As the Corona Virus is now affecting many of the world’s countries, the negative economic impact due to supply chain issues, dwindling customer activity, and lost productivity is becoming more noticeable.
So, what are businesses supposed to do, and what should they consider in terms of IT and technical support? Can your employees work remote?
The simple answer is business continuity and disaster recovery. Do you and your employees have a plan?
You may be thinking, the spread of a virus isn’t a disaster. Well, maybe in the traditional sense of fire or earthquake, you are right, but consider this.
Your information technology systems aren’t affected directly by human or animal born viruses. However, their supporting services are! Think about electricity, HVAC, or your IT staff or managed services provider. Now that I have the wheels turning let’s talk about that.
On a risk scale, the electricity or HVAC systems going out at your office is pretty low. In essence, the only way this would happen is if we reach “I am Legend” status.
What is far more likely to happen for small and medium-sized businesses is their IT employees or managed services providers won’t be available because employees are out ill with the virus.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: What’s The Difference?
A disaster recovery strategy or cyber attack plan is how you are going to return to normal operations when a disaster occurs. A business continuity plan tells you how you are going to continue to do business during and after an incident.
We won’t dive into how to develop these plans, let’s focus on some of the things that the Corona Virus (or any other natural event or disaster) forces us to think about.
Remote Employees and Preparation: What to Consider?
We are starting to see a wide range of businesses (even Amazon and NASA) asking their employees to stay home to help prevent the spread of the virus.
For organizations of this size, they must have the resources and capabilities to do this for their employees without even thinking about it. A small or medium business won’t.
Proactive approaches work best in situations like this, so here are some critical factors you should consider:
BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) Policy
Your business needs a BYOD policy— and if you don't have one, you need one. There are two major approaches:
You allow employees to use their own personal devices for work purposes
You only allow employees to use work devices that belong to your organization. Meaning, they can only use company devices.
If employees are only allowed to use company devices, it’s important to consider how they can successfully work from home in the event of a disaster.
Without enabling a BYOD policy, you could potentially be limiting your employees from working anywhere but the office.
If you see the benefits of employees working remotely but don’t want to utilize a BYOD policy, keep in mind that you’ll have to provide them with the tools to do so, such as laptops, tablets, and phones.
Whether you realize it or not, people are already using their personal devices on your network and with your systems.
Having a BYOD policy in place can make recovery and disaster operations a little easier, especially if you don’t plan on providing employees with company equipment.
Work From Home Policy
In some situations, working from home can be great for both the employee and the business. Like a BYOD policy, you need to decide if you are going to let employees work from home.
Some employees simply can’t (or it’s extremely challenging) because of the nature of their job, like a videographer or a janitor. Your work from home policy should include information regarding:
If the company will reimburse for internet usage
Will the company provide computer equipment or use its BYOD policy?
What network security practices need to be followed?
You could make this policy only effective if there is a disaster. A consideration for all remote workers, especially if they are heavy phone users, could be providing them a phone that is connected to the corporate phone system.
Many phone systems can do this, but there are a few that are too old and don’t have this capability. Depending on the system, there may be an additional cost beyond the phone hardware itself— which leads me to my next point.
There are two questions that you have to know the answer too when it comes to your IT infrastructure.
Do you know what your IT infrastructure is capable of delivering in terms of features and value? You don’t have to be an IT expert. Your IT department or Managed Services Provider should be more than capable of answering the following questions.
How can my users access resources externally? Does my phone system allow for remote/teleworkers? Are there additional costs in having my employees work remotely? What security measures do we have in place to protect us?
Can your IT infrastructure support remote workers? Many times the answer is yes—I don’t know of many that can’t. However, you need to take into account the shift in workload, particularly on your internet. While employees work from a remote location, the information shifts from being on your internal network to traveling over your internet connection.
You need to ensure that your IT infrastructure has the bandwidth to sustain remote workers, for a prolonged period if necessary.
This need for bandwidth assumes you are in some way still hosting IT systems on-site and aren’t leveraging cloud-based systems. I know this might sound a little complicated, so let’s break it down.
Some companies still have a number of IT systems in-house which require VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access while off-site. If you’ve never heard of a VPN, here’s a little more about it, What is a VPN?
Some of the IT systems that might need to be utilized remotely through VPN, but are hosted on-site, could include:
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
How Are You Going To Communicate?
There are three tried and true communication methods:
Of course, there are other methods of communication, such as text or chat. But, I’m choosing to focus on the three above for the purpose of this article.
These methods have worked for decades, but they have some disadvantages when it comes to the unique case of the Corona Virus.
Email allows you to keep your distance from other employees, helping to limit the spread of the virus. However, utilizing email for collaboration could present a number of issues and frustrations.
For example, you could quickly run into a versioning issue with files— and that’s just no fun. Meaning, you could be working on a document and need to send it on to a few other people for collaboration.
In the process, the document now becomes a jumbled file, making it extremely challenging to locate the most updated or recently edited version.
Communicating by phone is just like sending an email, but there really isn’t any way to collaborate on electronic files. In-person is better for collaboration, but now you risk spreading the virus by having staff congregate together.
Now, let’s add collaboration tools and software to this conversation. The two gold standards of this are Office 365 and Google G-Suite. Both of which provide all the benefits of email, phone, and in-person communication, while adding in the collaboration piece that was missing.
If you haven’t started to consider either of these platforms, you should begin to as soon as possible, or, you’ll, unfortunately, fall behind your competition—quicker than you think.
Identify Your Essential Employees
Knowing who you need in the office to sustain operations and who you don’t, as well as identifying those that can work from home, is critical to the success of your business continuity and disaster recovery plan.
It’s necessary and beneficial to take the time and map out the functions and employees needed for those functions. From there, you can identify the people who are required during a disaster and those who aren’t.
The Final Say on IT Support and Disaster Recovery
Many of us are anticipating some level of work and service disruption due to continued concerns about how the Corona Virus will affect your business. Many industries can sustain some level of remote working by leveraging technology, however many businesses provide professional services (in person) to their clients.
It’s critical to always have a proactive approach when it comes to the IT needs of your company, whether or not a disaster occurs. Now is a great time to map out your business continuity plan so that your business won’t face potential downtime due to a natural event or disaster.
If you’d like more information on disaster recovery or any of the other products and services we offer, reach out to us here. We’re here to give you peace of mind to help you win more business.
Dan Willits is an IT and business guru, passionate about technology and how IT can drive business. Dan’s philosophy in IT is built on 15 years of experience in a variety of technical and non-technical roles. That philosophy is twofold, IT isn’t a cost center, and you get out of IT what you put into IT. Dan’s end goal for all businesses is to help them understand IT and grow their business using technology and strategy.