365 allow users to access files and data from any device making it easy to work from anywhere.
  4. Have a secure remote connection. Security is a top concern for every organization. It’s important to ensure you have a secure remote connection for your users to access when working outside the office network by setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). In doing so, you minimize the risk of a breach or attack. Now that much of the workforce is working from home, it is even more critical to utilize a VPN solution.
  5. Use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires an additional method of accessing your account aside from your password. Authentication apps are available for users to utilize on their mobile devices to ensure they are truly the ones trying to access their accounts. Setting up MFA is one of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of hacking attempts to your users’ email accounts. With the workforce being so much more spread out, digital security is now more important than ever, it is no longer a given that physical security can be relied on as a safety measure.

Q: Please give a real-life example of how a company can achieve work from home success by moving to the cloud.

Cowles: A great example is leveraging a Windows terminal server in the cloud. The terminal server is set up by your organization’s IT department in a secure manner and is regularly maintained. When employees are working from home, they can access their files and applications on the terminal server exactly as they would in the office. Additionally, utilizing Office 365 and other cloud-based applications allow your employees to collaborate and communicate seamlessly while working from home.

Q: What's the importance of employee security awareness training, including Zoom or other third-party video-conferencing applications?

Cowles: Conducting regular security training with your employees is the best way to educate and empower your team. The training should review your organization’s security policies and why these policies are critical to the success of your security strategy. Best practices for security should be applied to any applications, not just videoconferencing. Zoom offers a feature of setting a password requirement to join the meeting. Requiring a password will minimize attempts from unknown attendees to hack into your meetings.

Q: What is the biggest challenge MSPs face during this time? How do you solve it?

Cowles: MSPs are facing the same challenges as their clients. What we’ve outlined above is a map of how Logically has been meeting these same issues. Logically makes heavy use of cloud-based applications and leverages a robust set of VPNs to allow employees to work from almost any location. In the past, this has allowed us to bring in the best talent and provide the best possible service regardless of location. In recent months, these already tried and true methods have allowed us to decentralize or workforce with minimal disruption to staff or services provided.