Don’t Overlook RO/BO (And Now HO): Tips to Manage and Protect Data at the Edge

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Shridar Subramanian.

Change is normal — but the pace of change in recent times has been anything but normal. For IT professionals that have helped their organizations shift to new work-from-home and remote models, the speed of change has been nothing short of dizzying and disorientating.

IT managers are already burdened with many challenges, from explosive data growth to the increasing threat of a ransomware infection. But now, the need to manage backup and recovery across remote office and branch office (RO/BO) locations — as well as an increasing number of home offices (HO) — has added to the pressure. The additional challenge of performing backup for RO/BO sites and home offices is a bridge too far for many IT managers in today’s increasingly distributed environment.

For starters, ROBO/HO locations put corporate data at greater risk. Security on remote networks is typically far weaker than security on corporate networks. Furthermore, remote employees have a habit of leaving their workstations unattended and their data unsecured, making organizations more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

The problem is that security, backup, and recovery across ROBO/HO locations is a significant challenge. Of course, this was true long before the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to protecting and recovering data, organizations have always been more focused on the data center — not the edge. With distributed enterprises facing tight IT budgets, priority was given to corporate headquarters, leaving remote office and branch office (ROBO) locations with very few or no dedicated IT resources.

But this problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the explosion of remote work because data is now further fragmented, compounding vulnerabilities. More support is needed to manage and protect data at most ROBO locations effectively, but it mostly doesn’t exist. Simple steps like backing up data often don’t happen in a remote setting where there is no centralized IT support.

But there are solutions. Below are three ways organizations can better manage and protect data in their ROBO/HO environments — without breaking the bank or stretching their limited resources.

1. Put Your Data Recovery to the Test

While it’s essential to have a strong backup, just as important is your capacity to recover lost data quickly and completely. To ensure you have this capacity, you must test. You should regularly test your backup copies to be sure they can reliably restore data. 

You should also test your security. Test your infrastructure and your workers to identify the gaps in your network defenses. At the same time, train your remote workers regularly, so they can spot cyberattacks, which are continually evolving. Hackers are always learning, and you must consistently educate your employees to keep pace.

2. Promote Good Data Habits and Cyber Hygiene

With so many employees working in remote environments, it’s more difficult for organizations to store data and manage backups on their ROBO networks. You should regularly communicate with employees and remind them to back up their data consistently and in multiple places. If they’re storing data primarily on a USB flash drive, remind them to back up that data on a hard drive or in the cloud. Or if they’re storing data mainly in the cloud, remind them to save a copy offline.

Good cyber hygiene is equally vital. It would be best if you regularly reminded workers, especially remote workers, to update the software on their devices and turn on all available security measures, including firewalls and anti-malware tools. Failure to update software and install security patches is a widespread employee oversight driving the rapid spread of ransomware and malware. It leads to serious data loss and costs organizations billions of dollars every year. Plug these holes, and you can significantly improve your defense against data breaches.

3. Embrace Cloud-Based Backup and Recovery 

Your ROBO locations should be as easy to manage as your central locations. The good news is that there are now simple-to-implement, low-cost, cloud-based solutions on the market that can effectively back up and protect data in your RO/BO environments. These solutions enable you to manage and protect data without deploying dedicated resources efficiently — whether IT folks or additional capital — to ROBO locations.

Some of the leading solutions make it easy for users because they feature plug-and-play deployment, one-click activation, auto-provisioning of storage devices, and a cloud-based platform for management ease. All you need to do is switch on the device and connect it to the internet. You’ll be protecting your data in a matter of minutes.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, organizations have done a fantastic job of making it possible for their employees to work remotely. But now, these same organizations must ensure that they’re keeping their data safe and secure. Fortunately, with the right tools and mindset, they can easily and effectively manage their data protection.

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