The shift to remote working: how to navigate as a start-up

Remote working has become the norm for companies of all sizes during these trying times. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a significant rise in remote workers never seen in the business world before.

Even businesses that haven’t had remote workers in any great number are now having to make the transition to support an almost entirely remote workforce.

For most start-ups remote working isn’t exactly a new concept. The start-up scene is scattered with examples of innovative new start-up organisations encouraging working from remotely as they look to find new ways of building a unique company culture, attracting and retaining top talent and achieving unparalleled mobility. However, the rise of remote workers doesn’t come without potential obstacles – especially for start-ups with potentially limited budgets and team members. Having the right employee technology in place, remote-access network capacity and perhaps unsurprisingly, security, are all potential stumbling blocks. Here are three tips for start-ups looking to navigate the main challenges associated with remote working.

Start-ups are leading the way when it comes to mobile and remote working. While large enterprises have long- formed methods of working, and often have legacy processes, start-ups are much more agile, flexible and open to change. For start-ups, remote workers not only lessen the amount of resources spent on securing fixed office space but also boosts employee engagement and productivity. 

In order to keep productivity high, there are common requirements that all remote and mobile workers need. Most importantly, employees need to be equipped with the right technology. In the last month laptop demand has risen sharply in response to a greater demand for remote working, with device manufacturers seeing significant increases in sales. Start-ups need to ensure they are investing in lightweight and portable, yet powerful devices designed to accommodate the remote workforce. Connectivity and performance are critical, so employees can connect with colleagues through web-enabled collaborative tools, preserving collaboration within teams.

Purchasing and managing new devices can be expensive and complex. For start-ups, there are multiple purchasing options which can help to overcome this. PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) refers to an Opex (operational expenditure) subscription-based model that often includes services such as purchasing, configurating, managing, refreshing and retiring devices. This model can help start-ups benefit from new technology, whilst having the ability to scale up and down as needed.

The question many businesses are facing as they add more connected devices and solutions to their network is how will they manage and process the amount of data these devices will create effectively and securely? Start-ups are certainly at an advantage over larger enterprises in that they are often newer companies and have less reliance on legacy infrastructure. However, they still need to have the right technology and systems in the first place. Completely overhauling networks can be time and resource-intensive, especially for start-ups who have limited budgets. “Ripping and replacing” often isn’t an option so they must find another way of being able to cope with increased network capacity demands. The answer? Edge computing offers a viable solution and at the same time creates new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence. 

Probably the most important challenge which comes with remote working is security. The NCSC recently warned of cybercriminal groups exploiting the coronavirus outbreak with sophisticated phishing, malware and ransomware campaigns. Start-ups are prime targets for cybercriminals as they often have weaker security systems than larger enterprises who can afford to invest in protection technologies like strong encryption. According to Verizon, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at start-ups but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves. With the average cyberattack costing over £160,000, almost sixty percent of smaller businesses go out of business within six months of being victimised.

Remote working at scale presents unique cybersecurity challenges that start-ups won’t have come across before. As more devices access potentially sensitive corporate data away from the office, this broadens the threat vector for cybercriminals to compromise networks. With this in mind, security needs to be a continued concern for start-ups, and needs to be reviewed and updated regularly.

Start-ups need to ensure employees are equipped with technology that has robust security features to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks. Devices with facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, reducing the risk of unsolicited login. Other defences such as zero client solutions ensure these devices never retain sensitive information. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system so if a device is lost or stolen, this information remains secure. 

The current global situation has undeniably bought us into a new phase of remote and mobile working. As with any business change, there are number of challenges to tackle, more so if you’re a start-up navigating the current crisis. Employee devices, network availability and cybersecurity are all potential obstacles for getting remote working right, and businesses of all sizes can’t afford to delay in overcoming them.

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