IT Lessons From The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a multitude of lessons along with it, on both the personal and professional fronts. From the business perspective, the pandemic turned things upside down across almost every industry. One of the biggest trends that the pandemic brought was remote work. While working from home(WFH), or telecommuting as it was called earlier, existed in some industries, the pandemic made WFH mainstream for everyone. From doctor’s offices to SMBs to IT companies, almost every industry had to resort to remote operations to stay in business. This shift from on-site, brick-and-mortar offices to WFH brought along with it some serious challenges. This whitepaper discusses how businesses leveraged technology to overcome the various challenges businesses faced with the sudden shift to the remote work environment.
This was one of the first and foremost challenges. When shelter-in-place orders and lockdown restrictions were imposed and people couldn’t get to work, the biggest challenge was, how to access data remotely. Organizations that had already embraced the cloud to store and access data were clear winners in this round. Having data in the cloud meant their staff could access the data from anywhere. All they needed was an internet connection and of course a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone. Organizations that still relied on traditional methods of data storage including hard drives, on-site servers, etc., had a tough time getting their staff enabled to work remotely.
Productivity and engagement tracking
Another aspect companies struggled with as WFH became the norm was productivity and engagement tracking. When your staff is not in the office, how do you keep track of their productive hours and engagement levels? Also, there was the challenge of keeping the employees motivated and connected with the brand in the confines of a remote environment. This is where new software applications came into the picture.
New software applications
In the pre-pandemic phase, even when companies had staff working from home they were fewer in number and a lot of them even came into the office a couple of times a week to ‘just catch up’ on work and with colleagues. So, no one really had paid any attention to collaborative software programs because engagement levels were pretty high with just a handful of staff working remotely and connecting on the phone or in person anyway.
It was only after the pandemic forced organizations in their entirety began to operate –from CEO to intern–that businesses recognized the need for collaborative software programs such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meetings, Google Meet, etc. Similarly, from the productivity tracking perspective, software programs such as TimeDoctor, Roadmap, Tick, Timely, etc., became popular. The challenges of migrating to these tools were two-fold. First, investing in new technology was expensive, especially for SMBs, and second, everyone had to be trained on how to use it.
With staff working remotely, data security became a serious concern. When you have staff operating in an office, it is easier to keep tabs on data security. You can have various mechanisms in place to ensure data security. These include firewalls, antivirus software applications, closed, secured, and tightly monitored networks, physical security measures, and monitoring systems such as CCTV cameras, biometric access controls, etc. But, with staff working remotely, a lot of these can’t be deployed, as the employees are mostly using their own personal devices for work purposes and also using their home’s internet connection to access work files. This makes monitoring and imposing restrictions almost impossible.
Stars of the show: Cloud and VOIP
Despite the multitude of challenges presented by the abrupt shift to the WFH model thanks to the pandemic, there were some tech heroes that saved the day. These two made WFH possible.
The cloud is that platform whereby you outsource your data storage as well as many of your applications. With the cloud, your data and software applications are no longer physically located in a specific geographic location. Therefore, access is no longer tethered to a user’s physical location. The cloud was the biggest game changer during the pandemic because it allowed businesses to get any time, anywhere access to their data as well as critical applications. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that if it weren’t for the cloud, a lot of businesses wouldn’t have been able to survive the pandemic at all.
Along with the cloud, VOIP proved to be one of the most critical elements when it came to business continuity during this pandemic. It revolutionized business communications. An acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP is a technology that allows you to communicate by sending voice as data packets using the internet. VoIP replaced the old PBX (the phone system which physically tied you to the office if you needed telephony services.) Because VoIP is internet based, it’s functions are accessible from anywhere. It also offers a wider range of services. Going beyond being just a telephone or voice system, VoIP offered organizations a single, unified communication solution that fulfilled all their business communication requirements such as voice calling, video and audio conferencing, and other collaboration requirements–a lifesaver for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key takeaways from the pandemic from the IT perspective
From the IT perspective, the pandemic…
- Reinforced the need to follow good password hygiene
- Brought to light the need to engage in data security and access best practices through mechanisms like multi-factor authentication
- Showed us how important staff training is in terms of data security. The ability of employees working remotely in a less secure environment to identify phishing scams or malicious attachments that could compromise the entire business data setup is really critical. Your data security’s first line of defense is your staff. And this is never more true when they are working remotely.
- Proved that smooth, secure, and timely access to data is a must-have for business continuity. This means technologies facilitating remote work, such as the cloud, VoIP, and other collaboration tools are not a matter of choice anymore. They are a part of the core requirements for the smooth functioning of your business.
- Taught us that agility is everything in today’s world. When the pandemic struck, businesses that did well or even survived were the ones that were quick to make the transition to the remote work environment. Agility requires IT support that can pivot quickly to meet new demands.
6 Has given root to the WFH culture, which likely won’t wither away even as the pandemic fades. WFH is here to stay and businesses and customers alike have to adapt to this ‘new normal’.
What role can MSPs play?
Networks Unlimited can make transitions smoother for businesses, like yours, from the IT perspective even during unforeseen circumstances such as this pandemic. They can bring to the table the much-needed agility factor, which can help the business cope with the demands of the newly created work environment. Even businesses with in-house IT teams can benefit tremendously from the expertise and experience that Managed Service Providers have to offer.