As the pandemic carries on into 2021, remote work operations will continue and are likely to become a mainstay for many businesses. Employee expectations are shifting toward more flexible work environments, and employers are proactively seeking ways to provide solutions that will address a diverse range of needs.
A recent global study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), shows that hybrid work models are a desirable option for employers and employees alike, and will most likely persist beyond COVID-19.
We connected with Kevin Nincehelser, COO at Premier One, a nationwide information technology solutions provider, to discuss IT considerations for title businesses contemplating the transition to more permanent remote operations.
Employers are considering greater work-from-home flexibility for employees beyond the pandemic
Nincehelser said that from what he’s seen among his clients, remote work in the title industry is likely to stay. Clients who have employees with school-aged children are allowing for greater work from home flexibility among working parents. This flexibility is a must-have now, and the expectation for flexibility will likely persist well beyond the pandemic.
The prior roadblocks to working from home have been eliminated during the pandemic; title & escrow businesses quickly adopted new technology, policies, and processes to enable remote work—all of which can be maintained well beyond the pandemic.
IT challenges at the beginning of the pandemic
Historically, the title industry as a whole did not embrace remote work operations at the same pace as other industries, such as the tech industry. This is because many title agents relied on traditional on-premise server software, which can be more difficult to access and use while working from home.
As a result, many title agents were not adequately equipped to transition to remote work at the onset of the pandemic. Fortunately, this was not the case for title agents on Qualia’s cloud-based software, which provided users with instant and secure access to files and workflows from anywhere with a secure internet connection. Qualia users reported that they were able to maintain productivity and keep their business moving forward.
Staying ahead of security risks is much more difficult with a remote workforce if the right systems aren’t in place from the start. As a result of the sudden shift to a remote workforce during the pandemic, some title agents resorted to quick and easy solutions rather than the most secure.
Most of these quick solutions did not offer protections such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Other quick-turn solutions such as remote desktop, desktop sharing, and web conferencing applications did not meet necessary security standards or ALTA best practices for secure collection and transmission of non-public personal information. The long-term repercussions of these temporary solutions could be steep. Nincehelser noted that at scale, the security holes created from temporary work from home solutions leave the entire industry vulnerable.
IT must-haves when transitioning from temporary to permanent remote operations
Nincehelser said that businesses need to maintain company-owned information technology (IT) assets such as company-issued computers. He noted “bring your own device (BYOD)” (using a personal device to conduct business on an organization’s network with company data) can pose a major risk if not carefully implemented. These practices open companies up to cybersecurity risks and impact operational efficiency.
Businesses should plan on providing their employees with the following work-from-home equipment and systems:
- A company laptop with a webcam (which is now vital to day-to-day remote work operations).
- Technology and systems that enable paperless processes (such as Qualia). Nincehelser believes that working toward paperless options is critical. Large copiers are typically not available at home, and having printouts exposed in employees’ homes is not secure.
- Secure, digital-closing technology. E-notary, remote closings, and other digital, secure closing tools are now essential, not optional.
Solutions to mitigate security risks
According to Nincehelser, traditional VPN solutions don’t work well with a distributed workforce because businesses do not have full control over every endpoint connecting to the environment. Endpoints are remote computing devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. When these endpoints are not managed effectively and with proper IT protocols, they can provide vulnerable entry points to cybercriminals. “You can no longer trust endpoints, so keep your company data off of them,” Nincehelser said.
So, how can title businesses avoid these security pitfalls? Nincehelser recommended the following:
- Use a secure remote desktop, virtual workstation, or web-based software such as Qualia.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all your systems.
- Leverage an IT company like Premier One that is accustomed to providing remote support and is also equipped to build scalable network solutions.
“Today’s remote workforce has shifted the security barrier from the office front door to the front doors of each of your employees,” Nincehelser said. While this might sound alarming, with proper security protocols in place, title businesses can meet their employees’ remote work needs while maintaining high levels of client and consumer protection.
To learn more about Qualia’s security standards, click below to download a copy of our security whitepaper.