Who Says We Can’t Spring Clean in December?

As 2011 comes to a close, it is always good to be introspective about things that you have done over the year.  In order for your business to remain competitive, functional and efficient, it is important to continually monitor your processes and operations.  It is also good to audit security policies.

One thing I have noticed is over the last decade, the remote worker is becoming increasingly abundant.  One of our customers, VIPdesk, modified their entire business model to adjust for remote workers.  They found that remote workers were typically more educated, and had lower attrition rates than traditional contact center agents.

A challenge that comes with remote work, however,  is making sure that workers meet security policies.  Many companies do not specify policies for desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets for their remote employees to ensure that they meet certain criteria, but it is essential that these issues be addressed.

Many remote employees may not possess the proper technical skills and often need guidance on certain criteria in order to meet a relatively low horizon compliance.  In this post, I am going to share ideas and software programs that I use regularly at home that not only increase my security but help maintain my computer’s integrity.  Please note that Interactive Intelligence® does not specifically endorse any of the following programs, and by no means are they a “catch all” solution.  When used properly though, I have found that they are very good at providing protection on multiple levels.  The best part?  They are all free.

First of all, if the remote employee does not check that Windows Updates are properly applied, it is a great idea to make sure that they are done on a regular basis.  I do not recommend automatically applying them, as it may conflict with programs that the worker is utilizing.  Check with the administrator for the best practices regarding this particular policy.

ZoneAlarm® by Check Point® Software Technologies LTD, is a great one to start off with.  The Windows firewall has always had limitations and it is often time consuming to individually block/allow ports or prevent certain programs from installing or running.  ZoneAlarm’s free firewall solution simplifies this process with a basic GUI and prompts when unknown files are being accessed or requested.  A good rule of thumb for the remote worker:  if the employee is unsure of what is being requested, deny access and find out.  I have learned a lot about various Windows “behind the scenes” files and other installation processes by looking deeper into what firewalls inquire about for permissions.

IObit’s Advanced SystemCare Free 5 is a fantastic tool that I recently discovered.  Although it does have some features unavailable because it is the free edition, the options that you can use can help boost performance.  One option is to install their sister application to use called Smart Defrag 2.  Defragmentation is a lost art in the computer maintenance world, and Windows-based machines no longer allow you to see the actual fragmentation map.  Smart Defrag 2 will show you the levels of defragmentation and the various types of files that are stored on your hard drive.  The defrag is also very quick.

Another great option of Advanced System Care 5 is that it helps you find orphaned files and folders.  If you use Windows for long enough without formatting your drives and installing a clean copy, it leaves stragglers behind and slows hard drive performance.  Advanced System Care 5 will find those for you and help you delete them, if you choose.

Lastly, Spybot Search & Destroy©®, is a great tool and provides an easy way to immunize your system from possible attacks.  Spybot will scan your entire computer and look for common spyware and malware on your system.  It will then display everything it finds and present you with options.  It also gives you the option to install several “vaccinations” for your browser (note:  only Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox are supported for this function) to help further protect your system.

As the holidays near, please take time to enjoy it with family and friends, but also to reflect on changes you can make to your remote policies to further maintain the integrity of your company’s security.  As always, The Tech Lounge loves to hear from its readers.  If you have specific comments in regards to your own policies and would like to share them, we’d certainly enjoy hearing from you.

Enjoy the end of 2011 and happy holidays!  See you in 2012!

–Travis W. Gillison