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Keystone Remote Access and Microsoft Teams

In this help guide, we want to share ways your workers can work from home.  While this is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many are finding it productive and helpful to work remotely.  There are two areas we will focus on, some useful tips to connect to your corporate network, and using Microsoft Teams to stay productive and connected.

Remote Access for Working from Home

For most clients, Keystone provides a Virtual Private Network (VPN), so you can connect to the corporate network and operate as if you were in the office.  Your organizational leaders must approve remote access. While connected to this VPN, you will have:

  • Access to any servers, printers, other PCs, etc. as if you were in the office. There are limitations, see below.
  • Data sent between your remote PC and the corporate network will be encrypted and secure during transmission for better security.
  • Some protections your corporate network provides will be available to you, such as the services on the firewall that block malicious threats. Still, generally, you will be less secure than when in the network on a corporate PC.
  • Your traffic will be observed and managed as if you were in the office. For example, in many cases, if the corporate network prohibits Facebook access, you cannot visit Facebook while on the VPN.

Limitations and a Word About Home PCs

If you are using a home PC (non-corporate) to access the network, there are limitations you may experience when compared to working on your PC in the office.  One of these is mapped shared drives; if your office PC has an assigned “S” drive for shared files, that will not be setup on your home PC. There are other ways to create this map or access the data, but it will not be the same immediately after connecting. An additional, and probably obvious limitation is that applications installed on your office PC will not be installed on your home PC, so the ERP or CAD application you use in the office is not available.

Ideally, you would have a laptop and take that home and connect to the VPN; you would have a reasonably similar experience as in the office. If you will be working remotely for an extended period, and have a desktop PC at the office, it may be advisable to bring this home and use it.

There are other limitations you may experience, primarily in performance.  The document linked below describes this.

Ready to get connected?

To get your home PC connected, and the leadership of your organization has approved it, download the instructions for remote access.  Keystone cannot provide support for home networks, PCs, or personal internet service providers.

Microsoft Teams

A lot of organizations are finding Microsoft Teams a great help in this time of social distancing and working remotely. Keystone has been using Teams for about two years and has found it to be even more critical with the Covid-10 challenges. We wanted to share a quick overview of what Teams can offer for functionality, and some helpful tips we found in using it, and finally links to helpful training videos and resources.

What Microsoft Teams Offers

Microsoft Teams offers a platform for communicating in real-time or as needed right out of the box.  It can tie your employees together, and even outsiders like customers or vendors to share information in a variety of ways.  Here, we summarize the most important functions.

Function Use
Chat One on One or group chats like quick text messages, but allows adding attachments, sharing images, and moving smoothly to a voice or video chat, or sharing your screen.
Voice Calls* Allows one on one or conference calls, from the native client, or a dedicated desk phone.
Conference Calls* Similar to most conferencing services, Teams allows many people to call in using the Teams client or a toll-free number.
Video Calls* Video calls with webcams for one on one or multiple participants.  See below for a tip on this.
File Sharing Microsoft built Teams on Microsoft SharePoint, so every team comes with a document library for sharing files for that team, along with a OneNote notebook, and other functions.
Screen Sharing Share your screen, or a specific application window with others to collaborate on a document.
Multiple platforms While Teams can be used in your web browser, there are native clients for Windows, MacOS, IOS, and Android.

 

* Some features require an additional license or equipment.

Helpful Tips for Implementing or Using Teams

In our use, we found the following was helpful.

  • Use Zoom, or something similar, for larger video conferences. Zoom does not offer most of what Teams does, but in video conferencing with more than 8-10 participants, it provides much better results.  Teams is now limited to four active webcams being displayed and promise to expand to nine soon, but Zoom’s performance in larger meetings is superior. Note that the free version of Zoom is limited to meetings of forty minutes. If you do use, Zoom, set a meeting password!
  • Organize your teams around the natural teams in your organization, so have a team for sales, accounting, operations, etc. You may also consider cross-functional teams – like a “Strategic Planning” team, or a “Project XYZ” team, with members from multiple departments.
  • Limit who can create Teams. While it is so convenient to quickly create a new team, it is better to thoughtfully plan teams so the information is in places people can reliably find.
  • Set a team, or at least a channel in a team, as a “water cooler” and encourage fun, personal posts here. It will attract a lot of attention, especially when employees are forced to stay home, and therefore speed the adoption and effectiveness of Teams.  Include everybody here; it is a free for all!
  • Spend little money on expensive webcams – Expensive, high-resolution webcams use more bandwidth, which detracts from other capabilities, including voice transmissions. The quality of the sound is more important, so a good microphone is a better investment, but generally, whatever you have will work fine.
  • Use Polly for surveys – third-party developers have created add-in Apps for teams that extend the functionality. There are a lot of these available from the “Apps” option, but the one we found very helpful is “Polly.”  Polly allows you to quickly create surveys and collect info from team members, like “where should we order lunch from?” or “What should we charge for delivery fees?”.

Links to Training Resources

The first place to look for help is right inside of Teams itself!  Microsoft has built a lot of quick videos, short reads, and longer documents, all available from the Help menu, check it out!

Beyond that, we found these resources helpful:

How to Effectively Work from Home

Keystone has published a helpful article, Ten Tips to Work Remotely,  on working from home and remaining productive and satisfied, which you and your users may appreciate.

 

What’s Next?

Contact Keystone’s support help desk if you need help getting Microsoft Teams set up in your organization!

Need help working from home? Check out our list of helpful articles about working remotely.