Learn how your organization can effectively develop and improve strategies for working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.
Interlink's CTO and Vice President, Mike Wilson, participated in an online roundtable discussion with experts in medicine, finance, employment law, IT, and public relations regarding some important ways you can prepare your business to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus. (You can view the entire roundtable webinar here!) While most of us haven’t felt the direct impact of someone we know becoming infected, most are experiencing indirect impacts. Many employees have been sent to work from home, schools have closed, major community events have been postponed, and travel plans are canceled - just to name a few.
In this article, we summarize some of the key IT takeaways that can help you maintain business continuity while balancing business risk versus IT security. It is our goal at Interlink to offer aid and assistance to businesses and organizations struggling with transitioning, even temporarily, to a remote office setting.
Communication & Collaboration
Remote/online meeting and conferencing tools should be implemented to reduce or eliminate the need for in-person meetings. Minimizing social interactions is the best way to stall the spread of COVID-19. It makes sense that staying away from each other will do more long-term good than any other approach to combatting the spread of the virus. The challenge this can present is receiving and responding to minute-by-minute communications, helping users prioritize and track progress on tasks, and fostering the social culture of an organization whose team members have limited face-to-face interactions.
Microsoft Teams is a program we use daily to overcome these barriers. Teams allows us to connect with our remote staff and clients in a number of ways:
- It combines workplace chat, meetings, notes, and attachments for the seamless integration of all participants.
- The option of crisp, clear video conferencing to bring people together is a significant alternative to in-person meetings.
- Planner and Teams features help assign tasks and track progress, keeping users on the same page.
- Teams, available to almost all users of Office 365, integrates with the Office 365 subscription productivity suite and features extensions that can integrate with non-Microsoft products as well.
- Teams helps keep the social environment and culture of the office by making virtual collaboration as seamless as in-person collaboration.
- Microsoft calling plans for Teams allow for voice connectivity, a great way to facilitate voice communications for organizations struggling with forwarding phone calls to remote workers.
We recommend investing in quality headsets and using Teams/Planner to increase communication and collaboration. Virtual training sessions to get your team ready to use these tools on short notice is vital as well. Teams is a reliable, helpful communication tool that can pave the way to a smooth transition from in-office to at-home work while retaining most of the face-to-face “feel” of interactions.
One other common concern we’ve seen is how to execute contracts when we’re meeting virtually with our clients. Tools like DocuSign integrate with Office 365 and can help keep your business moving without having to visit in-person. Additionally, organizations can use SharePoint to create a crisis management site – to do so, visit this blog!
Remote Access to Data/Systems:
Users will continue to need access to data and systems in real-time as the spread of COVID-19 continues and efforts to work remotely are encouraged/mandated. The cloud makes this easier as it was designed precisely for remote access and sharing over the internet! On-premise apps may need Citrix/Virtual Desktop Infrastructure/RDS to deliver a good remote experience and organizations that already have these deployed may need to add capacity as more people work remotely. Similarly, firewalls and VPN appliances typically have limits on the number of simultaneous connections that are appropriate for normal situations and may require an upgrade for the current situation.
An important consideration is if users are asked to work remotely, do they have mobile workstations/laptops that can connect to the cloud or through VPN? If not, there are ways to set up secure remote access to corporate desktop PCs through Remote Desktop gateways. If this isn’t feasible for your business, you may want to consider allowing users to connect from their home PCs.
Of course, allowing users to connect from a personal device poses risks of malware or data loss. Tools like Microsoft Intune can help with securing a bring-your-own-device strategy. Intune is a cloud-based service and a component of Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite (EMS). It manages an organization’s mobile devices, including the applications and identity profiles found on them. By integrating with other components of EMS, such as Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) and Azure Information Protection (AIP), your organization’s workforce can be more productive on all their devices while keeping their information protected. To learn more about Intune and other parts of the EMS Suite, visit our website.
COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented situation with which we are all attempting to cope with. We would like to help you and your business adapt as quickly and smoothly as possible. If your organization would like to know more about any of these technologies, how to best prepare for working remotely, or wants more information about security/productivity measures, Interlink can help. Contact us here to start the conversation today, in order to prepare for a safer tomorrow.