As the Covid-19 pandemic becomes more likely to be an issue in the United States, businesses are beginning to form contingency plans. Group gatherings, travel, and even routine meetings are being postponed. Conferences and conventions are being canceled. Companies are fearful of losing the services of large swaths of their workforce and supply chains.
One strategy is to keep people physically separated as much as possible. Wash hands and disinfect surfaces regularly. If possible, instruct your employees stay home if they feel under the weather. Even if they think it is just allergies or a cold.
The work from home movement has inadvertently prepared many organizations for this event. Many of today’s technology based workers are already able to utilize VPN, Remote Desktop, Cloud Applications, Soft-phones, and the like to do their jobs from almost anywhere. It is important for IT leadership to realize that the virus situation could result in an influx of remote access that will test these platforms.
Perhaps you have Remote Desktop or Citrix severs to support remote workers. Will they be able to handle an increased load? What about your VPN solution? Is it licensed for a small number of travelling users? Now is the time to work with your engineers to scale these platforms up or out. In-path equipment like routers, switches, and firewalls could also be stressed by the extra external pressure, so be sure to include them in your evaluation.
Do you have cloud or hybrid platforms that need to be temporarily buffed? Some vendors are offering free or low cost service upgrades for the duration of the crisis. For example, Cisco is offering to increase your virtual meeting abilities and Microsoft is offering a free six month subscription to a fully functioning Teams solution. Many other service providers have similar offers to help see their customers through the coming crisis.
Hybrid platforms can usually be configured to extended into the cloud on-demand. Some on-premises software can be easily made hybrid or migrated to the cloud. Businesses frequently have subscriptions to services like Office 365 or G-Suite that are not being fully utilized. Both include features that support remote work and communications. Now is the time to get them fully spun up.
If your organization doesn’t already have remote access solutions in-place, obtaining them is easier and more cost effective than you realize. Almost any Windows or Linux server can be configured to host VPN services, so can many firewalls. A Remote Desktop Gateway will allow your workforce to securely connect from their home/personal end-points to their company owned desktop computers, just like they were sitting at their desk.
If your business doesn’t have an IT staff of its own. I recommend contacting a local service provider. Technology experts can help you understand how to utilize the services you already have, or what solutions you should add to your technology portfolio to support a larger remote workforce.