Recently, a worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus triggered an international response of monumental proportions. Nations large and small implemented travel bans prohibited large gatherings and suspended public schools. In some instances, individuals have been advised to practice social distancing, self-quarantine, and shelter in place. Distance learning is the new norm for most students through the end of the school year.
Businesses large and small have moved to lighter schedules or shut down altogether. Major employers such as Oracle, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix have urged employees to work remotely if possible. In a matter of days, sometimes overnight, employers re-positioned large segments of their workforce as remote, home-based workers.
Those businesses that already accommodated a remote workforce simply needed to scale. With many businesses being cloud-based, the expansion was not too difficult. For smaller companies working from the ground up, the challenges are great.
However, there are solutions that can be swiftly implemented with the right IT management company in place. Here are five of the most important solutions during this pandemic.
Consult with an IT management professional.
Business continuity plans typically involve data recovery and device repair. Business continuity, in the current climate of international disruption, encompasses a much broader scope. Yet, technology affords the capability to adapt and adjust with agility. Re-locating the workforce and re-positioning tech assets is manageable. Consulting with an experienced professional who can bring real solutions to the table and then execute immediately is essential if a small business is to survive. The agility may achieve a competitive advantage for the smaller business over larger, less responsive competitors.
Work out a plan, craft a strategy, and then execute as a team. Bring an IT expert into the decision-making process and keep them close.
Implement cloud-based solutions if they are not already in place.
Many businesses are entirely cloud-based. Being cloud-based assures portability unless the entire communications infrastructure collapses. However, systemic implosion is not expected. The workplace is entirely incidental to work performance as long as high-speed internet is available. Cell phones and satellites bridge the digital chasm in the absence of fiber. Many sales reps work from their vehicles every day. For an agile workforce, cloud-based platforms are solutions that work and work well.
An IT support specialist can advise about options that match an employee’s specific needs or limitations. Functional cloud-based software may include accounting software, sales tools, CRM tools, and a project management platform.
Procure and upfit needed hardware and software for the transition out of the office.
Possibly the greatest challenge facing small businesses during this worldwide disruption is hardware acquisition. Demand for monitors, cables, and laptops is outpacing supply. With large sectors of the labor force sidelined and some service and product sectors dormant, capitalization is the issue for small businesses. Recent changes in tax law have made it advantageous for companies to acquire hardware as a service (HaaS). HaaS allows businesses to procure needed equipment paying what amounts to a rental fee and still receive a tax advantage. Hardware accessibility at a low entry point in this dire financial climate could spell the difference between success or having to close the doors to the business.
Install an enterprise-level communications platform.
A small business that has moved its control and communications centers off-site will need an enterprise-level, feature-rich telecommunications system at an affordable price. VoIP solutions enable a variety of innovative features. Reliable, crystal clear connections cannot be sacrificed. The reliability of a VoIP system is an integral component of a company’s reputation.
Teleconferencing with employees, vendors, and clients is the most viable way to maintain both communication and community when miles separate. The VoIP solution must provide crystal-clear audio quality and video conferencing capabilities.
Cybersecurity: Take necessary precautions to secure the network.
When working from home, cybersecurity must be a chief concern. The healthcare industry is pushing workers out of the office or practice and into the home workspace. COVID-19 is no respecter of persons. A populated back-office increases employer liability. Sending employees home to work to avoid one risk may be exposing company data to another and even greater risk. Work computers in the home must be password protected. Measures need to be taken to secure the home network from cyber hacking and cyber snooping.
Consulting with an experienced IT specialist can prevent prying eyes from viewing HIPAA-restricted information. Any proprietary and confidential information requires protection, whether health-related or not. Security protocols should be in place and functional on all company devices. An IT consultant can identify vulnerabilities and mitigate risks.
Sending employees home to work remotely may solve one set of problems, but it may also create a host of other concerns, especially when IT management and security are at stake. Most small businesses, dentist’s offices, and veterinary clinics do not have the expertise needed to configure a productive, efficient, functional, and secure IT solution. Consulting with an expert can save time, money, and resources that could be used to create, produce, work, and serve.
For more information about managed IT services, contact Mobile Computer Services, Inc. of Raleigh at (919) 830-9448.