Bell Techlogix is excited to launch a new web series “All.I.T.” to discuss the latest trends and solutions in managed services. Our talented team of professionals will offer insights to help organizations use technology to maximize business success. Our first episode features host Rebecca Bormann, managing director of sales and services for Bell Techlogix, interviewing Tim Wheeler, director of engineering, about remote working and cloud management solutions. Watch the series or read the transcript below.
Rebecca: I’m Rebecca Bormann, managing director of sales and services for Bell Techlogix. I’m excited to be here today with our director of engineering, Tim Wheeler, to talk about all things IT. Tim, would you like to say hello and say a few words?
Tim: Hi, Rebecca. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Rebecca: Good. Thanks so much for joining me. So we’re going to dive into some questions to share with our viewers. And, the first thing we’re going to talk about working from home. So, most employees are still working from home and security remains a top priority for many organizations. Tim, can you share with us some things that IT leaders should be considering to keep their infrastructure data and employees safe and secure from cyber-attacks while we’re all still at home?
Tim: Yes, as a result of the global pandemic we’re going through, minimizing the security risk and enabling our employees to work from home has become more important than ever. Some organizations that may have lacked robust remote access capabilities may have hastily adopted solutions, causing the business to lose some of the control and visibility into the security practices. IT and security leaders need to be vigilant and shore up these strategies to refine their tactics and update the security response plans. A couple of examples I would like to share with IT leaders to be considering would be to understand that human behavior is often the cause of most breaches.
Yet organizations still focus heavily on the perimeter infrastructure as their first line of defense. Don’t get me wrong, this is extremely important. But do not neglect the education of employees to identify, properly react, and report suspicious activity. This, combined with strengthening policies for authentication and authorization, creating adequate zones of trust in the network, and anticipating the vulnerabilities or enabling organizations to effectively deal with the broad spectrum of attacks they will face.
So another example, as we’ve shifted support of our users remotely, is the need to review the current infrastructure and evaluate whether it’s sufficient for a large and consistent workforce. Traditional architectures of secure remote access into corporate IT environments, via VPN or dedicated hardware, may have to scale up and may not be all that practical today. So the reliance on cloud-hosted solutions is becoming adopted much quicker and are an effective means to scale and provide access to resources and data to a highly distributed workforce.
Your true VDI and desktop as service solutions are increasing their adoption to meet these needs. And as new technologies and providers are adopted to deliver consistent, scalable IT services, internal processes, or procedures, the technical training of our IT staff will all follow along with the required adjustments to meet our security needs.
Rebecca: So, Tim, you shared with us there are people, processes, tools, and technologies to consider when we’re talking about securing our environment and our employees from working from home. Are there specific tools or technologies that IT leaders should be considering to keep workstations safe while we’re all still at home and not working in our buildings?
Tim: Certainly. So, you have two types of endpoint management tools, you have your traditional platforms that exist on-premise, and then you have your new modern management platforms that are cloud-native. Our cloud tools like Microsoft Intune or Ivanti neurons streamlined that transition to work from home by natively providing those policy management vulnerability remediation directly over the Internet. One of the challenges businesses face with on-premise solutions is the management of those endpoints that are kind of connecting over-restrictive or inconsistent VPN connections.
One of the most common solutions on the market today is Microsoft’s Endpoint Configuration Manager, and you can securely extend that environment into your Azure environment in order to manage Internet-connected devices with a device called the Cloud Management Gateway. Now, through the Cloud Management Gateway, businesses can continue to use the same processes and procedures from a management perspective. And then client machines are intelligent enough to automatically switch from the local network managed to a secure connection back to configuration manager over the Internet.
Rebecca: So, we’re talking about managing workstations remotely. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Microsoft’s tools in Intune recently. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on how to use that set of tools to manage workstations or devices remotely?
Tim: Absolutely, so Microsoft Intune natively works over the Internet to manage devices. One of the great benefits is that we don’t have to worry about the ability to patch or provision and ensure compliance of those devices because we can extend and talk to them directly through Internet-based connections.
Rebecca: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing those thoughts with us. So as we’re talking about working from home, what are some other ways that organizations can enable a seamless experience for employees working at home so you have access to all the same tools, all the same files at home as we do in the office?
Tim: So I’d like to share two very effective solutions that can help enable that seamless end-user experience. First, Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager. We can enable a zero-touch rapid provisioning process with Microsoft’s autopilot. What this means is employees working from home will have a seamless out-of-the-box experience where a new refresh or a replacement device can be shipped directly to the end-users without the need for IT to physically touch or set up that device.
Once the user logs in, all of the corporate policies are enforced, the users’ applications and settings are automatically downloaded to the device, giving them a fully provisioned device right out of the box within a matter of minutes. For the existing machines already deployed out to the remote workforce, it is inevitable that there’s going to be an issue that requires a machine to be re-imaged. Typically, this meant shipping that device back to corporate IT, receiving a loaner device. But now with Microsoft autopilot reset, we can rapidly get that device back to a business-ready state by triggering a reset remotely with that Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
Second, by utilizing a desktop as a service solution, you can enable your employees to work from anywhere on any device while maintaining the security and compliance that businesses require. The framework for desktop as a service is built on a virtual desktop infrastructure, which isn’t new. However, utilizing Windows virtual desktop hosted in the cloud has been a real game-changer because it’s got a great user experience, it’s presented at an affordable cost. Windows Virtual Desktop is a comprehensive desktop and application virtualization service that runs within Microsoft Azure.
Some of the benefits are to provide a better end-user experience by enabling that access anytime from anywhere. It increases performance and provides that familiar and consistent experience to the end-users. It also enhances security through isolated user sessions utilizing secure multi-factor authentication and role-based access to protect data. We also simplify management by switching to a platform as a service, allowing Microsoft to manage the backend infrastructure and IT managing the services to focus on image, applications, and user profiles. And then finally, we can reduce costs by eliminating that upfront capital expenditure. We reduce compute cost with efficient Windows 10 multi-session and also reduce the administration of complex licensing models.
Rebecca: Those are greats points, Tim, thanks for sharing. And as I’m thinking, you know, for me, as an end-user, this all sounds so simple, like I really don’t have to do anything but leave my computer on. Is that right?
Tim: That you’re absolutely correct. As long as it’s online and connected to the Internet, we’re able to manage and ensure compliance with that device at any time.
Rebecca: Yeah, that’s great. Thanks for sharing that. I think it’s something people will talk about. We have been for a while, but even more so lately is cloud strategies. And curious if you have any thoughts on organizations that have already adopted a cloud strategy. Are they in a better position to support our employees in this virtual world?
Tim: Absolutely. For those organizations that have adopted a cloud strategy, they benefit from better security, highly scalable and available services, and also the added flexibility to provide business services to their employees.
Yeah, that so to me, it kind of sounds like organizations that have already adopted this cloud strategy are maybe a step or two ahead of supporting everyone in this virtual world. There really are so highly scalable and flexible environment really has enabled them to provide that same end-user experience, their business applications, critical applications, all work from home without having the need to have additional either resources or licensing models, hardware, software, in order to have their employees now remote into the environment.
Rebecca: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today. I know folks are going to learn a lot. Appreciate your time.
Tim: Greatly appreciate it as well. Thank you.
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