REMOTE WORK

Connectivity & Communication Challenges & Solutions

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are struggling to figure out how to transition to a distributed workforce and leverage remote workers. According to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) 37 percent of jobs in the US can be done at home, accounting for about half of all wages earned in the US. Full-time work from home is expected to double. Ensuring that remote work is done better, simpler and safer could not be a higher priority for us all. For years, the team at Simplifi has been dedicated to enabling organizations to work remotely. We know the changes can be scary at first, but once the switch happens and a new method of work and new tools are adopted, organizations quickly discover the positive benefits of remote work, including increased efficiency, decreased overhead, greater access to talent and improved quality of life.

While we certainly look forward to the end of the pandemic, many of the changes related to remote work will be here to stay. Regardless, all organizations should be prepared with the knowledge and tools to make the transition to remote work quickly and safely at any time.

This article explores the four core challenges and risks that organizations should be aware of as they transition to remote work. It also explains how Simplifi can help you and your organization to seamlessly make the transition anywhere and at any time, now during the pandemic, or in the future. Either way, Simplifi is here to help you through the short-term COVID-19 challenge and will be with you over the long term to improve your connection, communication and control.

“The long term benefits include increased efficiency, decreased overhead, greater access to talent and an improved quality of life.”

Connectivity For Remote Work

Connectivity Challenges For Remote Work
Challenge #1: A Reliable Connection Wherever You Need It

The first thing we all need in order to work remotely is reliable and secure internet connectivity. Most of us do not have the same speeds or bandwidth in our homes as we have in our workplaces. Add to that kids who are gaming, performing on- line learning and streaming, and the result is our home networks degrade rapidly. In fact, demands on bandwidth are so high that streaming providers like Netflix are degrading the quality of their video.

Additionally, we are all familiar with internet outages and the need for a reliable connection when we need to leave home and work from somewhere else – a hotel, your car, outside, etc. When this happens you need to be able to take your network and all it’s security features with you.

Challenge #2: Security

Most organizations (all should) have security protocols and technology built into their network to protect data, communications and privacy. Often this includes the creation of a secure on-site private network for employees where they can work with each other, share files and access servers. Few homes or remote work- areas, like cafes, have any added security to protect their networks, and as a guest on the network you are at risk.

When working remotely, one of the biggest challenges is how to access a secure network without creating massive security breaches. To do this, often we use what is called a VPN (virtual private network) which requires technical support on both ends of the network to set up properly, requiring lengthy support calls and/or on site visits. Setting up VPNs is normally complicated and not realistic during COVID-19 when on-site visits are not allowed. Simply ensuring security can be maintained remotely can be an expensive and daunting challenge and yet the cost of a breach can be worse – causing catastrophic losses for businesses in terms of money and reputation.

Without the right tools and measures in place, companies are risking exposing data to hackers.

Challenge #3: Logistical Nightmare
Often the greatest challenge for an organization and certainly for IT teams, is the herculean logistical task of how to remotely set-up, manage, monitor, trouble-shoot and update these secure and highly distributed networks without visiting on-site or sending installers. If you need to change work locations, all you do is move the Connect router and all the security and networking features travel with you.
Challenge #4: Work Versus Play
For many organizations, the primary reason we work in offices from 9-5 is so that our bosses can keep an eye on us and make sure we are doing what we are paid to do. For employers there is always the risk that employees are not actually working from home, or when they are on-line, they are distracted by all sorts of entertainment so widely available to us on-line.
Solution: How To Connect Anywhere Securely With Simplifi Connect
Solution #1: A Reliable Work-Only Connection Anywhere a Cellular Signal is Available
Simplifi Connect is an enterprise-grade LTE smart hub that supports up to 32 simultaneous WiFi users (and more if used with ethernet and a switch), that will give up to 150 Megabit Per Second speeds and works as both a full wired-line and cellular router. This means you can use Simplifi Connect as a router with a cellular connection to the internet, OR it can be added to an existing wire-line connection to create a private network that has cellular back-up.
Solution #2: A Secure Encrypted Connection That Is Plug N Play
Simplifi provides multiple levels of security, all very simple to deploy and each requires a bit of explanation.

Cellular Connectivity and Encryption

• Cellular connections are encrypted, highly secure and nearly impossible to hack. To utilize this level of security all a user needs to do is connect their device directly to the router using an Ethernet cable or you can connect multiple devices using a switch.
WiFi Encryption
• For those who connect devices over Simplifi’s WiFi, the unit has WPA and WPA2 encryption.
Built-in Firewall
• Simplifi Connect has a built-in firewall for added security.
VPN (Virtual Private Network) Tunneling From Home To Office
• Simplifi allows organizations to very simply create a secure VPN tunnel between a remote Simplifi Connect router (and home network) and private network back in the office. To do this Simplifi utilizes 2 protocols, L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) and IPsec (Internet Protocol Security). Commonly these can be used together – the L2TP creates the tunnel and IPsec runs over the tunnel to add a level of encryption. These features can be enabled on the device locally through Connect’s user-friendly interface and does not require what is called a “static” SIM, which can be difficult to obtain.

