Apple employees working from home stumble over confusing security guidelines

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2020
As Apple employees adjust to working from home, they discover that slow home network speeds and confusing security restrictions are impacting their ability to work effectively.

The COVID-19 disease is caused by a coronavirus
The COVID-19 disease is caused by a coronavirus


Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees on March 6th to work from home as necessary to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Now, a week later, those employees and developers that are able to work from home are feeling the strain of doing so.

Complaints to staffers include slow download speeds impacting workflows and still-changing rules surrounding secrecy and what work can actually be performed remotely. Apple's own internal networking and infrastructure is built to keep outsiders from breaking in, and this seems to include Apple employees as well.

As Apple adjusts its security guidelines, some employees still show up to the office to work. They have no other choice but to do so, since hardware cannot be removed from campus if it has not been released.

In a wide-ranging article that covers the state of all remote work in Silicon Valley, the Wall Street Journal asked some employees about their work conditions.

One Apple employee remarked, "It's all about lowering the density." Meaning that having less employees in a central location, like Apple Park, still matters during the outbreak.

Apple is conducting daily health screenings at the security desk. All of these efforts combined with the recent closure of all Apple Stores outside of China are a result of responding to CDC recommendations in fighting the spread of coronavirus.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,533member
    No surprises here. Going from an office with 10 gig networking to local servers and storage to even a fast hundreds of megabit home connection through a VPN is going to really slow some people down. If your home connection is shared bandwidth and everyone around you is also working from home things only get worse.  

    Perhaps having people who need really the high speed and high capacity resources are split into 3-4 shifts on-site would be more productive than having everyone working from home, which we’re seeing is not without its challenges. In other words, time share access to the campus to keep densities below a target threshold. 

    If a single campus team is predominantly working the traditional 9-5 workday splitting those same folks into 3-4 shifts would reduce the density of workers on-site. The same approach could be applied for the cleaning staff where fewer workers are on-site in shifts rather than one big cleaning crew descending on the facility at the end of the traditional workday. 

    This emergency will absolutely stress the limits of the infrastructure that was already put in place with naive assumptions about our ability to maintain normalcy under this kind of disruption. It’s a steep learning curve for everyone so we’ll just have to do our best to get through it and learn from the experience so the next time we’re better prepared. 
    edited March 2020 pscooter63StrangeDays
  • Reply 2 of 18
    dewme said:
    No surprises here. Going from an office with 10 gig networking to local servers and storage to even a fast hundreds of megabit home connection through a VPN is going to really slow some people down. If your home connection is shared bandwidth and everyone around you is also working from home things only get worse.  

    Not to mention the people who are home that can not work from home so instead they're binge watching Netflix. Or the kids that aren't in school but are watching Disney+.

    Not that I think this would happen but a place like Apple Park is probably well equipped to handle people basically living there. Get a few key people tested and cleared and the facilities probably make it fairly decent living. There's the cafeteria, the gym (and showers), throw in a cot and this sounds like something close to what I've done (though not for consecutive days).
  • Reply 3 of 18
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,151member
    While I fully appreciate that this is not going to be the experience for all people: Files in the Cloud and iCloud photo library are frustratingly slow for me.

    I'm a bit glad that Apple's own employees now get to experience this, as I'm confident they've never really had to see how frustrating it is to be waiting for a simple download. (Sometimes it's even faster to download the file via the browser Files interface.)
  • Reply 4 of 18
    oscargoscarg Posts: 15member
    Hahahaha, I love it when random Web sites claim to know what's going on inside this or that company.

    People at Apple work at home quite frequently with little difficulty.  But hey, "everything is fine" doesn't generate clicks, does it?

    By the way, here's another tidbit that doesn't happen across the board at Apple: extensive user testing

    ElCapitan
  • Reply 5 of 18
    100k companies wordwide have solved these problems. So happy hiking
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 6 of 18
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,517member
    All the more reason Apple should have had iCloud for Business working in-house ready to roll out for public consumption soon.

