As a precaution, many businesses have decided to have their staff work from home in order to avoid contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. Some businesses have found themselves doing so due to mandates from their regional or local government. Whether voluntary or mandatory, there are several actions and decisions that your company can make in order to operate successfully throughout the coming weeks and months.
The following are items that you should consider as part of your Business Continuity Plan moving forward.
Can your team remotely access all the business-critical systems and data to successfully conduct their roles?
When working from home, it is important that your team members can access the company resources to fulfill their job. This means that the software, systems and data that an individual interacts with daily at the office are available to them when they are no longer able to be in the office.
This can be a huge hurdle to cross. Fortunately, remote access solutions and remote cloud desktop solutions exists which can greatly increase your team’s chances of success.
Remote access solutions allow a team member to connect remotely to the computer that they use in the office. The great thing about this is that your team can work like they normally do. They have immediate access to the actual software, files, and other items they have been using in the office since they first joined the company. There are potential downsides to consider. First, they can only access their office computer remotely if:
- The office must be “online”. If the office loses power, Internet service or has a network issue – your team will lose the ability to access any of the devices on the office network.
- The computers in the office must be “online”. If a computer is turned off for any reason, it will require someone to physically turn the machine back on. If the reason it turned off was due to a power surge/spike, it is possible the machine may no longer power back on at all.
- The remote access software is running. This includes the need for the software to be running on the computer in your office, the computer at your home and the services that the software provider uses to deliver the service. If either three are unavailable, you won’t be able to connect.
The second option is to leverage a remote cloud desktop solution. This solution is great because it removes all the dependencies and points of failure that your office introduces. Your team members simply launch a secure connection into their remote cloud desktop. The remote cloud desktop contains all the software, systems and data that team members need to do their job. Each team member can begin by using this remote cloud desktop daily while in the office. Because the remote desktop is hosted in the cloud, your team can securely access their desktop from anywhere at any time on any device.
Our team – and most of our clients – leverage our remote cloud desktop service, LaunchCloud, to do all of our work. Our team members do not have their data stored on a computer that sits in our office. If the building loses power or Internet, the team can use their laptops to connect over a cellular connection to their remote desktop. If the team is unable to go into the office due to an “act of God” such as snow storm or hurricane, they are able to connect remotely and work from their remote cloud desktop as if nothing was wrong. Such day to day use of a remote cloud desktop system injects a built-in disaster preparedness process into your business.
Can your team conduct effective meetings through video conferencing?
Meetings are crucial for making sure your team are all on the same page and rowing in the same direction. Meetings tend to be taken for granted since it is so easy to just walk to another team member’s desk and have a quick chat about business issues. When your team are all physically separated, you need another method of being able to keep the lines of communication open and your company culture intact. Video chats and conferencing are a great solution to this problem.
Our company – and many of our clients – use Microsoft Teams heavily for internal communications. Teams is an amazing collaboration tool for collaborating via chat and video meetings.
Your staff can use Teams on their computers and mobile devices. If a user has Teams installed on their Apple or Android device, they can chat with other staff just as easily as sending a mobile text message. They can also use their mobile device’s built-in camera to join video conference calls. Most laptops have also been shipping with built-in cameras over the past several years. Combined with the Teams application, their laptop can easily join the same video meetings.
For those that do not have a web camera built into their laptop or desktop, an inexpensive webcam can be purchased from a local retailer or from Amazon.
Your team can begin leveraging chat and video conference meetings today! By getting used to leveraging Teams in your business now, there will be less of a learning curve to consider when activating your Business Continuity Plan later.
Note, our team uses Microsoft Teams daily for ALL staff meetings. Everyone is expected to be on video so that we still maintain our close-knit culture.
Can your team field client calls from home?
Just because your team is working from home does not mean that calls will not be received nor that outbound calls will not need to be made. It is important to make certain your team can make and take calls while at home. Your ability to ensure this is possible will be heavily dependent on who your phone provider is and what phone system you use. You should have a conversation with your current provider to understand what options they can provide you with.
Our team – and most of our clients – use our own rocketwise hosted cloud phone services. Our solution includes a soft-phone application that can be used on a team member’s computer or mobile device. Our cloud VoIP app can be installed on an Apple or Android mobile phone or tablet. The app will turn your mobile phone into a virtual phone on your phone system. You will be able to answer incoming calls to your office number or extension. You will be able to make outbound calls from your company’s phone number (this means your customers will not be seeing your team member’s cell phone numbers on caller ID). You will also be able to transfer calls to other users, call other users directly on their extensions, check your company voicemail, etc. If you can do something on your physical desk phone in your office – you can do the same thing on the mobile app using your smart phone, tablet or computer.
What security concerns should you consider?
Malicious actors are already taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty presented by the coronavirus. We are seeing many malicious emails attempting to lure users into providing their credentials or installing a malicious virus/malware. Several websites have been setup to advertise a way to monitor the coronavirus statistics only to find that the sites are designed to deploy infections onto the computers of visitors.
Other concerns arise as remote workers expose company data to home computers that have no virus protection or other security measures in place. Improperly configured, company data could also find its way out of the corporate realm and exposed online.
Be sure to thoroughly planned for maintaining your team’s digital hygiene and cyber awareness. Make certain you do not needlessly expose your company’s most valuable asset – its data – to ransomware, exfiltration or deletion.
If you are unsure of the implications of using a work from home system – please reach out to a strategic technology provider that can evaluate the proper process and system to utilize for your company.
When was the last time you ran a “fire drill” using your Business Continuity Plan?
Practice makes perfect. When was the last time your leadership team evaluated your company’s Business Continuity Plan? When was the last time your team ran through the plan to make sure that everyone knew what to do and verified that things went as expected? Does the plan consider how your business will function if your team is unable to be in the office?
Now is the time to review these plans, kick the tires and make certain there are no surprises waiting for you if you must activate your plan. Test your plan now.
A word about equipment…
Because many manufacturing and supply chains are shut down or otherwise disrupted, it may become difficult to procure new computers and other equipment in the coming weeks and months. If you have any new hires on the horizon or other technology purchases in mind, let your technology partner or IT department know so they can have plenty of lead time to order equipment.
Still have more questions than answers? Need a second opinion regarding your Work From Home process or Business Continuity Plan?
We have helped hundreds of businesses over the years with their Information Technology. We hope our experience will help you keep your business running throughout this world impacting event. If you feel you need hands-on assistance managing your IT please keep us in mind. We are happy to help proactively manage your technology strategy and prepare you for success.