Managing Employees Remotely: The Importance of Updates

Back at the beginning of last year with the pandemic closing most in-person businesses, a wide variety of businesses started letting their employees work from home — all at the same time, with virtually no preparation or planning. Now, nearly a year later, it is clear that work-from-home is likely going to be a part of nearly all businesses’ infrastructures, whether total or in part.

This hybrid in-person/remote environment has continued to present surprises to business owners and managers even now, over 10 months in. One thing that has become an issue is running manufacturer updates on company-managed computers that are physically in the homes of employees. This article will detail the updates issue and discuss some potential solutions, particularly for the less-than-computer-literate business manager. If you have employees using your machines at home and you don’t have your own IT department managing those PCs, then this article is for you.

Typically, system and software updates continue to run automatically on the operating system of employees’ PCs. However, computer manufacturers periodically release updates to their Drivers and Firmware to keep the communication between the hardware and the software flowing smoothly. If only one side of this relationship stays current and the other side doesn’t, your employees will start experiencing problems with their PCs.

A lot of hardware manufacturers have attempted to resolve the communication issue by setting up their update software to run automatically. There are two main issues that cause these auto-updates to fail: first, a lot of hardware updates require the computer to reboot and the second is if an employee’s PC requires administrative privileges for an update to occur.

The updates won’t happen if there is trouble scheduling a reboot or running it automatically. If you have employees who never shut down or don’t routinely restart their computers, this type of issue is most likely to be the cause of whatever oddities are occurring on your employees’ PCs. Have them restart their computers so the updates can occur and, voila! That should solve the problem.

However, an issue that can cause the auto-updates to fail is when all modifications to hardware or the communication between hardware and software require administrative privileges. Chances are you created an account for your employees to use on their PCs that do NOT have admin rights. This makes sense because you typically don’t want employees installing software that may compromise the security or functionality of their PCs. Unfortunately, unless you installed a remote access tool on each employee’s PC with its own admin privileges before you let employees leave with company PCs — or let employees use their own PCS (more on related issues to that another time!), then you’re going to need to get your hands on each PC to be able to run the updates using your stored admin credentials. What a pain that would be if you need to get them all back! But that is what you’d need to do in that situation unless you have remote access software. 

Remote access software is the primary tool that Remote Management and Monitoring companies such as Vermont Panurgy use to remotely support clients. Similar tools can be purchased and used by business owners, but they are generally rather complicated and expensive. Most importantly, configuring them so the connection to each employee’s remote PC and the contents of the PC itself remain secure can be quite challenging and pose security issues if not done properly.

Some remote access tools are free or cheap, but generally require someone on both ends of the PC to initiate the connection. This means taking up valuable work time from your employees while you run updates on their PC that could otherwise be done while the users are offline.

If you are looking for assistance managing your company’s workstations and the updates that they need, Vermont Panurgy has a number of flexible offerings that can help you with this. Contact us to let us know what your needs are today — don’t wait for an employee’s PC to stop working because no one is there to run its updates!

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