The starting point of an effective COVID-19 response is transitioning to full-time work-from-home. We’ll show you how.
Whether you call the novel Coronavirus a “crisis” or “situation” matters little compared to the significant and sudden changes it has brought to the business environment. Supply chains are disrupted; office buildings are closed; social gatherings and conferences are rescheduled.
These disruptions have led to a wide variety of responsive business strategies – everything from the exploitative — buying out masks on Amazon and hiking up prices by 5000% — to savvy, empathy-driven responses combining digital infrastructure, capital injection, and communications to help keep the economy moving and workforces productive.
Most businesses will start by migrating to a work-from-home office environment. You might already have some employees working from home already, or some part-time remote workers, but shifting the entire office to a distributed work environment requires some additional planning and consideration.
If you rely heavily on Microsoft products like Office, Dynamics 365, and Azure, then from a networking perspective you will be able to transition many core functions rather easily, since these products are already cloud-driven. But there are additional aspects to consider as well. It’s a lot to leave up in the air, so we’ve compiled a checklist that offices can use to make sure they think of everything.
How to Enable Full-Time Work-from Home Securely and Quickly (Checklist)
1. Secure Connections with Virtual Private Network (VPN)
From a networking perspective, when employees work from home there is one huge difference. You no longer control their Internet connection. They might not use a firewall, or they might be using an old router with password “admin.” Or worse, they could work from a coffee shop down the street (gasp). The latter is particularly insecure unfortunately. On the stormy seas of the public Internet, anyone can easily monitor data that the employee sends, including username and password information. This information can easily be used to hack your business.
VPNs establish a no-eavesdropping connection between your employees and the VPN provider. They are a must-have for any distributed workspace, so look into trustworthy business VPNs to keep your data safe.
This is a big one. Communications tools are used in so many ways — as collaborative tools between employees, by sales and service teams to help customers, and to connect with suppliers. There are an incredible assortment of apps and equipment out there. The most adaptive technologies are already cloud-driven, so you might not need any massive changes in some areas, while others could require some work.
For instance, Outlook and most email providers allow employees to check email from anywhere. Collaborative tools like Slack and Skype for Business can provide redundant means of communication across text, audio and video, all from the cloud, so employees can work from cell phone, desk, home or beach. If you already use services like these to handle communications then, you might not need to do very much.
But if you still use traditional office phones, you might need to switch to a cloud provider. The good news is Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecom providers will be able to help you make the transition quickly, effectively, and typically at a lower cost than traditional providers. This is one area where COVID-19 could end up helping your business lower its costs while increasing agility.
Considering the suddenness of COVID-19 as well as its temporary nature, you want to establish file-sharing that gets the job done without any significant changes in infrastructure. If you already have an on-premise extranet set-up and running, then certainly continue to use it. However, if you need to grow file-sharing functionality now, then you want to at least consider other options.
Microsoft advises using Office 365 as a B2B file-sharing platform. Google Drive also builds similar functionality into its business suite. These services are more expensive per Gigabyte than operating your own hardware, but they are easier to set-up, maintain, and take down when you return to the office.
4. Business Process
In addition to IT considerations we also need to remember the human factor. It will be easier for employees to feel distant, unappreciated, and apart from the company, so be sure to counteract the effects of work-from-home by hosting regular and frequent video conference meetings and letting supervisors know to spend a bit more personal time with their team.
Remote work has huge potential to transform your productivity and your business agility, in the short term, but also in the long-term. While COVID-19 is sudden and severe, it is not the only event that could require adaptive measures. Use this as motivation to learn how to pick up new digital tools and find working, secure solutions for your business network. Many of the tools you pick up will help you be more productive, save money, and stay agile for any incidents in the future.
Contact Platte River Networks to help you set-up a remote workspace
If you are a current Platte River Networks client please reach out to your technical account manager for assistance with setting up a remote workspace.
Not a Platte River Networks client?
We would be happy to help your business improve IT delivery while saving money. Email David@platteriver.com for more information.