As South Africa continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, the outbreak of the fourth wave and the discovery of the new omicron variant of the virus have likely scuppered the hopes of businesses seeing their employees return to the office any time soon.
By Benji Pienaar, Aten sales manager: central and southern Africa, and Raymond Martin, Aten technical manager: central and southern Africa.
While some companies had been contemplating a return to the workplace in the last few months, the latest COVID-19 developments have now made this an unlikely reality. A recent survey by Old Mutual found that more than half (56%) of respondents are currently working from home, at least some of the time.
However, this number is likely to increase as the country could face a return to stricter lockdown levels, meaning that enabling remote access remains a priority for organisations to ensure their employees can continue working from home.
Unfortunately, remote working environments have also created cybersecurity vulnerabilities that have left many enterprise networks exposed to an unprecedented level of attack. A recent study by Tenable, conducted with Forrester, found that 74% of organisations attribute recent business-impacting cyberattacks to remote work technology vulnerabilities.
The study also revealed that more than half of remote workers use a personal device to access work data, and 71% of security leaders lack sufficient visibility into remote employee home networks, leading to a large portion of cyberattacks (67%) targeting remote employees.
To mitigate these threats, it has become critical for organisations to deploy remote access control solutions that feature stricter levels of security. To this end, hardware-based solutions can sidestep many of the security issues presented by software-based remote access solutions.
As companies rushed to enable work-from-home platforms in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak last year, most turned to entirely software-based collaboration tools and virtual private networks (VPNs) to bridge the communication and workflow gaps caused by the rapid shift to remote work.
Yet, this approach created a multitude of security vulnerabilities that exposed corporate networks to malicious threats, as software solutions and applications used to access servers, networks and remote PCs rely on open internet connections. Despite companies setting up VPNs on end users’ networks, remote devices remained the point of failure for cyberattacks.
In contrast, hardware-based remote access solutions, such as KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switches, ensure that employees’ data does not pass through a cloud-based server, but can connect to existing network infrastructure to ensure the required corporate IT security protection. As a result, a hardware-based solution helps to keep an organisation’s data and workflow secure from end to end, which is something that a software solution cannot guarantee.
Additionally, hardware solutions can offer BIOS-level access, with no need to install any software for it to run, and the hardware’s remote access path is separated from the operation network, ensuring no data leakage and no backdoor, meaning that there is no way for hackers to break in.
Remote server management
Aside from being the ideal remote access solution for small offices and remote employees, hardware-based solutions such as KVM switches can also be used to access server rooms remotely, enabling remote server management. From a time-saving perspective, this accessibility creates great value for corporates – whether during times of lockdown restrictions or not.
Hardware-based remote access solutions, in conjunction with smart power distribution unit (PDU) solutions, enable organisations to manage their data centre environments remotely, without ever having to physically send employees on site – except in the event of a hardware failure. This can have massive benefits for organisations, not only in terms of the health and safety of their employees, but also by increasing efficiency as fewer staff are required to manage a data centre.
While there are definite pros and cons to both hardware and software remote access solutions, the biggest advantage of KVM hardware solutions is the security benefits they bring. Hardware-based remote access solutions can essentially be deployed across all verticals, such as data centres, corporate office environments, as well as education and healthcare settings.
As we enter the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, integrating robust hardware-based solutions, rather than relying on third-party software platforms, is key to ensuring greater data security, reliability and productivity. Organisations that deploy these solutions can have peace of mind that they have secure remote access, anytime and anywhere.