• A Key benefit to setting up a VPN on a portable router as opposed to putting it on a device (i.e. “work” computer) is that we all work with multiple devices (phone/laptop/tablet) and if we lose or damage our work computer, we can still access the private network through the VPN on a router.

• Making sure the router is portable is equally as important. If your IT department goes through the headache of setting up a VPN on your home internet and you need to change locations, you’ll need to recreate the VPN again. With Simplifi you just need to take the router with you and plug it in – wherever you go.

Simplifi to Simplifi VPN
• Simplifi can create a VPN tunnel using IPsec from one Simplifi to another, allowing smaller businesses that might not have a VPN server to create a completely secure connection with up to 20 routers remotely connected to a Simplifi Connect installed on the office network.

For example, a software company with 10 engineers accessing a build server on-site can now use 1 Simplifi Connect in the office and 10 in home offices to securely access those files remotely and with total security.

Solution #3: Simplifying Logistics
A core tenet to Simplifi – as our name states – is simplicity. IT tools need to be powerful and perform the tasks we need them to, but they also need to be simple to use, especially for the end-user, often a worker at home who just needs to get a secure internet connection. To do this we make our routers incredibly simple and if they require any special configuration, this can be done remotely by a technician for the end user.
For example, a single IT person can quickly configure units that can be mailed to employees who just need to plug the device in to work. That’s it, no installation is necessary – no one has to come into your home to make sure your enterprise network works.

The next way we help make the lives of IT departments easier is by providing them with access to our Enterprise Remote Management Platform – allowing a single person or team to remotely monitor and manage the health and security of a network that could have tens of thousands of routers in the field. This includes troubleshooting, configurations, firmware updates and data analytics. This incredibly powerful cloud-based platform can be accessed anywhere and remotely support your entire network.

A core tenet to Simplifi – as our name state – is simplicity. Just plug it in!
Solution #4: Making Sure Employees Are Working When Home
Most employees working from home will be as effective, if not more so, but some employers will want to be sure their employees are working when they are supposed to and using their business network only for work. With Simplifi Connect we can ensure this happens in multiple ways:

1. Employers can see who and what is on the network (devices or people that should or should not be on it) and how long employees are actively working.

2. Employers can see if workers are using a secure connection.

3. With Simplifi’s captive portal you can add stricter levels of user authentication, from email-based registration to corporate approval for any device every time a log-on occurs.

4. Simplifi can also white-list/black-list sites either giving access to a set number of URLs or blocking sites that are inappropriate for work.

Communication For Remote Work

Ensuring a secure, managed, Internet connection and work only network is maintained when working from home is one requirement for business, another requirement is transitioning voice communications (phone systems) from the office to remote environment. The second half of this white paper explores the challenges of transitioning your voice communications and some areas where Simplifi can help.
Communication Challenges For Remote Work
Challenge #1: Using Our Personal Mobile Phone Numbers For Work Is Not A Good Practice
For years, as we have led increasingly mobile lives we have adopted the use of mobile phones which has reduced our reliance on landlines. Some businesses offer their employees a separate work cell phone, which is expensive and annoying if carrying two phones. There is a better, more cost-effective alternative to have a professional phone system solution. Moreover, relying on a personal phone number for work is not a good practice for any business or organization, for several reasons. Below are just a few:
• Work phones systems protect us from unwanted or untimely calls

• Work phones systems define set work hours

• Work phones systems help us find the people and information we need efficiently

• Many businesses and organizations require consistent listed numbers

• There are a host of features available to professional phone systems not available to personal cell phones – IVRs, call-trees, call recordings, voicemail to email, analytics and much more.

• Work phone systems make your business appear more professional

• Work phones allow you – a business owner – to control how your employees communicate

• Work phone systems can be inexpensive, they can work on personal phone hardware and are well worth the small investment (if you pick the right systems!)

