The CDC is currently responding to the outbreak of coronavirus, abbreviated COVID-19. This event is expected to have an impact on U.S. businesses. ProTech wants your business to be prepared as this crisis evolves.
Many businesses may need to move to a remote work model until the pandemic subsides. In order to be effective there are several things that your business needs to have in place.
BUSINESS CRITICAL SOLUTIONS
Identifying the key systems that your business needs to operate should be the first thing you do in the event of a disaster or pandemic event. Below we’ve listed the most common critical systems, however, each business is different and may have unique systems that are considered critical.
Communication systems are critical for businesses that need to continue operations remotely. These allow your employees to work together and allow you to address client needs.
Most businesses heavily utilize email as their main communication tool. Understanding how your email solution operates can help you plan for remote work situations.
Your phone system is another crucial business communication tool. Does your business utilize a cloud-hosted or IP-based phone solution? If the system is IP-based, you will need to consider turning on follow-me capabilities or set up call forwarding to ensure that calls are not missed.
If your business relies heavily on a messaging system like Slack or Microsoft Teams, you will need to understand the impact that this could have on your business. Both are cloud-based so they should remain online but having multiple communication solutions in place is a best practice.
Your website is often the first place a client or prospect visits. Ensuring that this remains up and current is crucial. Where is your website hosted? Does your marketing team have access to update the site to keep customers informed on your status? These are important questions to consider.
Customer Facing Operations
Customers are the foundation for any business and working remote could create issues if you aren’t prepared. By determining which solutions impact your customers, you’ll be able to create a plan to keep them running during a crisis.
What applications are used to provide service to your customers? These would include anything that allows for order entry, by the customer or your employees, along with fulfillment, tracking and supply chain operations.
You’ll also need to determine what applications and systems help you provide support to customers. These will differ depending on your business, but can include helpdesk applications, chat support systems or call centers.
Internal Business Operations
These are typically your back-office applications: payroll systems and finance systems (AR/AP). During a crisis situation, you want to ensure that employees are still being paid as they work under less-than-ideal situations. You also want to ensure that you can bill clients and track payments.
An important element for connectivity is security. As you provide access to your users, businesses need to ensure that all connections are secure and proper security protocols are in place. Additionally, if your business is required to meet certain compliance criteria, you will need to ensure that those requirements are met while employees work remotely as well.
Where Are Your Systems Located?
Once you determine what systems are critical for your business, you need to determine where they reside. This is important in determining if you can access your systems and how easily they can be accessed.
Where Your Systems Could Be Located:
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – These are systems that are hosted in the cloud. They are generally web-based and accessible from anywhere. Some services may provide a special client that provides users access as part of the service.
Data Center – Often referred to as a Co-location Facility.
Public Cloud – This includes clouds like AWS or Azure.
At Your Location – This would be systems that are located at either your corporate office or other physical business locations.
Understanding the location of your critical systems can help you determine how they are accessed. Some systems may require Virtual Private Network connectivity which will need to be set-up prior to initiating remote work.
Planning for Remote Work
When considering working remotely, it is important that your business has a plan in place and tests the processes. This will allow you to identify issues before they become critical.
You need to ensure that all users have a device that allows them to work from home or remotely and that they have Internet access. Employees will also need to determine if the bandwidth available at their remote location is sufficient to complete their necessary job functions.
For systems that are not SaaS, ensure all users have VPN access to the same network that the system is housed. If this is not an option, provide users with a secure, remote-access method to reach their work computer, like TeamViewer.
Once you have accounted for these things, document your process so that users have access to it when it becomes necessary to implement. Additionally, ProTech recommends that businesses have employees test their ability to access critical systems before remote work becomes necessary. This will allow you to work through any issues prior to a crisis situation.
Microsoft’s Office365 solution can be deployed within days and provides office functionality within the cloud. Through Office365 your employees can handle emails, create and share documents, collaborate on projects and store pertinent business information all from a remote location. When discussing remote work, this is a critical piece for businesses to consider.
Collaboration - Microsoft Teams
Teams provides a platform that allows users to chat, share and work on files, collaborate on projects, and host meetings. Teams centralizes communications without bogging down email inboxes. When working remote, this can be a powerful tool to provide company-wide updates and allow departments to stay connected.
Document Management – SharePoint & OneDrive
SharePoint is a flexible, web-based data management platform – a file server in the cloud. Within SharePoint you can organize your content and share it across your business while maintaining version control. This data is available to everyone from any location. Having your data available in the cloud is a valuable tool when working remotely.
Applications – Word, Excel, & PowerPoint
Office365 comes equipped with your basic business tools like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Each user is given multiple licenses for each tool so that it can be downloaded on all their devices. Having these tools helps make remote work easier.
As your employees work remotely, security is a major concern. Without the proper systems in place, your business could be at risk. Businesses need to give high priority to securing remote systems and data.
All VPN connections should be secure, and multi-factor authentication should be enabled. While users are working remotely, businesses need to determine how to secure data that is housed and utilized on their endpoint devices, like laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.
Businesses also need to take measures to secure all backend infrastructure from unauthorized access. Additionally, ProTech suggests that all infrastructure passwords should be secure and available in a central repository.
All businesses should have an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) and an Intrusion Prevent System (IPS) in place.
An IDS analyzes and monitors traffic on your business network for signs of an attacker trying to infiltrate your network. It compares your current network activity to a known threat database to quickly identify potential malicious activity.
An IPS is placed on the edge of your network and acts as a barrier between your internal business network and the outside world. This tool proactively denies access to traffic that presents a security threat.
Having these systems in place, can help ensure that your business network remains secure regardless of where your employees are working.
BACKUP & DISASTER RECOVERY SOLUTIONS
Having a reliable backup solution in place is critical to preventing data loss in the event of a disaster situation. Businesses need to ensure that all systems and endpoints are backed up at a regular frequency. Certain businesses may need to backup their data more frequently, so be sure to check that the backup intervals make sense for your organization. Your business should also be sure that backups are being checked regularly to make sure that the data is accurate.
If a business needs to access their backup solution, you need to know how quickly your data can be restored. This will allow you to understand the impact it will have on your business. ProTech also recommends having multiple users, when it makes sense, that can access and perform data restores.
The COVID-19 virus is a rapidly evolving crisis. If your business needs help evaluating your current situation or implementing new solutions, please reach out to us. We want to be a resource for businesses in our community as we deal with this crisis. Additionally, once this pandemic subsides, we recommend all businesses evaluate their disaster and preparedness plans, determine your business impact, and understand what you can improve upon for future disaster situations.
ProTech Service Group is an IT business service provider, headquartered in Memphis, focused on helping companies leverage technology for profitability and growth while promoting security. ProTech provides managed services, technology and consulting, security services, cloud services and talent acquisition.