    Still if it clues them in the fact there is vast room for someone to do better than the current small, medium and team based business than any of the current offers which all want large monolithic entities then it still might be time for them to do something about it.
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 7 of 18
    M68000M68000 Posts: 330member
    Huh?  There should be established documents on security guidelines for working remote.  This should be in place for many years.  No doubt they have a CISO and obviously a legal department to craft the rules and who to go to.  This is unexpected article for sure.
  • Reply 8 of 18
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,269member
    mattinoz said:
    All the more reason Apple should have had iCloud for Business working in-house ready to roll out for public consumption soon.

    Still if it clues them in the fact there is vast room for someone to do better than the current small, medium and team based business than any of the current offers which all want large monolithic entities then it still might be time for them to do something about it.

    Yeh,  This is the tip of the iceberg for the U.S. -- and most of the world.

    We have very little capacity or infrastructure to support remote work, education and healthcare.   The pieces are all out there.  But they have never been brought together to form an organized, effective whole.

    My grandkid goes to a very well off school ranked the 6th highest  in the state -- yet they are using the same methods my schools used 60 years ago.   There is almost no capacity for remote learning -- even though he will probably be at home now till next fall (they released them on Friday for "2 weeks" but, in two weeks the epidemic won't even be at its peak yet!).  The kids all have iPhones, iPads and a few have MacBooks -- but the school has no way to access them.

    Fortunately, we have EBay, Amazon and others (like Apple) to use for remote shopping.  And, grocers like Whole Foods are ramping up free food delivery that has been ordered remotely.   That will help.   But we need to modernize -- particularly in healthcare which, like my grandkid's school, administers their services the same way they did 60 years ago.  But, until there is profit in it, we will do little or nothing.

    edited March 2020 mattinoz
  • Reply 9 of 18
     I maintain a lot of servers and company networks. While I do my best to make sure that all users have what they need in case they need to work out of the office, many of them don't take the time to get setup until the last minute or until they absolutely must be able to do work out of the office. A lot of them don't have good enough internet service to work remotely. That's their fault. I have gigabit service a home, and I work from home 3 days out of every week. I made sure that I can do my job without difficulty at home. I actually work better at home since a lot of what I do is very tedious. It's nice and quiet with no distractions.
  • Reply 10 of 18
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,269member
     I maintain a lot of servers and company networks. While I do my best to make sure that all users have what they need in case they need to work out of the office, many of them don't take the time to get setup until the last minute or until they absolutely must be able to do work out of the office. A lot of them don't have good enough internet service to work remotely. That's their fault. I have gigabit service a home, and I work from home 3 days out of every week. I made sure that I can do my job without difficulty at home. I actually work better at home since a lot of what I do is very tedious. It's nice and quiet with no distractions.

    I'm retired now, but that was my experience as well:   The expectation that everything would go from zero to 60 immediately.
    Or, even more common was:   "Well I used this two years ago.   Why doesn't it work now?"
  • Reply 11 of 18
    Developers have been begging Apple to dogfood their own products at home for the past couple of decades. NONE of Apple's developer tools work correctly over slow unreliable home internet. Xcode does not even have a working upload status display. There is ZERO tolerance for transmission errors causing uploads to fail or freeze while free apps like FileZilla handle internet errors and even allows you to pause uploads/downloads and continue them days later. Apple should develop a reliable Internet file transport and then USE IT in all their products as well as give the SDK to third party developers. Enough of this nonsense!
  • Reply 12 of 18
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,269member
    Here's an interesting take on working from home from a psychologist:

    "one concern kept coming up for my single clients — as well as friends and colleagues who live alone — in particular: the isolation they expected to experience while working from home if (or more likely when) their offices closed for health reasons.

    As one friend who lives alone said to me: “Of course I can work from home. But can I stay sane while I’m doing it?”


    That was my problem when I worked at home for 3 months.   By the third month I was going stir crazy!


  • Reply 13 of 18
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,157member
    Developers have been begging Apple to dogfood their own products at home for the past couple of decades. NONE of Apple's developer tools work correctly over slow unreliable home internet. Xcode does not even have a working upload status display. There is ZERO tolerance for transmission errors causing uploads to fail or freeze while free apps like FileZilla handle internet errors and even allows you to pause uploads/downloads and continue them days later. Apple should develop a reliable Internet file transport and then USE IT in all their products as well as give the SDK to third party developers. Enough of this nonsense!
    Amazing that there is a legion of indy devs working at home with Xcode and have not expressed this absolute failing. 

