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How to Optimize Your Business’ Home Office Network

By: Ernest Sampera on November 11, 2020

For years, there has been a steady shift away from people working solely at the office and towards a “work from home” model. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak simply accelerated the trend. In fact, according to statistics cited by Entrepreneur, “70 percent of founders reported that after their offices reopen, they will let some (or all) of their employees continue to work remotely” and “66 percent of founders are entirely reconsidering their investments in their offices.”

One of the big challenges of remote work is setting up a safe and secure home office network to connect with the business’ network. Home networks can vary greatly in their security and many employees may not realize how critical router security is when accessing sensitive documents and systems from their home. Worse yet is the use of public Wi-Fi networks that have virtually no security and may be compromised by man-in-the-middle attacks and malware that can steal data.

What are the challenges of remote networking? How can you set up a home office network so it will be safe and secure?

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Challenges of Remote Networking

When using a remote network, there are several challenges that need to be overcome, including:

Setting up Remote Access Servers

For remote workers to access the data and systems that they need to do their jobs, companies need to set up a remote access server for them to use. These servers need to be able to give legitimate users (i.e. your employees) easy access to the resources they need while keeping malicious actors (those who would abuse your data and systems to cause your company or customers harm).

Dealing with Low Upload/Download Speeds

Not every home network is created equally. Many high-speed internet service providers (ISPs) boast about their download speeds—which can be important for minimizing delays in downloading important files from the company’s network. However, what many ISPs gloss over is their upload speed, or the rate at which the home network can send information out.

Why does upload speed matter? For basic internet use, it doesn’t. However, for video-conferencing solutions like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Uberconference, upload speed becomes critical. Sources like ZDNet note that applications like Zoom typically need a minimum upload bandwidth of roughly 2 megabits per second (Mbps) to function smoothly. Lower upload bandwidth results in choppy video and audio, and may negatively impact the videoconference experience.

Router Security

Many home network users don’t give their router security a second thought—they simply plug their routers in, use the default network security password, and leave the router’s remote access features on. This can create a major network security risk.

Hackers can use remote access features, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) PIN codes to easily access a router and gain high-level access to the home network. This allows them to intercept and steal sensitive data.

Non-Work Devices on the Home Office Network

Many home networks use a single Service Set Identifier (SSID) for their wireless network. This means that every device on the network is connected to every other device through the same password—a situation that malicious actors (i.e. hackers) may take advantage of to conduct an attack.

Setting up a Home Network for Safer Remote Work

Knowing what many of the major challenges of remote networking are, how can you set up a home office network to better address these issues? Here are a few tips for setting up a home network for safer office networking:

  • Use a Remote Access VPN. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a common tool for hiding an individual’s IP address and traffic from others on the internet. Instead of connecting directly with your company’s remote access server from your home network, you would instead connect to the VPN’s server first. The VPN would then encrypt your network traffic and make it anonymous so it wouldn’t be directly traceable to your home network. While not perfect, a remote access VPN makes it harder for hackers and others to trace your network activity—improving home office network security.
  • Change Your Home Network’s Router Settings. Keeping the factory default SSID name and password settings for your Wi-Fi router (at home or in the office) can make it more susceptible to compromise. As noted by Help Desk Geek, “Hackers can gain access to your router model with a simple Google search.” This is because default router settings are often leaked to the public. So, it’s important to change the SSID name and the password for your Wi-Fi router to avoid getting hacked. Disabling remote access features, UPnP, and WPS for your router can also help increase security against potential attacks on the home network.
  • Create a Separate Network and Password for Guests or Non-Business Devices. Does the network connection you use for remotely accessing your company’s sensitive data really need to be the same as the one you use for your smart home speaker or that your family uses to watch Netflix? The answer is “no.” Setting up a secondary network ID and password for your work devices and internet surfing that is separate from your personal use network can help to keep sensitive work data separate from personal devices. As noted by WIRED, “It’s not like your friends and family are hackers in disguise, but letting them on your primary network means they might access a file that you’d rather they didn’t, or inadvertently change a setting somewhere that causes you problems.”
  • Carefully Vet Home Internet Service Providers. When shopping for home internet services, your options may be fairly limited depending on your area. However, it’s still important to vet ISPs and make sure of the details of what’s included in their home internet service packages—including download and upload speeds for internet access, what kind of security their included router supports (look for WPA2!), and how they handle firmware updates for their connected routers and other devices—whether it’s an automatic background process or a manual one.
  • Configure Your Remote Access Servers and Software. How do external devices connect to the company’s databases and servers? Is it a simple remote connection, or is there specialized remote access software and servers involved? Configuring remote access servers on the company network side to refuse connections that don’t use a specific company-approved VPN or a remote access software on the home office device can help to create a barrier against illicit access attempts—making for a kind of additional authentication factor on top of the username/password combination most systems use. For example, if a hacker manages to hijack a user’s account, but doesn’t have the right software installed or doesn’t use the right VPN connection, they would still be unable to access the company’s systems.

Enhance Your Home Office Network with vXchnge Colocation

The demands of remote work, especially for a workforce that is either especially large or has high data processing requirements (or both) requires data solutions that provide extensive connectivity options, high levels of uptime (i.e. network reliability), and the strictest remote networking security.

Using a strictly internal (i.e. on-premises) server and IT equipment solution places the burden for managing everything on the business—which can be difficult at the best of times. From server maintenance, to running software/firmware updates, to expanding server capacity, on-prem solutions require businesses to keep track of numerous tasks and expenses. This can distract from productivity goals.

On the other hand, some businesses don’t like to have a purely “cloud-based” IT service solution, as their legacy systems aren’t configured to run in a cloud-based environment and simple “lift and shift” solutions may cause problems. They may also want more control over their production environment and remote access servers than leaving everything in a cloud service provider’s (CSP’s) hands would allow.

Here, a colocation service like vXchnge can provide the perfect balance of ease, cost management, and control. Rather than making enormous capital investments to build and maintain on-prem facilities, colocation allows companies to turn that IT capital cost into an operational cost with a consistent monthly rate (no surprise cost spikes when servers need replacing)!

Colocation data centers provide extensive connectivity options, are designed to meet a variety of compliance requirements, and provide an ideal foundation for building a remote work network.

Are you ready to transform your remote work environment with a collocated data center? Reach out to vXchnge’s colocation experts today.

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