Introduction

The world today is far different than it was one month ago.  For example, here in the United States, we were at all time stock market highs, and unemployment was at its lowest peak, right around 3.5%.  We had the longest economic boom period, lasting about 11 years in length.  But, with the advent of the Coronavirus, that all came to a sudden halt, and now the reverse is happening, to another extreme.

Apart from the tragic toll it is taking on human lives, it has also made a tremendous impact upon the world of Cybersecurity.

But Corporate America is now realizing another dilemma:  How to quickly leverage a workforce from a remote location, whether it is a Cyberattack or a natural disaster, and to make sure that they will remain productive.  Unless a business has a solid Business Continuity Plan in place, it will take days to make sure that each and every employee is issued with the required devices with the proper security mechanisms installed onto them.

Is there a solution to this conundrum?  Yes, there is, and it relies upon using the Cloud to leverage your entire IT Infrastructure.

How Azure Can Help Leverage Your Workforce & Keep Them Productive

Most of us have heard of the Cloud, essentially, this is where all aspects and services of an IT Infrastructure is stored “as a Service”, can be quickly and easily accessed by your employees. So, for example, rather than logging into a physical device in order to conduct their daily job tasks, they can now access all of their needed applications through a Cloud based Infrastructure in particular, Azure.  So how can this be used to send out your employees to another if the need arises?  Consider these points:

  1. Less time is needed to configure devices:
    If a business has an On-Premises IT Infrastructure, the IT Department will have to manually configure each and every device for all of the employees.  This not only includes procuring the needed hardware, but installing all of the applications that each employee needs, and making sure that all of them have all of the essential security mechanisms installed onto them, such as Encryption, Two Factor Authentication (2FA) or Multifactor Authentication (MFA), Virtual Private Network Services, etc.  But by using Azure, all of the needed applications will be stored on a Cloud based platform.  But best of all, you don’t need to worry about implementing any layers of security onto them, it is already done for you.  So, if another cataclysmic event like the Coronavirus ever occurs again, all you have to do is keep a stock of devices that you can issue to your employees in a quick manner, (so that they can access Azure), and within hours, your employees will be able to work remotely securely and safely.
  2. It allows for instant collaboration:
    Just because your employees may be miles and miles apart from one another in a physical sense, it does not mean that they cannot hold meetings and collaborate with others.  This can all be done through a virtual environment in Azure, using Microsoft Teams.  With this package, you can hold all kinds of phone meetings, video conferences, online messaging, etc.  Through the portal, you can even manage your teams, and also even manage the IP based phones that they are using. For example, you can upload various kinds of configuration files for the phones that are being used, make any changes in just a matter of seconds, and even apply software updates and patches to all of your remote workers telephones, with just a few clicks of the mouse, all from one centralized location.  You can also manage the virtual meetings that are taking place.  For instance, if you are wanting to have a private conversation with only a select group of employees, you can allow who can enter and who cannot.  It also comes with a robust reporting tools package, to see how and your remote employees are utilizing Microsoft Teams.  From this dashboard, you can then make pertinent decisions as to use this application to optimize the workflow and efficiency of your remote employees.  But there are other benefits to using Azure for your businesses’ collaborative efforts.  These include the following:

    • You will have further, enhanced control over the projects and their deadlines as they are being accomplished in a virtual world;
    • All of these projects can be managed and coordinated literally from anywhere on the globe, while being assured that the best layers of protection are being used;
    • You can instantaneously synchronize all of the workflows for all of your remote employees and keep track of key milestones as they are being accomplished;
    • Any updates to the status of any projects or employees will be provided to you in real time, with the bottom line being that the deadlines will be met or even exceeded even as your employees are far apart from one another;
    • There is also a greater chance your employees to think more outside of the box and be creative in their job activities.
  3. It allows for flexibility:
    Even if there is a not disaster to be faced, Azure, even in the best of times, allows a much greater flexibility for your employees to work remotely.  Because of this, they may not necessarily have to work the traditional eight work model that has been around for so long. As a result, you can allow your employees to work during those times when they are at their best, which will result in much greater morale.  Of course, a happy employee will mean in the end, not only loyalty, but even more enhanced on your bottom line.  In other words, your remote employees, by using Azure, can work anywhere from where they are most comfortable and from any device that does not necessarily have to be company issued (but of course, these devices have to be approved by the IT Security team first).
  4. It means increased productivity:
    By using Azure, you will be more or less assured that your employees will feel comfortable from any environment or geographic location where they may at that point in time.  For example, if your remote employee chooses not to work at home all of the time, they can very easily rent out a virtual office, or even a co working spot.  One of the key advantages here is that if your remote workers can mingle with other people that are not even affiliated with your company, they may be able to get new ideas and fresh perspectives on the projects that they are currently working on that they may never have thought of before.  This will only lead to a h greater level of creativity, which in turn, can lead to a much higher quality deliverable to your client.
  5. It will translate into a less employee turnover:
    A common theme that has been mentioned in this article is that of employee satisfaction.  Not only can the utilization of Azure help with this, but happy employees also mean less turnover, which in turn means less expense and administrative headaches for you.  Consider some of these statistics:

    • 73% of employees report a higher level of job satisfaction when they are able to work remotely;
    • 53% of those employees that are currently working remotely are not considering leaving their present positions;
    • 82% of employees would be more satisfied if they were allowed to have flexible, remote working options;
    • 95% of businesses have reported that by employee retention has increased by offering them the ability to work remotely.
      (SOURCE:  1).
  6. Increased savings for your business:
    If you have an On-Premises IT Infrastructure, you can spend a lot of money not only with keeping up with licensing requirements but replacing legacy servers and workstations.  This will mean nothing but a negative Return On Investment (ROI) on your bottom line.  But by using Azure, you can quickly and easily replicate them by making use of the Virtual Machine (VM) and Window Virtual Desktop (WVD) that are available.  With this approach, your costs will be on an affordable and fixed basis, and you will never have to worry about securing them or even creating the backups for them.  This is all done for you.  But best of all, your remote employees will also be able to access these VMs and WVDs from wherever they may be at with just a few clicks of the mouse.  You can be guaranteed of 99.999% uptime,  and no hidden licensing fees.
  7. Your remote employees can work no matter what condition they may be in:
    By using Azure to host your entire IT Infrastructure, your employees on a theoretical level, will never have to report their presence to you at your brick and mortar office.  This means that if they have the cold or flu, they can still continue to keep working, to the best of their abilities, without getting you sick or other employees.  Consider these statistics:

    1. “75% of remote workers say they could continue to work in the event of flu, terrorism, roadway problems, and weather-related disasters, compared to 28% of non-teleworkers;
    2. Unscheduled absences cost U.S. companies over $300 billion a year, or $1,800 per employee;
    3. Companies with remote work options report 63% fewer unscheduled absences.”
      (SOURCE:  1).

Conclusions

Overall, this article has examined in detail to the various ways in which Azure can leverage a remote workforce, and how to keep them continuing to be productive.  On a more technical level, here are some specific tools that you can deploy for your remote employees that are available on Azure:

  • User Identity Management:
    You can create a primary account for all of your remote employees by using the Azure Active Directory (aka Azure AD).
  • Multifactor Authentication (MFA):
    Azure offers three different types of authentication:
    *The use of Smart Cards that are either physical or virtual based which is backed with     the appropriate certificate;

    *Windows Hello for Business;

    *Azure based MFA.

  • Managing different environments:

You can use the Microsoft Endpoint Manager (aka MEM) in conjunction with Microsoft Intune and Configuration Manager to manage a wide range hardware-based device, running across a whole plethora of Operating Systems such as Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

Sources