So, you or one of your employees or co-workers is working remotely or on a hybrid schedule. You’ve already figured out the basics of team collaboration and communication through online platforms like Slack and Zoom. Your company’s remote workers are producing excellent work and following the right timelines and guidelines. Everything seems to be going well… except that you haven’t considered remote work data protection.
Whether your team works off or on-site, data protection is essential for keeping important company files and other data safe and accessible. Yet, too many companies don’t have a remote work data protection strategy in place. In this article, we will discuss how to implement remote work data protection so that data can be accessed, stored, and secured while offsite. First, we will establish what is data protection and why remote workers need data protection. Then, we will discuss best practices for data protection while working remotely. Finally, we will list 3 of the best data protection solutions for remote teams that keep your business’ data accessible and safe from loss while offsite.
What is Data Protection?
Data protection refers to the process of safeguarding your data from loss, corruption, or unauthorized access. Basically, it ensures that your data is secure and accessible to only those who need it. It also involves verifying that your data is in compliance with legal or regulatory requirements such as GDPR that serve to keep customer information and data private and secure.
Data protection is so important because it ensures that the important data your business needs to keep running remains accessible by employees. Data loss and corruption can result in confusion, delays, and lost business opportunities. Furthermore, data that is stolen or otherwise compromised can put your business at risk of legal action, especially if the stolen data included private customer information. Given these reasons, it is vital that every employee at your business knows how to protect data.
Remote Work and Data Protection
While remote work offers a multitude of benefits, it does make it more difficult to manage data protection and security. Data protection and IT specialists have less oversight and ability to monitor data storage and transfer when workers are located offsite. Remote workers may be using an insecure internet connection, obsolete software, or faulty hardware. Since remote workers are in charge of their own devices, it is up to them to perform updates, install protective software, and utilize best practices when accessing data, without on-site help from IT.
Additionally, your business cannot be store and access data using only a local, on-site system. This means employees may host data in multiple, less secure locations. This makes data loss and theft more likely. To put it simply, best data protection practices are harder to implement when employees work from different locations and use different models and devices. Nevertheless, data protection remains just as important for remote workers as it is for those who work on-site. How, then, can companies and individuals protect their data while working remotely?
Best Practices for Remote Data Protection
Fortunately, there are fairly easy solutions to secure and protect data for remote workers. Some of these solutions involve instruction or services by an IT or data protection specialist, while others remote workers can implement themselves. As such, it is a good idea to share this list with both your company’s decision-makers and any workers who work full- or part-time remotely.
Provide a VPN
The best way to keep your business’ data secure is to provide a VPN (virtual private network) to offsite employees. A VPN encrypts a remote worker’s connection to the business’ servers. This both allows remote employees to access the same data as on-site employees and makes it more difficult for attackers to access that data. If an attacker doesn’t have access to the corporate VPN, then they can’t access the data. Likewise, make sure that all communications among employees and between employees’ devices and corporate data are encrypted so they cannot easily be accessed by attackers.
Use separate accounts or devices for work
According to the Identity Management Institute, only 42% of companies provide or officially approve remote workers’ devices. This makes it much harder to implement effective data protection policies companywide. If at all possible, your company should provide the devices remote workers need to do their work, such as a work laptop or phone. This way, companies can ensure that workers are using protected devices that have all the necessary features for accessing and securing data.
If it’s not possible to provide a device for every remote employee, employees can mitigate risk by using separate logins or accounts for work vs personal access. For example, you can create a separate user account on your computer for work or use a different Google Chrome profile to separate your browsers. This makes it less likely that business data will get lost or mixed with personal data. It also makes your work data more secure so that if your device is stolen, it is less likely that the thief will be able to access your work accounts.
Host cybersecurity training
Remote workers need to know what your company’s cybersecurity and data protection policies are in order to implement them correctly. As such, every remote worker should be provided with cybersecurity training before they start working off-site. This training can include in-person or virtual meetings, training videos, and documentation of policies. You should always conclude training with a signed document stating that the employee understands company policy. If you want to be extra careful, then you can also design and send a test to employees to make sure they have retained the necessary information from the training.
Use secure cloud storage
The easiest way to access offsite data is by hosting it on the cloud. However, to ensure that this data cannot be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, you need to use secure cloud storage and data storage. For a cloud storage platform to be secure, it should include secure login options such as 2FA (2-factor authentication) and SSO (single sign-on), end-to-end encryption, privacy settings for files (including password-protection), and the ability for company admins to monitor file access and sharing for all employees. You should also make sure that your chosen platform is compliant with security regulations in your industry. Whatever platforms you use to host and share files should also be committed to data protection.
Even within a company, not every employee should have access to every piece of data all the time. The simplest way to limit access is to classify data into different categories. From there, limits can be set to each category in terms of who can access it and when it can be accessed. This may seem like a lot of work, but fortunately, there is data classification software that can do the job for you once you put in the necessary variables for each classification category. In fact, a lot of enterprise software, including cloud storage platforms and risk management technology, includes automatic data classification, so you never have to do the heavy lifting. All you have to do is make sure this software is installed on every employee’s device.
Install antivirus and anti-malware software
All employee devices need to be protected from viruses and malware that could corrupt or steal data. It is best that every employee’s device uses the same antivirus software so that coverage remains consistent between devices. To ensure this, your business should buy this software on an admin account or in bulk and then send out an access code or link to each device. If you are a remote worker and your company has not done this, then you should still talk to your IT or data security specialist to determine which antivirus software is best for your device.
Use strong passwords
Full data protection involves a number of accounts and platforms for each employee. As such, employees need to have strong (and different) passwords for each account. The best way to manage this is to require employees to either use a secure SSO system, such as SAML or Okta, or 2FA. If neither of these options is available, then employees can use a secure password manager to generate and keep track of multiple passwords.
Top Data Protection Solutions for Remote Workers
The above data protection strategies necessitate access to multiple data protection solutions. Some solutions can help with storing and managing data, while others focus on data recovery. Ultimately, there is no one single solution that covers every single element of effective data protection or security. However, the following software provides extensive data protection coverage for remote workers. For more information on enterprise software solutions that you can use to make remote work efficient and secure, check out our article on the best software for enterprises in 2022.
Vanta is the ideal tool for automating compliance with data protection and security requirements. Specifically, Vanta can monitor compliance with SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR and notify you of any issues. Admins can customize Vanta according to their company’s needs, then send the Vanta agent with a to-do list to everyone. This checklist can include cybersecurity training videos, policy documentation, and other important forms to ensure compliance. Meanwhile, when the Vanta agent is installed, it can monitor devices for security compliance and report on any issues. Since you can package and send Vanta remotely, it is the perfect remote work data protection solution for legal compliance.
Barracuda is one of the best-known data protection solutions for businesses. The company offers a wide-range of solutions that they can deploy on the cloud for remote workers, including:
- Antimalware software
- Email encryption
- Cloud-to-cloud backup
- Data compliance software
Barracuda works best with Microsoft 365 applications and storage, so we recommended it for businesses that primarily use those applications. Still, if you’re a Microsoft-user, Barracuda offers the most comprehensive package of data protection and security solutions.
Storagepipe provides cloud-based infrastructure, data protection, and recovery. It pairs with the systems you already use such as IBM, Veeam, Microsoft 365, and VMware. Like Barracuda, Storagepipe offers many services, including:
- Cloud-to-cloud and multi-platform backup
- Data archiving
- Data recovery
- Private cloud infrastructure
- Threat prevention
- Cybersecurity training
You can select which offered services you need and which you already have covered. Overall, Storagepipe offers an ideal solution for remote businesses that includes a robust data protection system.