How Cloud-Based Training Can Better Enable Remote Workers

Remote working has suddenly jumped to the top of the enterprise agenda. While most organizations have the rudiments of basic connectivity, video conferencing and collaboration in place, the next big challenge is to ensure that this workforce remains engaged and trained, and that the now-expanded data ecosystem remains in tune with the company’s overall security culture.

Even for seasoned security experts, this is uncharted waters. With so many employees working from home, on personal devices that most likely do not have the most up-to-date protection, the number of attack vectors into critical data and infrastructure has increased exponentially. It is difficult enough to ensure security in the office. At home, many tend to operate under a different, more lax set of rules.

Wired’s Lily Hay Newman recently spelled out all the ways COVID-19 has set the stage for “hacking mayhem,” and the outlook is not pretty. Not only are distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks targeting key research facilities like the Czech Republic’s Brno University Hospital, the number of pandemic-related phishing attacks is on the rise as well.

If these attacks start to target home devices, and they probably will, they could wreak tremendous damage on enterprise systems, all while security is working with a skeleton crew on-premises. 

This is not meant to sound alarmist, but it does highlight how the threat potential has changed over the past month and that all knowledge workers need to understand the seriousness of the moment.

A key question is how organizations are expected to train their workers on the new security protocol, especially when the protocols themselves are being revised? This is where cloud-based training can be invaluable. The cloud, after all, is designed to suit the needs of a distributed workforce. Not only does it provide massive scalability and global connectivity, its security is specifically designed to accommodate remote users and rivals what you’d find in an enterprise data center.

The cloud also overcomes the two most significant challenges to traditional in-person employee training: time and cost. Under normal circumstances, organizations looking to upskill their workers must compile a substantial set of resources, training materials, and even conference rooms, air travel, accommodations and other expenses. Once the training program is underway, employees are not performing their normal jobs, including critical functions like budgeting, sales and security.

In the cloud, however, training processes are vastly simplified and can be far more cost-effective and powerful. For instance, no matter how large the training class or where individuals are located, materials and instruction can be made available in moments. There are also no travel-related costs, and employees can finish the program with relative speed and return to their duties immediately.

Cloud-based training can support hands-on practice in environments that mirror actual work, too, and learning-by-doing is one of the foremost ways to retain information. Instead of trying to apply abstract theories and guidelines, staff can return to their jobs ready to implement new practices and with far less disruption to existing processes. With that in mind, consider extending the time in which users can “play” in environments post-training. 

With the right approach you can further enhance “stickiness,” despite the distractions many new to remote employees suddenly face at home. For instance, the importance of skilled facilitators can’t be understated and virtual instructor led training (VILT) closes the gap that results when in-person isn’t an option. Just be sure trainers have thumbnails of students' work and chat capabilities so they can step in to help when learners need it.

Similarly, two-way communication allows for feedback from across the class, polling and more, increasing focus and compensating for visual feedback you’d get in a physical classroom. 

The cloud also benefits training in a wide range of intangible ways. Many companies are loathed to invest in employee training for fear that they will simply take these newly acquired skills elsewhere. While nothing can prevent this from happening, the fact remains that employee retention is greater when training is readily available and can be completed with relative ease.

What does an effective cloud-based training program look like? One approach is the virtual training lab, where workers can log in to a wide variety of training programs, collaborative projects, demonstrations and other tools designed to boost their knowledge across a wide range of fields. These environments can be spun up in seconds and can be tailored to a wide variety of training scenarios, such as small or large class sizes, event-style presentations, self-paced instruction and real-time virtual instruction.

This could prove invaluable when preparing home-bound workers for the security challenges of the new world we find ourselves in. Not only can the initial training regarding basic security measures be disseminated across a wide audience in record time, but constant updates on new threats, protocols, procedures and other security aspects can be instantly released across a global footprint.

Meanwhile, the very latest in training tools and programs, such as promiscuous mode and nested virtualization, can also be implemented in record time and at low cost.

The hallmark of the next-generation enterprise will be its ability to pivot in the face of new challenges and new business environments. This is extremely difficult to do, however, with the rigid, static data infrastructure of the past. By moving critical processes like employee training to a scalable, flexible, cloud-based ecosystem, the enterprise will find itself in an ideal state to confront, and even profit by, any challenge that lay ahead – no matter how disruptive to the existing order. 

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