The knk group gave a presentation to members of the publishing and media industry, about maintaining team effectiveness when people must work remotely.

Due to current developments, the need for remote and mobile work outside the office is rapidly increasing. As a software and consulting company that works across multiple locations, we already have a lot of experience with mobile working. The other day we held a Q&A session with representatives from the publishing and media industry. We shared our tips on technical tasks and requirements in order to maintain the ability of their teams to function.

You ask – we answer

PARTICIPANT: You use Teams as a collaboration tool. When do you use normal Teams meetings and when do you use a live event like this?

knk TEAM: We use normal Teams meetings when we want to coordinate with each other, i.e. when the participants interact and talk to each other. In turn we use live events for training and presentations. By letting the producer decide at what point a question is asked, we prevent a proliferation of distractions. The producer is the coordinator of the live event, allowing the speaker to concentrate exclusively on his or her own contribution.

Would you like to know more about knk’s internal experiences with Microsoft Teams? If so, take part in our webinar on the 04/02/2020 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on the subject of “2 years of working entirely in virtual Teams, this is what we learned.” Register now!

PARTICIPANT: With Teams, you can also grant access to a team of people outside the company. How do you deal with the participation of external partners or customers in Teams? Do you have best practices here?

knk TEAM: There are two different ways of working in Teams with external partners: On the one hand there is the option to add other accounts as guests. However, you can also invite anonymously without an account. On the other hand, it is recommended that you create a guest account for active and regular collaboration. Just as you invite internal participants, you can use the e-mail address to invite someone as a guest, who can then actively participate.

PARTICIPANT: Which tools do you use in addition to Teams and for what purposes?

knk TEAM: We use a variety of other tools. In terms of working from a home office, it is mainly TeamViewer. For support purposes, it can be started quickly and easily without prior installation and is therefore well suited for colleagues in a home office, and also for customers. Furthermore, in the support case, a new password for TeamViewer is generated with every restart. So if a customer needs active support and I access his system, I don’t have direct access every time, and instead, the customer has to actively pass me his password.

Otherwise, if I want to access a workplace in the company, I have created a strong password and a whitelist so that only I can access my workplace.

Other tools we use would be Webex from Cicso, for example. Also, in general,  Office 365 palette is well suited for mobile working.

PARTICIPANT: We have no terminal servers but only fixed workstations in the company. What is the fastest solution to get us to a working model with home offices?

knk TEAM: The fastest way to get into a working state would be via TeamViewer. Due to the current situation, TeamViewer offers a free version.

For this, TeamViewer must first be installed as a host on the workstation computer. Subsequently, unattended access can be activated with a strong password. I recommend a minimum length of 12 to 14 characters. Besides letters the password should also consist of numbers and special characters. In addition, a whitelist should be activated in the TeamViewer settings and a TeamViewer account should be created so that only the employee has access to the corresponding computer.

The combination of whitelisting and password provides double security.

PARTICIPANT: Your article states “The Terminal Server should be integrated into the existing backup solution like any other server.” How often do you suggest we back it up?

knk TEAM: The most important thing about a backup is that in the case of an error, I get back to a working state as quickly as possible.

I always have to ask myself the question; for how long I can accept a loss of my data. If I only use the terminal server as a starting point to reach other systems, it is sufficient to back it up once a day, because nothing changes on the server. However, if I also store my business data on the terminal server and it contains business-critical data, it should be secured as permanently as possible by a backup solution.

So, it depends on the usage situation how often a backup is recommended. If you want to reduce the risk of data loss, you should back it up as frequently as possible.

PARTICIPANT: As an IT department, how do you organize feedback to your employees?

knk TEAM: We have an internal ticket system, but internal communication mainly takes place via Microsoft Teams. There, we work with different teams and channels through which we inform employees. Also, we communicate with each other using this tool within departments or projects. Accordingly, feedback arrives mainly via chat, via channel messages or through one of the meetings we hold several times a day.

PARTICIPANT: What information from the IT department do you share with the entire company via Teams? Do you have a few examples?

knk TEAM: As an IT department, we have, for example, a channel in Teams through which we pragmatically inform users about maintenance work. In addition, as in the present situation, guidelines for VPN connections and working from home via terminal connections are included. Here we also provide information about how we can be reached or about the introduction of new tools.

PARTICIPANT: Are there any best practices for setting up a VPN?

knk TEAM: The variety of VPN software on the market makes it difficult to name best practices. What is important is that it is a secure variant, because not everything that is titled „VPN“ is really a Virtual Private Network. For example, you can still set up a PPTP VPN for devices, but this has been considered insecure for quite some time.

One should therefore make sure you set up a VPN that meets the current security standards. If the option exists, it is also recommended to use a 2-factor authentication. You should also leave options open to have a VPN monitored or disconnected if a password is lost.

PARTICIPANT: What do employees and IT have to consider when their password expires in the home office?

knk TEAM: I would recommend that IT reminds users on this occasion that it can support this process. Some employees have problems with changing their password, especially from home. Yet I would advise against abolishing the password change, as it becomes more and more insecure the longer it is active.

If you use a second factor for login, like an SMS or an authenticator app, you can think about extending the time period, but I can not recommend abolishing the password change altogether.

To make things easier, our employees receive a reminder that their password will soon expire, so that they can prevent the expiration early on.

PARTICIPANT: What sources do you use for research in case of errors occuring or when being in need of implementation guidance?

knk TEAM: When errors occur, we mainly use the TechNet, since most of the tools we use come from Microsoft.

For implementation or inspiration we also like to research using the Microsoft Blogs, as there you can also find hints and experiences from other Microsoft partners. For example, Microsoft delivers some features to Teams in stages, so that some partners may receive some features a little earlier.

The Office 365 admin area is also an important tool in case of errors, as Microsoft often informs users about restrictions and keeps you informed about them at an early stage.

(Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash)