Preparing IT Systems for Coronavirus
At the time of writing the number of cases of Coronavirus within the United Kingdom is relatively small. It could be something that disappears as quickly as it came or it could be here for a while.
Whilst there is plenty of good advice on limiting the spread of the disease we thought it a good time to put together a 5 point IT Systems plan which we hope will be useful as part of your planning and co-ordination. Many larger organisation will have their own contingencies in place but may not consider all employees across all offices no longer attending a business premise. There is a very real opportunity to test the resilience of remote working and to evaluate and ask questions of the IT systems and processes a business has in place.
1. Evaluate & Test Remote Working Tools Individuals / Groups may be required to work away from the main offices. This could potentially be all employees within your organisation.
Consider looking at your VPN Licences (for accessing on-premise / hybrid / private data centre) such as Cisco AnyConnect. Do you have enough licences to cover all employees and have all users been tested to work?
Look at licensing for remote collaboration products such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex. You may have these already. Teams is wrapped into many Office365 bundles at no cost.
Do you have enough licences for your cloud applications should more people start to use them remotely?
2. Evaluate the number of Desktop machines
Desktop only users - can those users access via Remote Desktop securely from their home machines? Can you swap desktops for laptops? Do you have a pool of laptops you can use to disperse to employees / groups with a standard image?
Are you running a cloud PBX (such as Mitel/RingCentral) or a legacy on premise? Can you enable soft phones for employees? Do you have the ability to redirect calls through a central portal in case required? Can you redirect legacy systems to home or mobile telephone numbers? Talk to your telephony vendor / supplier and discuss the requirements for remote working.
Undertake a survey across employees to understand home users internet bandwidth.
For homeworkers with limited internet bandwidth check 4G coverage and supply those employees with 4G Data Only sims or allow pairing with mobile phones. Should the user have poor connectivity at home and poor 4G coverage is there a relative or an alternative house they could go to in order for them to work? Do all users need full access to all systems or can some work with a subset?
5. User Testing
Consider staggered group employee testing. For example let the Finance team or HR teams work from home for a day to test speeds / application capability as part of user testing.
Build a clear map of successful groups and those that need action.
The positive thing is that many IT services and systems teams will have the systems and processes in place already to cover "all employee remote working". Whatever the outcome it will be a great test for IT service and Service Desk teams across the globe.
As we get feedback on this article and contents we will add and amend ideas.
We have turned commenting on in this article - so please leave constructive comments if you believe we have missed something and we will add/amend accordingly.