The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed where and how we work, with businesses having to adapt to remote working as soon as lockdown measures were introduced back in March.

As we come out of the crisis, it could be argued that remote working will remain over the coming months and even into next year and beyond. This is to protect employees during a staged return to work and while social distancing measures are required, and because some will want to continue to work from home moving forwards. The likes of Shopify, Twitter and Facebook have all told employees they can now work from home ‘forever’ and smaller organisation will have to follow suit to offer the same work/life balance.

To facilitate remote working, businesses had to turn to new technologies and processes, and below we discuss what these are and how they can be used moving forwards. We will also talk about what businesses need to do to ensure that employees can work from home safely and securely from a cyber security perspective.

Network capacity:

According to the Office of National Statistics, 70% of the UK workforce (23.9 million people) had no experience of working from home prior to Covid-19 lockdown measures. But with businesses forced to send employees home, there was a huge surge in the demand being placed on IT infrastructures and networks not necessarily designed for remote working.

To cope, organisations were forced to upgrade systems to ensure they had sufficient bandwidth and licencing to handle the rise in VPN traffic. Organisations should maintain this increased network capacity over the coming months while employees are still working remotely and to ensure they are ready in the event of a second wave.

The good news is that network capacity can be dialled up and dialled down in line with demand, so organisations can assess on a month by month basis what they need. However, as businesses adjust to the ‘new normal’ way of working, it is likely that the percentage of those who continue to work remotely indefinitely will increase.

Businesses should look into a long-term solution to boosting their network capacity for the long term. Mobile connectivity should also be a consideration, especially with the introduction of 5G into the country.

Cloud solutions:

Cloud computing is absolutely the most effective and efficient way to run IT systems and networks, allowing employees to access information, data and apps no matter where they are. We saw a surge in the number of organisations migrating to the cloud in the early days of the lockdown to ensure their staff could continue to work without any major disruptions. For some, this meant upgrading their systems and products but as a result they can leverage the many benefits of the cloud, including added security and streamlined costs, now and into the future. For those who do not wish to migrate completely to a cloud environment, a Hybrid solution can be the best of both worlds.

A Hybrid Infrastructure is both an on-premise and cloud environment that works in synergy to bring a seamless and efficient experience. It permits your business to be more efficient yet still allows for support of legacy applications, that need to remain on-premise, whilst using the cloud to boost business agility.

 Added security:

While the world was on lockdown, cyber criminals were hard a work launching a barrage of attacks on unsuspecting businesses – in April alone, Microsoft released 113 security updates to fight this. With employees working from home, the risk of a breach increases significantly as human error is the number one cause of hackers gaining access to systems. From phishing scams to DDoS attacks via personal devices and undertrained employees, organisations and their employees are under constant fire.

Whilst many are working remotely, some businesses may have forgotten about their backup process, some may not even be able to occur properly remotely. Exposing a weakness in your cyber security defence. Businesses need to get on top of this, especially if staff are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future and perhaps forever.

To do this, we recommended taking the following steps:

  1. Conduct a full security audit now to identify potential flaws
  2. Don’t neglect email security – make sure that email filters are switched on
  3. Mobile security is important – all devices used by staff need to be configured with security optimised passwords, usernames and multi-factor authentication
  4. Ensure that every end-user device that has been assigned by the business also comes with up-to-date anti-virus software
  5. Protect corporate systems – firewalls are vital
  6. Regularly back up data – also have a strategy in place for disaster recovery

Communication is key:

Communication and collaboration are some of the biggest challenges when staff are working from home, whether due to the crisis or just generally. Now is the time to adopt a cloud telephony solution, it will help aid communication now and in the future. Cloud telephony takes your business phone system to the cloud, you no longer need to be burdened with wires and clunky desk telephones when working remotely or when returning to the office.

Thanks to powerful apps for mobile, laptop and desktop, teams can make and receive multiple calls, regardless of where they are located.

To help, organisations should look to technologies such as Skype for business, Slack and Zoom as well as file sharing products like Dropbox and Google Docs.

However, something to consider is that these products are often used in isolation and mean that employees have to download and use different applications that are not connected.

This is why we recommend Microsoft Teams – it provides a communication channel but also links up to other Microsoft products such as Word, Outlook and SharePoint making it more cohesive. For example, you can video call colleagues and arrange meetings with multiple contacts, store, share and work on documents, and instant message in real time.

It also has the capability to integrate many third-party apps. This means that you won’t need to start all over again with integrated systems but can simply connect them into Teams.

Now is the time to adopt a cloud telephony solution.

The new way of working:

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, and we believe some of these changes will be permanent especially when it comes to employees working from home. The good news is that most organisations have already adapted to this, or at least have adapted in part, and have the ability to facilitate remote working safely and securely.

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