Safeguarding Your Office
Combining the home and office does have its perks. The benefits of convenience and freedom, however, can be wiped out in seconds if security is breached. The weekend warrior must make safeguarding livelihood a top priority.
Protecting your computer is as important as protecting your physical office location. For this reason:
- Routinely back up your computer files. Experts recommend an automatic solution such as an external USB drive to secure an off-site copy of data in case of a fire or other disaster. Online backup services are available for off-site storage needs.
- Install a computer application to minimize the risk of a security breach. An Internet firewall will help screen out hackers and viruses before they devastate your computer or network; anti-spyware and antivirus software with automatic virus signature updates are critical to minimizing corruption of files.
- IT professionals recommend setting strong passwords, changing them often to help reduce security risks.
- Keep your computer's operating system and applications fully patched. For about $30 you can set your computer on a timer that will enable it to shutdown, log off, lock down or reboot.
- If you are using wireless networking at home, make sure it is encrypted. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are commonplace and enable safe access to company files from anywhere. Accessing your company's intranet remotely via a VPN is considered the safest way to transport data between locations, as it is encrypted as well as paperless.
Simple Office Safeguards
Experts stress that underestimating security needs can be tantamount to handing the office keys to a stranger. To protect the workspace, observe some practical guidelines:
- A physically secure location starts with adequate locks.
- Invest in a security system. Inexpensive wireless options are easy to install and portable. For around $200, an adequate alarm system will guard the perimeter of your home via motion detection. They often include door and window sensors as well as surveillance cameras. A remote monitoring system will cost about $1,000 to install plus a monthly fee of about $30
- Make sure all sides of your home and outside doors are adequately lit with secure lighting placed high out of reach. Lights can easily be set on a timer and can be attached to motion detectors to deter intruders.
- Keep your office and expensive equipment under wraps by not having an open office window at the front of your home.
- Talk to your insurance agent about the type of insurance you need.
- Check your office for safety hazards like loose cords, precarious stacks of books and papers, and too many plugs in one outlet.
Safeguarding work that is brought home
Obviously, working on weekends could necessitate transmitting sensitive data between home and office via a shared network. Frequently, weekend warriors also may need to e-mail or update information to client Web sites. In both situations, cyber-security becomes a real concern.
To avoid a professional catastrophe, check with your employer and IT administrator to see if you need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) before transmitting or receiving work-related data at home. This is a common safeguard in the corporate sector. It works by encrypting the data so hackers cannot get access to sensitive documents.
For additional safety, consider the following:
- Use an Internet firewall to help screen out hackers and viruses.
- Set up anti-spyware and antivirus software with automatic updates.
- Set strong passwords and change them often, particularly if you like to take your work to a coffee shop or café from time to time. While many public places offer wireless connections, most do not provide secure networks. Hackers easily can get to sensitive files stored on unprotected laptops and notebooks.
- Enable your computer to shut down, log off, lock down or reboot in intervals you select.
From a purely physical - and logical - perspective, take measures to guard equipment and hard copies of files and documents from fire, flood and theft:
- Consider an alarm system. When weekend work projects require many files or special equipment, ask your employer to subsidize a home security system for the company's protection.
- Store all important materials in a locked fire/waterproof safe, desk or file cabinet. Keep extra keys at the corporate office.
- When the office is self-contained in a separate room, always lock doors and windows.
- Draw the curtains at night so would-be thieves can't see computers, printers or other equipment.
- Keep the fact that you sometimes work at home to yourself.
- Never leave work files in the car or store them in public lockers (e.g. the gym).