Challenge #2: Painful Set-up, Hidden Expenses And Annoying Changes
One reason why people have transitioned away from work phone systems to using personal cell phones is simply how much of a pain it is to modify an existing work phone system. Most professional phone systems are set-up using what is called a PBX (private branch exchange), basically a piece of computing hardware that routes calls. PBXs can be installed in the cloud or on premise and they can work with digital IP phones or with analog POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) lines and phones.
All carriers are transitioning away from POTS lines and if your organization is using them, you are most certainly overpaying for services that have some major limitations and you should investigate switching to a cloud-based solution ASAP.
For those who are using IP PBX systems and are frustrated by confusing charges and find updating the call flows to be daunting you are not alone. Using an IP PBX can be confusing, require installers to set up and small changes executed improperly can wreak havoc on how you communicate with your customers. And most IP PBX providers have countless ways to nickel and dime customers who think they are getting a good deal but end up paying nearly as much or more than they had been paying with POTS lines.

“IP PBX providers have countless ways to nickel and dime customers who think they are getting a good deal but end up paying nearly as much or more.”

Challenge #3: You Can’t Monitor How Your Employees Communicate at Home
Whether you run a flower shop, law office or software company, when you’re working together with a bunch of people in one space and calls are coming in and going out you have a good sense of how people are communicating. If you are in the same space, you know if your employees getting frustrated with your customers and can step in before things get heated, you know if calls are answered promptly or if phones ring endlessly and customers hang up out of frustration. Every customer or potential sales call is important. When the people you rely on for sales and support are working from home, even if you have calls forwarded to their home or cell phones, you don’t know what happens once a call goes through.
Challenge #4: Third Party Product Overwhelm and Costs
With the advent of collaboration tools like Zoom or Google Meet, companies have begun to rely on multiple third party tools to communicate; creating new fees for all these services, new products to learn and adopt and rending communication chaotic, unsafe and tedious. Every remote meeting seems to start late and with confusion and team members struggle to get the latest tool and software version up and running on everyone’s specific device.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if work calls just worked across any device you touched”
Solving The Work Phone Problem
Wouldn’t it be nice if work calls just worked across any device you touched (including cell phones and computers) no matter where you are or how many people were on the call and the same system could be used for conference calls, video calls and screen shares? Fortunately, Simplifi Lines, Simplifi’s UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform, does all of this with a simple pricing model.
Solution #1: Using Personal Mobile Phones With Work Phone App That Can Run on Tablets and PCs
Simplifi Lines works seamlessly between mobile and fixed lines. All you have do is download our “soft phone” app to a smart phone, tablet or PC; allowing all inbound and outbound work calls to be made with the app. By doing this you maintain all of the many important benefits of work phones, with none of the downsides so you are:
• Protected from unwanted or untimely calls

• You are only contacted during the hours you set

• You maintain your same corporate call tree and IVR and now no matter where your employees are, they can be found through their work number

• Communications are professional and consistent over work numbers

• If you want to record calls, you can

• You – a business owner – control how your employees communicate

• You don’t need to offer to pay a person’s cell phone bill or give them a phone – they just download an app, and can start or cancel anytime

• Simplifi’s “follow me” feature enables a work call to “find” the right person no matter where they are or what phone they are using

• BEST OF ALL Simplifi Lines offers customers far more features, flexibility and substantial savings in 99.9% of customers

Solution #2: Painless Set-up, No Hidden Fees And Changes Are Easy
Simplifi makes transitioning to our platform dead simple and painless, we have a very simple fee structure based on how many lines you have, everyone gets the same awesome service, plus there are no up-charges for extras. Our system is extremely simple to use so customers can modify their phone system any time and from anywhere. And if you need help, we can help you set up or modify your system remotely.
“Our system is extremely simple to use so customers can modify their phone system any time and from anywhere.”
Solution #3: You Now Can Monitor How Your Employees Communicate at Home
When your employees use Simplifi Lines in the office or home or when mobile on their soft-phones, Simplifi gathers key data and can present it in a very simple dashboard that allows business owners to understand the metrics they care about most. This data includes call-volumes (in and out), how long customers are kept on hold, how many customers are put on hold and hang up, and who is doing the calling.

Simplifi Lines also has features called Whisper and Spy modes that allows supervisors to listen in on calls and speak to employees without the customer hearing them.

Solution #4: No Need for 3rd Party Collaborative Tools
With Simplifi Web Lines we now enable chat, voice and video calls, group video conference calls and screen sharing all through a browser-based dialing platform – no special software to download, no new licensing agreements, no need for hardware, no hassle.

Solution Summary

Try Remote Work With Simplifi Now

Most of us have little choice right now but to figure out how to transition from the office and embrace remote work. While we regret the circumstances, we are confident that for most organizations, if you use the right tools and work securely, remote work will bring about positive changes that will have a lasting impact. Don’t be afraid to try new tools, experiment and learn.

And if your organization needs help in this trying time, our support staff is waiting to help with any inquiry. Please don’t hesitate to contact Simplifi by phone 239.919.8551 or by email hello@simplifi.io. We hope to hear from you soon!