Organizations across industry lines are increasingly moving toward distributed environments where workers can access key business applications and data from any device with a secure internet connection. This shift is largely a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though many enterprises were already transitioning to device-agnostic workflows before the health crisis broke out. According to a 2020 survey from The Kung Group, 70% of founders from venture-backed companies plan to allow some (or all) of their employees to continue working remotely even after their offices reopen, Entrepreneur reported. This sentiment is shared by many public companies, private institutions and even government agencies, leaving IT administrators with a complex problem: How do you troubleshoot remote computers from a central location?
Remote troubleshooting tips
Managing a fleet of off-site computers and devices comes with a variety of challenges for today’s digital-first businesses. Many knowledge workers depend on company-owned laptops to complete their work, while others use their personal computers to access private data stores and business applications. Either way, IT administrators can struggle to troubleshoot tech issues from one office or home location, especially if they lack a centralized IT service management platform.
Security is another major concern, as cybercriminals are increasingly targeting remote access technologies and home routers, warns Kaspersky Labs. These brute-force attacks can lead to serious financial and reputational repercussions, which is why it’s important for organizations to scale up their cyber defenses and integrate device-monitoring and anomaly detection into their IT management workflows. However, even with these advanced cybersecurity tools, end users are ultimately responsible for protecting their devices from hackers, configuration drift and other sources of inefficiency.
To help IT administrators acclimate to this new operational norm, we’ve pulled together four tips for troubleshooting remote computers from a central location:
1. Start by assessing device-level issues
Although every computer problem is different, many originate from misconfigurations and a lack of consistent patching. Users must ensure their operating systems, software and business applications are updated regularly to prevent performance and security issues. This is often much easier to facilitate in traditional, in-office environments, where IT staff have direct access to employee workstations.
Diagnosing tech issues remotely requires a different set of management principles, as IT staff must work with end users over chat or voice communications. Most employees couldn’t go without their devices for even a single day, which prevents them from sending their loaned laptops in for a diagnostic. Instead, IT staff must collaborate in real time (and during business) hours to locate the problem and resolve it. Rather than looking for server or networking issues, it’s useful to start by assessing how problems affect users at the device-level and work backwards from there. This can help prevent IT personnel from wasting hours on minor configuration issues and missed patches.
2. Use screen-sharing applications
Solving minor computer problems is difficult without comprehensive oversight and visibility into remote devices. End users without significant IT experience may struggle to explain the issues they’re facing, forcing support staff to work by trial and error. Integrating screen-sharing applications into the troubleshooting process can help bridge the gap by giving IT personnel access to remote devices and the ability to walk employees through the solution in a visual format.
In many cases, computer problems can be resolved by a simple configuration change or tweaking the settings of cloud-based applications. Even if end users aren’t solving their own problems, IT administrators will need to dial in to check whether the proposed fix was successful. That’s where screen-sharing apps can come in handy.
3. Automate OS and application patches
One of the best ways to prevent computer problems from causing unnecessary disruption is to automate updates on all remote devices. This includes OS patches for Windows and MAC machines, updates to business software and other critical code changes. Consistent patching is not only essential to remote device performance, it’s also a key cybersecurity best practice. As noted by ZDNet, Google’s Project Zero security team identified 11 new zero-day vulnerabilities in the first half of 2020 alone. If left unresolved, these exploits could allow hackers to steal sensitive data, distribute malware and take control over remote computers.
Integrating a reliable patch management solution can eliminate time-consuming tasks related to device updates, allowing IT administrators to maintain complete control over both company-owned and personal computers. Through one centralized console, organisations can manage patches for all in-network computers, send batch updates and track application usage.
4. Integrate reboot-to-restore technology
Reboot-to-restore platforms empower end users to solve their own IT problems with a simple restart of their computers. By freezing remote devices in a pristine state, IT administrators can reduce the number of low-priority tickets they receive without sacrificing responsiveness. For example, if an employee accidentally changed their remote access settings, they could reverse the change by rebooting their device. This self-managed framework can help companies in almost every industry build reliable, productive teams that are distributed across the globe.
Faronics’ Deep Freeze application offers total control over IT assets regardless of where users are located, which devices they’re using and how they access key workloads. With Deep Freeze, IT administrators can maintain strict security standards, patching schedules and application whitelisting procedures across all business units. And thanks to the platform’s simple web-based console, IT staff can perform remote troubleshooting from anywhere with an internet connection.