    Would love to see your data that backs up your claim that Apple employees haven’t WFH before now. 
  • Reply 14 of 18
    oscarg said:
    Hahahaha, I love it when random Web sites claim to know what's going on inside this or that company.

    People at Apple work at home quite frequently with little difficulty.  But hey, "everything is fine" doesn't generate clicks, does it?

    By the way, here's another tidbit that doesn't happen across the board at Apple: extensive user testing

    We have a VPN solution for remote/home workers, and normally it is fine, with 200+ simultaneous users at a peak time of the day. But when the company makes many more people work remotely, it may tax the VPN resources, or even the company’s internet connection. We are currently optimizing the deployment of VPN to maximize the number of simultaneous users it will support, just in case. 

  • Reply 15 of 18
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,316member
    I work from home (not as an indy or contract engineer, but full time for a company).  Have been for more than the past 4 years. I live and work in Utah, while the company was based in Indiana, got bought, and is now based in San Jose.   I still am assigned to and work with the Indiana office.  (I use Xcode daily from home, without issue, but I use git using the command line and Sourcetree and don't use the internal Xcode source management)

    There is the element of needing "adult conversation" so I make sure to get out in the neighborhood, or to visit with the adults at my kids' practices, etc. or at church.   That will be the hard part during this period where many are staying home -- not having enough "adult conversation" time.  My boss in Indiana has a weekly 1-1 and the first 5 minutes are company related and then we spend 25 minutes shooting the breeze.  He knows it is important for that water-cooler time to happen, even if done remotely through Webex or Zoom.  So if you are working from home, see if they can set up a virtual water cooler or something where people can just hang out to socialize once in a while, while on the enforced stay-at-home situation.

    The company as of this past week sometime has been encouraging a lot more "work from home" so some people had VPN issues but the company quickly adjusted and got it running.  

    The biggest thing is to not wait until you have to to try and figure things out and know how to dial in to VPN/Zoom or Webex or whatever you use/ etc.  Get set up now, even if you still go into the office. Make sure you know how to access your company VPN, video conferences, etc and have tried and successfully done so.  

    Our local church leadership just got set up on Zoom tonight and we were testing out a video conference so that the weekly leadership meetings to discuss issues related to the congregation, members needing help, etc. could continue without needing to get together face to face.  We did not wait until the first meeting online to try and make it work.  We tried it tonight when there was no pressure so that later this week the meeting should hopefully go smoothly without a lot of time trying to get someone connected.  Because we already did.

    My kids go to a local charter school and our state, Utah, has closed all public schools for the next 2 weeks (as a start -- I bet it goes longer).  Luckily their school already issues each kid an iPad (there, I made this Apple related).  They already use Google Classroom, something called Canvas, and some other tool, as well as online lessons and practice websites (for things like Math -- ALEKS and Khan Academy for example).   They started working on a plan in case they needed to close the school, last week before the state closed all the public schools, so they should be up and running with the kids being home at some point this week.  They already had a way to access the school network for the kids -- or at least to let their school issued iPad be used at home in a monitored fashion -- so they should be able to transition to online learning pretty quickly.   

    edited March 2020 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 16 of 18
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,269member
    chadbag said:
    I work from home (not as an indy or contract engineer, but full time for a company).  Have been for more than the past 4 years. I live and work in Utah, while the company was based in Indiana, got bought, and is now based in San Jose.   I still am assigned to and work with the Indiana office.  (I use Xcode daily from home, without issue, but I use git using the command line and Sourcetree and don't use the internal Xcode source management)

    There is the element of needing "adult conversation" so I make sure to get out in the neighborhood, or to visit with the adults at my kids' practices, etc. or at church.   That will be the hard part during this period where many are staying home -- not having enough "adult conversation" time.  My boss in Indiana has a weekly 1-1 and the first 5 minutes are company related and then we spend 25 minutes shooting the breeze.  He knows it is important for that water-cooler time to happen, even if done remotely through Webex or Zoom.  So if you are working from home, see if they can set up a virtual water cooler or something where people can just hang out to socialize once in a while, while on the enforced stay-at-home situation.

    The company as of this past week sometime has been encouraging a lot more "work from home" so some people had VPN issues but the company quickly adjusted and got it running.  

