In the last six years working remotely grew a staggering 73 percent. One of four U.S. employees works remotely at least some of the time and that doesn’t include people who work remotely because they travel regularly. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, blogged, “One day offices will be a thing of the past.” Until then, though, security issues with working remotely need to be ironed out.
Yet another major trend is universities and education entities creating online programs for students who live far from campus, prefer schooling from home or have less time to complete a program at traditional school times.
Though working from home, whether it’s for a company or for school, has many benefits, it causes significant issues for both the organization’s IT department and the end users.
Here are three major issues and solutions.
Issue #1: Managing accounts for remote employees
Correctly provisioning accounts for hundreds or thousands of users who are not physically working within the walls of an organization can be a major headache for IT. It also can be an issue for the end users as employees and students need their accounts quickly and correctly provisioned so that they can begin their work and have access to the systems and applications that they need.
In addition, ensuring that employees that are no longer with the company are correctly de-provisioned also needs to be done properly. A disgruntled employee that has access to the organization’s network can cause a great deal of havoc to its data.
Issue #2: Losing track of who has access to what
Amidst all of the account provisioning, granting access and revoking access to the many cloud applications, organizational IT leaders can easily lose track of exactly who has access to what. This can become not only a security issue but also a problem for licensing costs since the organizations do not know exactly how many licenses they need to buy or maintain.
In addition, this can be a problem when needing to audit systems since it is difficult for the organization to show and document who has access to what data.
Issue #3: Dealing with password issues
Like students or employees working on site, those working remotely tend to have difficulty remembering their credentials for the many different applications they need to access. Especially for employees who are on the go, contacting the IT department can be a major hassle. Needing to contact the help desk to have a password reset while working remotely is a huge annoyance, not only for the end user but also for the IT department since they get copious amounts of these types of calls.
So are these issues solved?
Leading businesses and several educational entities use identity and access management solutions for resolving these issues.
Managing accounts. An automated account management solution can allow the IT department at any organization to easily complete a form, check the boxes for which systems user accounts need to be created in and accounts are automatically provisioned. This task can even be delegated to less technical staff if needed, such as help desk employees.
When employee or student accounts need to be disabled, help desk employees can easily de-provision users without manually going into each system and application.
Additionally, the accounts also can be placed into a different category, such as “alumni,” where they have limited access to systems, but can still utilize their email account, for example.
Managing access. To keep track of exactly who has access to what, a centralized dashboard can be used to provide an overview of which users are deployed in each application. This allows the organization to know exactly who has access to what, and how many licenses they need for each application.
Managing passwords. A single sign-on solution helps with password issues. This allows users to log in once with a single set of credentials and thereafter gain access to all other applications for which they are authorized.
If a password needs to be reset, a self-service password reset software is a helpful solution for remote employees and students. This type of solution allows end users to reset their own passwords without having to contact the help desk. Users can answer security questions that they have previously provided answers to and quickly reset their passwords.
With all or some of these solutions, organizations and educational entities provide a better experience to their users that work remotely and also enable them to work more efficiently.
Dean Wiech is managing director of Tools4ever, a global provider of identity and access management solutions. Dean has worked with businesses for more than 20 years, helping them identify solutions that make their businesses more secure, efficient and easier to manage. He is responsible for Tools4ever’s U.S. operations and has written dozens of articles about identity and access management, security, IT audits, BYOD, the cloud and managing IT for small businesses to enterprise systems. Follow him on Twitter.