27 Mar How are you handling the impact of COVID-19?
Does your business have sufficient IT infrastructure to manage employees working remotely and at the same time maintain productivity while keeping your data safe?
Australian businesses have been dealt a difficult challenge not seen since the Great Depression. What started as a toilet paper frenzy has turned into an almost complete shutdown of the country with detrimental impact on businesses that needs to be managed. We have seen many clients rise to the challenge and modify their business practices to minimise disruption to flow of goods and services and do so as efficiently as possible. This has been particularly challenging for businesses who have been forced to close their operations for an indefinite period.
This article is being written with the knowledge that the situation is changing on a daily basis and that by the time you read this article, some of the information may be outdated. Such is the crazy predicament the world is currently facing. If you are a client of Synergise IT, be rest assured we can assist you with these challenges and are reviewing the challenges and subsequent solutions on a daily basis.
There are some things that businesses can do to minimise the impact of the Coronavirus and Technology can play an important part in overcoming these challenges.
Remote Access to your Internal IT Systems
Do your employees currently have the ability to work from home? In this day and age, we do not need to be office bound every day, week in, week out. In fact, it is often the experience that productivity is higher and more effective as a result of working remotely. It’s a biproduct of fewer interruptions and a clearer head space to think and be more effective.
When faced with the need to safeguard your staff and implement quarantine policies due to infection by association and staff who are not unwell themselves, being able to remain productive is very important and keeps the cogs of your business turning.
For businesses who have Cloud Systems in place, remote access is a relatively easy function to initiate because it is one of the key benefits of Cloud computing.
For those that have on premise IT Systems, users can remotely connect to their work using SSL Secure Connectivity to the company’s firewall. With SonicWall Firewalls, this is a simple addition of SSL licenses to their current firewall and for other brands, Synergise IT can assist with an equivalent set up.
If your workforce needs to work remotely, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Suitable internet service. ADSL services can be a challenge in providing enough bandwidth to access your IT Systems remotely and ideally NBN as a minimum. At the time of writing this article we have already seen signs of the broader internet network being stretched to its limit with organisations such as Netflix & YouTube reducing streaming quality to combat this. Interesting and perhaps challenging times ahead.
- A suitable virus protection software active on their remote PC
- Will they need to access your IT Systems directly from their remote PC? This may require software to be installed on their remote PC which can add to complications. Alternatively, they can remotely access, and log into, their office PC. This gives them the desktop they work with every day with access to your IT Systems and the files and documents they use on a daily basis. Some considerations are required to do this including setting power setting on PC to never go into standby and changing your network so that their office PCs have a fixed IP Address.
- Establishing policy on what they can do on their remote PC while connected to office systems to minimise any potential threat to your network
- Phone system capabilities. For Cloud based phone systems, it is relatively easy to give staff the ability to make and receive calls on your business phone system. This can be done through SoftPhone software and, in some cases, the ability to take their handsets home and plug into their network. You also need to consider licensing requirements to do this. Contact your telephone system provider to determine what your options are.
Remote Meetings and Collaboration
More and more businesses are adopting a ban on face to face meetings given the directive from state and federal governments as well as having a more remote workforce.
Conference systems such as Microsoft Teams provides video and call options as well as desktop sharing and other useful features. It is available to businesses who have migrated to Office 365 but can also be used to establish a conference call with people outside your organisation who have not adopted Office 365. Microsoft announced that Teams would be offered for free to everyone worldwide, however at the time of writing this article, there have been some service degradation as a result of the increased load which Microsoft is working on.
Zoom is another solution that we find is also facing the same disruption and challenges as Microsoft.
There are quite a few other options for conferencing systems and some can be used for short-term situations meaning you do not have to sign up to lengthy contracts.
They might also want to consider that, although in some respects it might be a less sophisticated option, use of your smart phones can go a long way helping your business maintain healthy communication both within your business between your staff and with external parties including your customers. Both iPhone and Android offer conference call capabilities using Face Time and Duo. Remember, your phone is a very useful and valuable business tool in more ways than one.
Communication is key. This relates to all business relationships and functions regardless of working remotely or face to face. Offering your customers assurances and communicating precaution strategies and contingency plans you have implemented lets them know that you are taking action, that impact to your business is minimal and that allows you to service them through uncertain times.
This current situation we all find ourselves in highlights the reality for many businesses around the world and the leadership, management and actions they need to take.