Why virtual offices make sense for a virtual workforce
Across the country, businesses and government agencies are hosting virtual career fairs and summits and talking about the effects of the virtual workforce. In the face of skills shortages and the pandemic’s shift to remote work, the public and private sectors are addressing the fact that virtual labor is part of the long-term future.
How to enable the workforce to be productive and secure is a major concern, given that new employees may not be familiar with best practices in secure computing and remote working, or that Long-time employees may be working with remote devices that do not meet required security standards or using devices that they have not recently updated.
One solution to this obstacle is the virtual desktop, such as Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which can be a simple way to deploy and manage desktop and application virtualization through a service running in the cloud. Using a virtual desktop solution can separate the user from application and corporate data, thereby protecting access to the corporate network and sensitive data.
If your organization has managed to weather the pandemic so far, without major attacks on remote devices, you may wonder what security improvements a more robust virtual desktop or cloud workspace deployment offers.
Here are several considerations:
- Reduced ransomware attack surface. Local devices are the gateway to a vector of ransomware infiltrating the network. Given staff shortages, it is difficult for IT teams to manage, maintain, and update local devices, creating increased vulnerability to threats. Using virtual desktops with a properly updated and configured cloud environment will reduce the attack surface. This will reduce the risk of ransomware using a local device to encrypt or launch an attack.
- Better protection of critical data. Cyber ââsecurity professionals have all seen major data breaches start on a single device, with a phishing error or too occasional opening and / or sending of a file that was not properly encrypted. The solution separates critical applications and data from the local device, or endpoint. Virtual desktops make this possible by separating the user from sensitive data and implementing access control policies so that critical data is properly secured and accessible only to those who really need it.
- Stricter access controls. Virtual desktops are a perfect illustration of how a strong access management control system in place can limit an organization’s exposure to security threats. With physical devices, it is difficult to protect the content on the device if an attacker physically takes control of the device. In virtual desktop environments, access management controls determine who has access and who does not. Physical access to an endpoint is no problem, as sensitive business data is now stored virtually in the cloud, not on a local device.
- Designed to handle on a large scale. IT and security professionals benefit from the ease of management of group virtual desktops. Staff can save hours of tedious and time-consuming tasks like patching. Security updates can be administered easily and centrally on hundreds of machines in just a few hours with the right technologies.
- Fast backup and restore. Through automation, IT staff can back up virtual desktops for continued data protection. In the event of data loss, IT can easily recreate virtual desktops and restore data and applications.
Operate security remotely
Whether the virtual office is for a longer-term remote / virtual worker or one who has just entered the virtual / hybrid workforce, the security benefits of virtual offices will be more effective if the user experience (UX) is no headache.
A transparent and non-intrusive UX is a major factor in the adoption of virtual desktop security controls. In fact, a satisfying UX is essential in convincing a new employee that virtual desktops are the preferred approach for their job. If IT can explain the added value and benefits from a security and business perspective, as well as the benefits to end users, adoption will be successful. The employee can see that a virtual office allows them to work from anywhere, which gives them more flexibility, while giving them access, via the cloud, to their applications and data now stored separately from their device.
Virtual offices are particularly beneficial for seasonal and other temporary workers, or contractors who need to switch between customer sites. They can use their personal devices without adding threats to the network since all access controls are already in place.
Two other practices should also occur to promote a secure hybrid / remote working environment:
- Business leaders and influencers / managers within the company must accept the need to have the best access controls through virtual desktops. They will send the message that virtualization is for everyone’s benefit if all workers follow IT security guidelines.
- These messages should be clear and expectations set on processes such as data exchange, collaboration tools, and worst-case scenarios: warnings that downloading malicious applications (shadow IT) poses a threat.
A recent Gallup poll found that the majority (56%) of American workers were “always” or “sometimes” working remotely earlier this year. With 44% of those who work remotely saying they would still prefer it even after pandemic the restrictions are lifted, it is clear that the work of any era is there to tell.
Virtualization and virtual desktops are quickly becoming a standard in the IT environment. By using best practices in automation, access control and storage, and the protection of critical data, IT security professionals can make virtual desktops a powerful tool for end-user productivity.