As you are no doubt probably aware by now the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe alarming Governments and business alike. Is your small ready for large swathes of staff to work remotely should the worst happen?
The answer is going to be dependent on the sort of business you operate. If for example you’re a plumber, there’s little remote working is going to do for and even manufactures are going to struggle when machine operators are no longer well enough or able to enough to get to their posts but for those office staff remote working is clearly the option. However, are you really ready for it? A lot of companies I’ve worked with are prepared for a handful of staff to be working away from their desk for a day or two but long term and even the bigger ones will struggle to keep up with the demand of entire workforces, so what do you do? Then once you have staff working from home how do you ensure they are still doing their day job and that your company and your customer data is still safe?
The first step in remote working is your corporate VPN your Virtual Private Network. This allows computers anywhere in the world to effectively function as they were plugged in in your office using a connection over the internet. A good VPN will be using AES-128 or AES-256 to ensure that data is protected while in transit from attacks and prying eyes. If you don’t have one of these and maybe you haven’t got a huge budget, I recommend either leveraging Microsoft’s Servers own built in options or if you aren’t a Microsoft house PriTunl. There is a free tier and it is very simple to deploy. Other options may include OpenVPN which comes included on a number of routers and even other hardware like Synology NAS’s.
A VPN is all well and good but if you staff don’t have laptops working from home becomes a problem. This is where BYOB systems such as those supplied by Citrix come in really handy. They allow for any device to run your business apps and files but in a controller system that avoids putting the data at risk of loss. Of course, if you don’t have these options you could always leverage a VPN and remote desktop so that staff can access their work computer from home.
If you are still using an old school land line, then you might be in trouble and depending on your ISDN PBX you may still have issues if everyone has to work from home. VOIP phone systems based in cloud will allow your staff to work from anywhere and most will include a soft phone (although some like Gamma may charge you extra) so that you can make phone calls straight from your smart phone. Other solutions for phones could be pairing your desk phone with your mobile although this solution is not for everyone especially if you rely on a reception with phone system specific tools for routing calls.
Who wants to travel through a busy city like London with the risk of coronavirus? There are a variety of meeting systems available from WebEx, GoToMeeting as well as small companies but there’s also a new option if you are using office 365. Microsoft Teams supports online meetings, calls and IM, Microsoft are offering a free year so it’s worth considering signing up for it while the current crisis continues.
One of the big worries for companies, especially those that do not have a tradition of remote working is, what are your employees going to be up to? This is where apps like Monday.com or Trello can be used to see at a glance what people are working on without constantly intruding on them. You can set the work and you will probably find if you weren’t using them before you will be after you’ve introduced them into your workflow.