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Home office: work safely in corona times


Home office is becoming increasingly important as a result of the corona virus. But apart from the current developments, it can make sense not to have to drive to the office every day. We explain how you can work comfortably and safely from home.

The spread of the corona virus has intensified the trend towards home office. Not only large companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft recommend their employees to work from home now. Many smaller companies also want to do the home work for the employees, but often face the problem that their network and company software are not prepared for it. You should therefore set up your home PC and the most important programs you need in good time so that you can work from home as efficiently and reliably as in the office. We present the necessary tools and tell you what else to look out for.

Work at home and in the office: these are the options

There are several ways of doing office work on your home PC: For example, you can use a remote desktop program to control the office computer remotely from home. Or you can access the company network via a secure network connection via VPN. Finally, you can install your office programs locally on your PC at home, edit files there and send them to the company.

See also:

The best tools, tips & tricks for your home office

Remote Desktop: Access the work PC from home

With a remote desktop app like Teamviewer you can operate your office PC from home. The program establishes the connection via a device ID. To do this, it must run on both computers.

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With a remote desktop app like Teamviewer you can operate your office PC from home. The program establishes the connection via a device ID. To do this, it must run on both computers.

With a remote desktop program you can directly access the computer in the office. You then control it completely via the home computer – the desktop of the office computer appears on the monitor at home, the mouse pointer on the work computer is controlled with the input device on the home PC.

There are two recommended programs for this remote control

                        
Anydesk
and

                        
Team viewer
. To do this, install the program on the office computer and the PC at home. When starting on the workstation, the tool shows you a device ID consisting of several digits. At home, after entering this ID, you will be taken straight to the office computer.

With unattended access, you can access your workstation computer from your home PC without having to allow it there. You should therefore protect this function with a password.

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With unattended access, you can access your workstation computer from your home PC without having to allow it there. You should therefore protect this function with a password.

Remote desktop programs are usually intended for remote maintenance: You can use them to help a family member or friend with PC problems, for example, or to install software. To do this, the user must allow access to his PC in the remote desktop tool. Of course, this is not possible with remote access from the home office. Therefore, after installation on the office PC, set up the “Unattended Access” function and assign a secure password. Once this has been done, you can now access the workstation with the device ID and after entering the password, without anyone having to allow access. Important: The office PC must remain switched on and must not go into sleep mode. To ensure that the office PC starts up again even after a power failure, activate the corresponding function in the BIOS, which you will find under the name “Restore on Power Loss”. Access to a computer that has gone to sleep can be realized via Wake-on-LAN. However, you should definitely test whether this works reliably before going to the home office for a long time.

In order to be able to use remote access reliably, you should switch off all energy-saving settings on the office PC.

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In order to be able to use remote access reliably, you should switch off all energy-saving settings on the office PC.

Anydesk and Teamviewer are free for private use. However, if you want to use these programs for professional purposes, there is a big limitation: The licenses for business use are quite expensive. Anydesk costs from around 107 euros per year for a user, with Teamviewer the prices for a single license start at around 334 euros per year.

Anydesk and Teamviewer support all common desktop systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS and can also be used on Android and iOS.

VPN connection; With the home PC safely into the company network

If your company offers VPN access, you can log on to the VPN server from home using Windows standard tools.

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If your company offers VPN access, you can log on to the VPN server from home using Windows standard tools.

With a virtual private network (VPN), your PC can get safely into the company network at home. To do this, it creates an encrypted connection to the company’s VPN server over the Internet. Depending on how the company VPN is set up, your home PC becomes part of the company network: It receives an IP address from the company network, and you can then access shares and services as on the office PC. Another form of VPN access is the option of only connecting to certain programs in the company network, such as software for order and customer management.

For the VPN connection you need the corresponding access data, which you can get from your company. Before doing this, you need to install the appropriate VPN client software on the home PC, which contains the corresponding certificates with which the home PC identifies itself as authorized to access the VPN server. You start this software and enter the URL of your company services in your browser to be able to work with them. Important: Be sure to inquire beforehand whether all the services and programs you need can be reached via VPN.

You access various services of your company via Citrix. To do this, you need the right receiver software on your home computer.

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You access various services of your company via Citrix. To do this, you need the right receiver software on your home computer.

The software

                        
Citrix
is an alternative to VPN access. You can also access programs and services that run on the corporate server, the so-called Citrix farm, via Citrix. To do this, your company must have licensed Citrix and you must install the Citrix client software on your computer. The newer version of the Citrix client software for your PC at home is the

Citrix Workspace app

. But be careful: If your Citrix service was set up on the company servers some time ago, it may not support the Citrix Workspace app. In this case you have to use the older one instead

Citrix Receiver

download.

In any case, the Citrix client software on your computer must firstly be compatible with your Citrix farm and secondly must be compatible with the operating system on your home computer. Clarify this with your IT department at an early stage and have Citrix access set up.

As an alternative to the Citrix receiver, you can access Citrix from a modern Internet browser if the free Java runtime environment is installed. The Citrix Receiver Apps for iOS or Android are available for smartphones and tablets.

