These days, the word “telecommunication” or, as it’s more commonly referred, “telecommuting” is something everyone is hearing. But what is telecommuting anyway, and how does it apply to records management? Telecommunication means communication over a distance by telephone, cable, or broadcasting. For most people, this means working from home on a desktop or laptop computer.
Due to recent events concerning COVID-19, a lot of people have been asked by their employers to work from home, and, if you’re like me, I’m sure you asked, “Well what do I do about the records I might create using my computer?”, “Have the rules regarding personal devices (see SB 944) changed at all?”, “Will my personal device still be subject to a PIA request if I work from home?”
First, the rules regarding the creation of government records have not changed: If you create government records on personal devices, your personal device could be subjected to a PIA request. However, there are ways you can work from home, use your personal device, and prevent your device from being subject to a PIA request. How, you ask?
Remote access is the ability to access your business computer from a different location, using a different device. This means that if I must use my personal computer to work from home, I can utilize remote access to gain control of my business computer through my personal computer. This also means that any government records I create will be saved on my business device and NOT on my personal device, protecting my laptop from PIA requests and giving me peace of mind.
If remote access isn’t an option, there are a few other options to think about when telecommuting using your personal devices.
Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network, or VPN, provides users with unique IP addresses of the particular server that belongs to the VPN provider instead of the user using their own IP address. Not only this, but the IP address is also encrypted meaning your use of government databases or creation of government documents are less likely to be compromised.
Migration from Personal to Business Device
This option involves transferring government records to a business device after creating records on your personal device.
Sometimes, as a last resort, creating government records on a personal device is the only option. TSLAC does not endorse conducting government business on personal devices. In cases like these, it is important to have mechanisms in place to routinely transfer government records to business devices after they’ve been created on personal devices. For example, create a schedule to remind yourself to transfer records created on your personal device to your business device. Government employees who are telecommuting should check the policies of their respective employers regarding use of a personal device for business purposes.
Have a personal back-up plan to the your government’s back-up plan. In the event that your company-provided telecommunication plan fails, there should be another way to access files and emails. In events like these, consider using physical copies of documents when working at a different location. Consider using cloud storage solutions outside the work-provided digital environment in case telecommunication fails. For example, here at TSLAC, if telecommunication services fails, we have the ability to access Office 365, and resources like Skype or Outlook on other network devices. Keep in mind, if you create government records on an unsecured network outside the local government, your network has a greater chance of being compromised, so take the proper precautions to protect your government records.
Other Questions You Must Ask
- Does my government have policies and procedures in place for telecommunication and remote access?
- Don’t have a remote access policy in place? Introduce this idea to your IT department. This should be a key element in your government’s disaster response plan as officials may not be able to work from the main building in the event of an emergency.
- Does my government provide computers, or will I have to use my own?
- In cases like these, please consult with your IT department about best practices and procedures.
In the event of the unexpected, being prepared is the only option. It is essential to learn, update, and practice telecommunication procedures in the event of a disaster. If telecommunication isn’t an option, it is always important to have personal plans and procedures in place to make sure government records are in proper custody, and to make sure access and use of government records are secure.