The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all of us to make adjustments to our daily lives. One of the more pronounced impacts is the way we work. Everyone has had to adapt and many unfortunately have had to shut down. Those of us fortunate enough to continue operating have had to make substantial changes and do so very quickly. While every work environment is unique, we cannot allow ourselves to throw good practice completely out the window. From the view of the IT department, I’d like to share with you some things to keep in mind while we get through this.
You may feel that you just have to continue working and doing whatever works is fine. Not considering the ramifications of your decisions may put you in a bad place later on, and in many cases, a better answer would have only taken a minor effort to come to. Having your team work from home doesn’t mean that you cannot hold a video conference, share files, and continue to work as if you were in the office, all done securely. Your company probably already subscribes to services or has equipment in place that would facilitate these things and you’re just not taking advantage of them. Many companies have Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G-Suite, but are not taking advantage of the services that make working from home seamless.
Whatever the challenge, it’s important to set a standard. If you leave your individual staff members to draw their own conclusions without any guidance, you may find that some of them will come up with ridiculous solutions, leading to losses of productivity, or potentially leading to a more serious liability.
Develop New Processes, Reinforce Existing Ones
It’s easy to panic in a time of crisis, but doing so is just going to hold you and your team back. As the IT department for over 200 companies, we can tell you first hand how having our user base throw out our process and contacting us in the first way that occurred to them led to getting a less efficient reaction and a slower response. Had those users called our office or emailed the address where we receive service requests, they would have had their challenge addressed much sooner.
This is the case with any of your business functions. You need to review how things were before the crisis, and how they need to be during it. Additionally, going through the exercise may lead you to having an overall improved process on the other side of the pandemic.
In-house Services and Cloud Services
As an IT service provider in Glen Burnie, MD, we make recommendations based on our perception of the company’s needs, so we don’t make a lot of recommendations to the general public because we can’t evaluate their network before doing so. But, broadly speaking, all information services such as email, file sharing, or a line-of-business application, are either provided by a system that resides in your facility, or in the facility of a contracted service provider; a cloud service.
During this crisis we’ve had several people ask about securely working with their cloud resources from home. The good news is that if you use services provided by a cloud system like Office 365 or G Suite, your system works from home just like it does from the office. You can literally take the equipment from your office and bring it home. As long as you can connect to the internet, it will continue to work. One of the more common questions that comes up is whether the wifi is secure, and the answer is always no. You don’t get security through wifi, you get it through HTTPS. If you familiarize yourself with the practices of using the internet securely as HTTPS allows us to, you can work securely even in a “risky” location such as a coffee shop.
For your in-house services, such as network drives and many times a line-of-business application like a construction management system, your choices fall to two broad options. Either you implement a VPN, or you establish a remote control solution where your team controls a computer that is present in the office over the internet. In many cases it makes sense to bring the office equipment home and use a VPN, but if you don’t have the equipment in place to support that, you may be stuck with remote control. Conversely it might be better to use remote control, especially if you can’t allow your users to take home equipment and you’re going to ask them to use their own equipment to control it.
Take advantage of the professionals at your disposal! A short conversation with a professional will likely lead to much less of a struggle to meet the need. In all things insurance, HR, and of course IT, there are professionals available to help you make the right decisions the first time, so you don’t have to clean up after a bad decision later. If you find yourself in need of such an IT professional, please Contact Us.