Local secondary installation of desktop applications

If there is no way for you to connect to the office PC or the company network, you can also install important software that you need for work locally at home. Then you also have to take care of an orderly comparison and exchange with the files that are stored in the office. This can be done, for example, via cloud storage that the company uses – for example

                        
Onedrive
.

With an Office 365 subscription, the Office programs can be installed and used on several computers at the same time. With Business Premium, this is possible on up to 15 devices.

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With an Office 365 subscription, the Office programs can be installed and used on several computers at the same time. With Business Premium, this is possible on up to 15 devices.

If you install company software at home, you must observe the license terms that apply to these programs. Depending on the license model, an employee may, for example, install software on several devices, for example on a PC, notebook, smartphone and tablet. At

                        
Office 365 Business Premium
For example, the installation of office applications on up to 15 end devices is permitted per user. However, there are also licenses that only apply to one user, but who can use the program on different devices. In this case there should be a way in the software to register and deregister used devices. Be sure to check with your company’s IT department to find out what license rules apply to each program before installing it at home. This applies above all to expensive application programs such as professional video editing programs, development environments or database systems.

Communication via mail and messenger

Teams enables collaboration within the company without the employees having to be at one location. The tool allows, among other things, chats and video calls as well as the joint editing of files.

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Teams enables collaboration within the company without the employees having to be at one location. The tool allows, among other things, chats and video calls as well as the joint editing of files.

In addition to the productive software, you are sure to use mail and chat programs in the office for communication with colleagues. If you cannot access your workstation PC or the company network via remote desktop app or VPN, you should consider in good time how you can keep in touch with your work colleagues from your home office.

For example, the Messenger program belongs to certain Office 365 subscriptions

                        
Teams
: You can use it to chat, make calls, set up a video conference with several participants, manage a calendar and also exchange files. In view of the corona epidemic, Microsoft has made teams available for six months in the extended premium function for free. This offer applies to companies that can apply to Microsoft for a free license for Office 365 E1 for six months. The corresponding free license for Office 365 A1 is available for educational institutions.

More on the subject:

Microsoft teams free because of corona virus until 2021

Individual users who do not have an Office 365 subscription can use a freemium version of Teams free of charge until January 2021. To do this, download teams after registration with an email address from the workplace or a school. Owners of a Gmail or Outlook address get the freemium version from Teams

                        
via the website
. It includes 10 GB of storage for team files, 2 GB for personal files per user as well as the online versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Onenote.

Word, Excel and Powerpoint are also available as free online versions. They can be started and operated via the browser.

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Word, Excel and Powerpoint are also available as free online versions. They can be started and operated via the browser.

Microsoft also offers Office applications such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint as free online versions. They offer fewer functions than the programs for local installation, but can be used conveniently using a browser.

If you cannot use an Office 365 license, there are also numerous freeware programs with a similar scope of services. You can, for example, like a mail client

                        
Thunderbird
install on your PC at home. You then have to enter the access data for your company’s mail server. Obtain this data in good time. Likewise, many office tasks can be carried out without any problems

                        
Libre Office
take care of and edit these files with Microsoft Office.

Bitrix 24 is a comprehensive online service for corporate collaboration - including tools for project management and task planning.

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Bitrix 24 is a comprehensive online service for corporate collaboration – including tools for project management and task planning.

A more comprehensive solution for task and project management including cloud storage is for example

                        
Bit 24
. The service offers various tariff models. The “Free” tariff is permanently free of charge for individuals and small companies with up to 12 employees. Bitrix 24 has temporarily lifted this upper limit for the number of users due to the corona crisis. Currently, an unlimited number of users can work with the free Bitrix24 tariff.

The free version offers 5 GB of online storage space. In addition there are around 35 tools with which you can digitize your work processes: Calendar, project management and task management, Kanban, Gantt, CRM, reports, invoices, chats and messages, employee directory and social network. The edited files can not only be selected locally or in your own Bitrix 24 cloud, but also in Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive.

Cisco is also responding to the trend toward more home offices triggered by the corona virus crisis. The company provides

                        
Cisco Webex
for companies that are not yet Webex customers, available free of charge for 90 days. Cisco Webex includes functions for video conferencing, IP telephony, messaging, data transmission and screen sharing. Cisco Webex is generally free of charge for a single user, so the new feature introduced for the corona crisis is that up to 100 users in one company can now use Cisco Webex for up to 90 days free of charge and without time restrictions.

Always important: Ensure security on the home computer

If you want to access your office computer or your company’s server services from your home computer, it is imperative that your home computer is fully protected against malware and hacker attacks. Because it would be conceivable that attackers could access your office computer from an infected or hacked home computer with a connection to the company network or access your company server via the VPN tunnel. If you install a current virus scanner and firewall on your Windows computer at home, stay critical, especially with mails and their attachments. And keep the operating system of your home computer up to date with updates.

Don’t forget phone forwarding or phone software

It sounds banal, but it is particularly important for employees who have to be reachable primarily by phone: forward your phone from the office to your home device or to your smartphone. If you use telephony software in your company, you should also install it at home.

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