There are several technologies that can increase employee productivity and not break the SMB Bank.
802.11 a/b/g Wireless
Remote Access or VPN
You may already have some of these implemented in your environment today but are they secure and providing the value you expected.
Access points for 802.11 a/b/g and now n are easy to purchase and connect to your network. Wireless allows employees to have access to all network resources as if they were at their desk. Employee meetings are more productive, people are not continually going to the printer or back to their desk to get information. Without this information in hand, meetings can be rescheduled, delaying project decisions and progress.
Access points usually come preconfigured to allow easy access and some are now coming configured with a limited set of security options. Many times companies put access points on the networks with unauthenticated access or a limited set of security settings that can be circumvented. The following are additional security measures that should be put in place with wireless access.
MAC Address Filtering (if authentication is not available)
WAP/WAP2 w/AES or TKIP Encryption
Guest Access should be on a separate SSID and Network
Remote Access and VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) allow employees, vendors and customers to connected to a network via the Internet. Remote Access can be secured an segmented per user role so that employees get different access rights that vendors or customers.
Remote Access gives employees the ability to check e-mail and work on files as if they were in the office. Image a scenario where a snow storm has hit your area and employees can not get into the office. If you have a remote access solutions, they can get those important files e-mailed to your client. Or if you need a vendor to work on your payroll system but it is costly to fly them in. Give them the ability to remotely support your systems while decreasing cost and maintaining security.
Keep these security issues in mind
Be as restrictive as possible when granting remote access.
Use existing authentication methods when possible (Active Directory, LDAP, Radius)
Follow strict password strengths and expiration lengths
Use an encrypted VPN such as an SSL or IPSec VPN with 3DES or AES encryption. Do not use a vpn that uses PPTP as all information is sent in clear text.
Use unique username, do not share user and password between employees
Mobility encompasses many technologies that can get complicated to implement and supports. Some simple, less expensive technologies that can increase productivity are Smart Phones or Blackberry Internet enabled devices.
Many applications such as e-mail, Outlook Integration and Instant Messaging are available for both windows mobile smart phones and blackberry's. Blackberry has additional applications such as Google Apps (GMail, calendar, sync). Don't forget the iPhone.
Having access to your e-mail, contacts, maps, directions are invaluable to a small business owner on the go. Save time printing out meeting request, directions and contact information.
Mobility for Unified Communications can give a company the ability to have presence information available for all employees whether in the office or remote. Image the ability to know what the status of your sales force is and how is available when an important client calls in. This subject is beyond the scope of this blog.
Good practices for mobile devices include the following
Enable a password on the device in case it is lost or stolen
Disable Bluetooth when not in use
Add user information such as company name and return information to the owner screen
Configure to reset after set number of failed password attempts
Backup mobile devices in case it needs to be replaces or is wiped clean.
Only provide mobile devices that contain company information to necessary employees.
All of these technologies can work independently or be seemlessly integrated. Please consult a network specialist before making these technology choices.