    The biggest thing is to not wait until you have to to try and figure things out and know how to dial in to VPN/Zoom or Webex or whatever you use/ etc.  Get set up now, even if you still go into the office. Make sure you know how to access your company VPN, video conferences, etc and have tried and successfully done so.  

    Our local church leadership just got set up on Zoom tonight and we were testing out a video conference so that the weekly leadership meetings to discuss issues related to the congregation, members needing help, etc. could continue without needing to get together face to face.  We did not wait until the first meeting online to try and make it work.  We tried it tonight when there was no pressure so that later this week the meeting should hopefully go smoothly without a lot of time trying to get someone connected.  Because we already did.

    My kids go to a local charter school and our state, Utah, has closed all public schools for the next 2 weeks (as a start -- I bet it goes longer).  Luckily their school already issues each kid an iPad (there, I made this Apple related).  They already use Google Classroom, something called Canvas, and some other tool, as well as online lessons and practice websites (for things like Math -- ALEKS and Khan Academy for example).   They started working on a plan in case they needed to close the school, last week before the state closed all the public schools, so they should be up and running with the kids being home at some point this week.  They already had a way to access the school network for the kids -- or at least to let their school issued iPad be used at home in a monitored fashion -- so they should be able to transition to online learning pretty quickly.   


    Thanks, that was a nice synopsis of the soft issues that arise from working at home.

    Right now some kids are facing the same issue:  not enough kid time.   Yesterday I took my grandkid and a few of his buddies out to a field for a couple hours of football.   But one of his invitees was not allowed out of the house as his mom had put him in lock down.  But then, those kids all have iPhones and/or iPads and use FaceTime for their 'water cooler' time.  They are playing some X-Box game and interacting via FaceTime simultaneously and its almost as if they were out playing 'cowboys & indians' face to face.   Sometimes I think kids are way ahead of us. 
    chadbag
  • Reply 17 of 18
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,316member
    Thanks, that was a nice synopsis of the soft issues that arise from working at home.

    Right now some kids are facing the same issue:  not enough kid time.   Yesterday I took my grandkid and a few of his buddies out to a field for a couple hours of football.   But one of his invitees was not allowed out of the house as his mom had put him in lock down.  But then, those kids all have iPhones and/or iPads and use FaceTime for their 'water cooler' time.  They are playing some X-Box game and interacting via FaceTime simultaneously and its almost as if they were out playing 'cowboys & indians' face to face.   Sometimes I think kids are way ahead of us. 

    My son came to me to get Zoom installed on his phone.  One of his teachers had emailed students that he was going to be using Zoom.  It was kind of funny as I had just finished working on getting Zoom working for the church leadership an hour before.  He already has some other solutions for his informal school groupings and friends.

    (My kids' phones are set to have the App Store disabled by default, which is why he came to me to get it installed).

    Kids today are pretty well versed in how to communicate and make it all work.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,269member
    chadbag said:
    Thanks, that was a nice synopsis of the soft issues that arise from working at home.

    Right now some kids are facing the same issue:  not enough kid time.   Yesterday I took my grandkid and a few of his buddies out to a field for a couple hours of football.   But one of his invitees was not allowed out of the house as his mom had put him in lock down.  But then, those kids all have iPhones and/or iPads and use FaceTime for their 'water cooler' time.  They are playing some X-Box game and interacting via FaceTime simultaneously and its almost as if they were out playing 'cowboys & indians' face to face.   Sometimes I think kids are way ahead of us. 

    My son came to me to get Zoom installed on his phone.  One of his teachers had emailed students that he was going to be using Zoom.  It was kind of funny as I had just finished working on getting Zoom working for the church leadership an hour before.  He already has some other solutions for his informal school groupings and friends.

    (My kids' phones are set to have the App Store disabled by default, which is why he came to me to get it installed).

    Kids today are pretty well versed in how to communicate and make it all work.

    LOL....  If it involves YouTube or Games, they tend to be incredibly competent and completely independent.  If they don't already know it, they figure it out on their own or get help from one of their buddies.   As for Zoom and remote schooling, you might wonder about the future of the nation with such low functioning kids who seemingly never learned what the enter key does:  "I don't understand this!"   LOL...
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