First of all, I want to say thank you! I know everyone is doing some heroics these days to continue supporting our campus and our community, so thank you for all you are doing and know that it is very much appreciated.
In this blog post, we are going to go through a couple of different things about working from home or working remotely. I know our situation now is a little bit different than your normal telecommuting situation. Many of us will have children and spouses in the house as well, so that adds some complications. Hopefully, you’ll find some useful information today on the equipment that you need and the different resources that we have available to you.
So, let’s jump into the equipment that you might need if you are working from home. First, of course, you are going to need a computer. You can use your personal desktop or a laptop, whatever you may have at home. If you have a laptop on campus, we recommend that you take that with you. This will ensure you have a computer that is familiar to you. You will also need an internet connection. We are going to assume that all of you have either Wi-Fi, cable, or some other internet connection at home.
Security at Home
Let’s talk just a moment about computer security. I’ve received a lot of questions about if it is okay to use a personal device at home to access SMU resources? The answer is absolutely! You may need to as we don’t have enough loaner laptops – We don’t have enough laptops in general, and many of our orders for laptops are delayed right now. So, definitely, you’ll be relying on your own devices.
However, we do ask that you make sure that those devices are secure. That means that you have applied all of the security updates, whether they’re Windows updates or Mac updates, or any of the software updates that might be available for your particular computer and OS.
Also, be mindful, you should also have antivirus software installed on your computer – both Mac and Windows. There are several free tools available. Windows has some built-in software as well. Also available is Cylance Smart Antivirus, the same powerful antivirus tool used on campus is available in a home version at a reduced price. So, definitely double-check that to make sure your computer is secure.
Secondly, be mindful of when and where you are accessing work files. If you are downloading any work files, remember, it is your responsibility to keep them secure. So, do not store files that have Personally identifiable information (PII) or confidential information on your personal computer at home. Please, let’s keep those secure at all times.
Also, many of us have only a single computer at home that we share with the family. Our kids may be doing schoolwork, or a spouse could be doing remote work on that same computer as well. We recommend logging out of all of your work accounts and then out of the local user account before allowing another family member to access that computer. Again, you want to provide safety and security to the access that you have. Finally, if you need some software on your personal computer, be aware there are several software packages available for you to download and install by being an SMU employee.
Software for Home
Microsoft Office is available from office.smu.edu, which can be installed on up to 10 different devices, including your desktop, laptop, or mobile device, such as an iPad. This is a great benefit! Adobe is also available for faculty and staff on your home computer and there are several others. Please, just check our website if you have any questions about what software might be available to you.
Your Virtual Private Network
There is been a lot of questions about the SMU VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service, and when that might be necessary. Most of our resources are available to you from your own internet connection without the need for using a VPN connection. If you are trying to get to email, Box, Zoom, or any of those kinds of services all you need is your internet connection at home and a standard web browser – Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, or whichever you prefer. While they do not require a VPN connection, many of those do require Duo two-factor authentication.
We do host some services that do require that VPN connection, including Blackbaud, the network drives (T, V, U, Q, etc), AdminImages, Sitecore, and a few others that do require that you access from an on-campus SMU network address. If you need to access those services, you will need to download and install the SMU VPN client available at smu.edu/vpn.
Once you have connected to your internet service, you will then launch SMU VPN client to the SMU Network. Once connected, you will then have access to some of those secure resources. Instructions for both VPN clients are available on the VPN service page at smu.edu/vpn.
Another use for VPN is to enable you to remote desktop into your office computer. In this scenario, if I have a laptop at home and I know I need to access certain software that was only available on my office’s desktop computer, or I had certain files that I forgot to put on Box. I could remote into my work computer, log in, and then it’s just as if I am sitting at my desk in the office.
Before you go into a remote work situation, it does require a couple of steps first. You will want to configure your office computer to allow those remote connections. Instructions are available on the Remote Desktop Connection website, but if you have already left campus, contact the IT Help Desk, and we can assist.
Once you have done that at the office when you go home to your home computer you will connect to the SMU VPN and then establish that remote desktop connection. Unfortunately, this only works if your computer on campus remains powered on, so you should always have a backup plan in place, but again, contact the IT Help Desk if you need assistance.