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10 Tech Solutions (& Offers) to Stay Secure & Productive During COVID-19 Crisis

As you may have seen, a number of technology manufacturers stepped up to the plate quickly with free trials and extended licensing offers when the coronavirus reached pandemic status in early March. Since that time we’ve been able to evaluate these offers and implement a number of them with our clients. This article will help you understand which of these solutions and offers could be good for your situation.

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Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
– Cisco AnyConnect
– Cisco Meraki
– Fortinet Solutions

Remote Worker Security
– Cisco Umbrella
– Cisco Duo Security

Communication & Collaboration
– Microsoft 365
– Cisco Webex
– ISG Hosted Voice Soft Phone

Remote Desktop Services (RDS)
– Citrix Cloud Workspace
– Microsoft Remote Session Host

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

1) Cisco AnyConnect is one of our preferred solutions to get users secure access while offsite. It’s more secure than most of the OS-based VPN solutions that leverage L2TP and PPTP, very reliable and user friendly. Here’s an overview video. Cisco is allowing existing AnyConnect customers to exceed their user limit to support the increase in remote workers, and new customers can access a free license for 90 days. Details can be found in their blog post, Cisco Free Security Offerings.

2) Cisco Meraki is also another good VPN option. Their security appliances can be remotely deployed in minutes using zero-touch cloud provisioning. They are simple to deploy across sites, and Auto VPN technology can securely connect branches in just a few clicks. They are offering 90-day free trials for Meraki Insight and a First Year On Us Promotion that can help you during this challenging time.

3) Fortinet solutions – offer an integrated solution to support telework. FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) have built-in support for IPsec virtual private networks (VPNs), enabling remote workers to connect securely to the company network. With endpoint protection, provided by FortiClient, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) with FortiAuthenticator, organizations can securely support remote work and maintain business continuity.

Remote Worker Security

4) Cisco Umbrella protects users from malicious Internet destinations whether they are on or off the network. Because it is delivered from the cloud, Umbrella makes it easy to protect users everywhere in minutes. Cisco is allowing existing customers to exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers. For new customers, Cisco has extended its free 14 day trial license to 90 days during the COVID-19 crisis. To get this set up, simply contact the ISG COVID-19 Task Force.

5) Cisco Duo Security is Multi-Factor Authentication that enables organizations to verify users’ identities and establish device trust before granting access to applications. By employing a zero-trust model, it decreases the attack surface and reduces risk. Cisco is allowing existing customers to exceed their user limit to support an increase in remote workers, and new customers can access a free license.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

In a perfect world, we’d all take our laptops home, access the company network via the VPN and business would barely skip a beat. But in the real world, it’s not that easy. Not everyone has a laptop to take home. Some workstations must stay on company property for security reasons. Some employees require high performance computing that simply can’t happen through VPN. And the list goes on. When this is the case, the following options are worth considering.

6) Citrix Cloud Workspace is a quick way to provide remote access to employee workstations and the company network. It gives the employee access to their workstation in their office remotely and securely – eliminating file sharing issues and communications being relayed outside the company network. Currently, Citrix is offering a 60-day trial and onboarding with ISG’s team of Citrix engineers is quick and painless.

See how ISG helped MTM transform healthcare logistics with Citrix workspace solutions >>

7) Microsoft Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) is another way to connect remote users to the applications they need. If you have a VMware environment and have been considering a solution to roll-out updates to employee devices more efficiently than touching each device, you may want to consider RDSH. While this solution requires a greater investment of time and budget than the Citrix solution, there are many advantages that make it worthwhile to explore. Microsoft offers a 180 day trial of the licensing.

Communication & Collaboration

8) Managed Microsoft 365 – Microsoft 365 has become the industry leader in communication and collaboration for its ability to integrate the tools that we’ve all grown accustomed to, like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. When Teams, Sharepoint and OneDrive were added to the mix, the ability to share and co-author files took remote work/collaboration to a whole new level. We use MS365 at ISG, and it has kept us up and running throughout this entire crisis.

Currently, Microsoft is offering E1 licenses for free for six months. While this does include Teams (the app that makes it all happen), we are not recommending this trial for companies considering O365 for a long-term solution. This complicates a migration to Microsoft 365 down the road. If you have questions about this, please email our COVID-19 Task Force.

9) Cisco Webex is a solution you should explore if you need to quickly scale your ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. It’s an industry leading solution that includes HD video meetings, content sharing, recording, meetings, webinars, desktop and mobile app, messaging and more. Cisco is expanding subscriptions on a temporary basis at no additional cost for existing customers and offering Webex for free to individuals during the COVID-19 crisis. We have helped a number of clients deploy this solution in minutes, and Cisco has an incredible library of materials to support rollout efforts.

10) ISG Hosted Voice Soft Phones – If your focus is to quickly stand up a remote phone/telecommunication option for your remote workforce, ISG’s hosted voice solution offers the ability to spin up a soft phone client. There is no need to purchase a new phone system and you can seamlessly transition what you have into a remote solution that works on a PC, tablet or cellular device. This 100% cloud-based solution includes conferencing, transferring, on-hold, call jump, IM/Presence and more. And, until the end of June we are offering month-to-month contracts if you’d like to test it out for yourself.

If you have questions about any of the above solutions or how to take advantage of their COVID-19 promotions, please don’t hesitate to contact the ISG COVID-19 Task Force.