An Emergency Work-at-Home Toolkit for Business
Twitter just told all of its employees to work at home 100% of the time because of the coronavirus and you may be next when it comes knocking on your office door. It is a scenario all companies should be thinking about at this time and get ready for. Fortunately, off-the-shelf solutions that enable quick, secure and effective implementation of collaboration, communication and business continuity are readily available. Here’s an annotated checklist of key tools to look for that you can quickly roll out to your workforce and help your business come through this period unscathed.
Unified Communications & Collaboration
- Video calling. There’s not going to be time for a measured culture shift to a newly remote, distributed workplace. Adding familiar faces to conversations will help lessen the dislocation and keep people connected.
- Instant Messaging & Presence (IM&P): When you can’t walk down the hall, these tools make it easy for users to see whether a colleague is available for a chat, then instantly send a message.
- Collaboration services: Virtual, always-on meeting room space for ad-hoc or planned meetings so your teams can easily share information and collaborate using any combination of group chat, voice and video conferencing, desktop and application sharing, and file sending.
- Unified messaging: Remote users need access to emails, voicemails, and texts in the format that works best for them, depending on where they are and what they’re doing. Unified mailbox, notifications, and user-defined call routing increase user productivity.
Security & Continuity
While communication and collaboration are essential for remote workplace, so is security and business continuity. It is critical to have the right technology in place that supports the remote staff’s productivity and connectedness, while keeping the company secure. The last thing you need is to adopt a patchwork of complicated applications and systems that tax your IT department and create new risks. Look for solutions that include these elements:
- Comprehensive firewall management: You want your newly remote employees to be safe within the corporate network via secure VPN access that gives them access to critical applications and helps them remain productive. Firewalls can ensure internet traffic from remote workstations gets the same protection as if physically in the office, given they are up-to-date and properly configured and managed.
- Secure endpoints: The laptops now sitting on home office desks can become vulnerable points of entry for cybercriminals, so securing them properly is critical. You’ll want to make sure that they can easily receive security patches, Next Generation AV, secure remote control and troubleshooting support.
- Failover when the cable hiccups: For mission critical positions you want to ensure that there’s not a single point of failure looming. If the home broadband connection goes down and you’re streaming TV, it’s an annoyance. For a business with employees providing essential services, it’s a disaster. There are solutions like managed SD-WAN that will automatically switch to a 4G LTE connection that will keep your folks working for as long as needed.
- Reliable support: It’s always important to be able to call for help when you’re implementing a new system or tool, but that becomes a matter of business life or death when you’re in the middle of crisis management and making changes on a timetable measured in hours instead of months. Consider simplifying your crisis workload by working with a managed services provider that can coordinate all the moving parts during this time so you can concentrate on your business – and sleep a bit more comfortably.
Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028. Working remotely is slowly becoming “the new normal” and all companies should get ready for the work-from-home scenario.
If you need a hand, contact us or call: 855-924-1393 to see how we can help.
Here are some additional resources you can use:
Home Office Solutions
Infographic: Tips on Deploying a Remote Workforce
White Paper: The New Workplace Reality
About the Author
Lucie Hys is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at TPx. She is currently leading the marketing efforts for the company’s MSx suite of managed services. She has been working in marketing for more than 9 years, with the last four focusing on the cybersecurity industry. Lucie graduated with an MBA from Florida Gulf Coast University. In her spare time, she is an avid fitness enthusiast and a passionate traveler.
Many events can cause your network to go down, including natural disasters, cybersecurity attacks, or even backhoe damage to a fiber-optic cable. And when businesses experience an Internet outage, they feel the negative effects in several ways. Thanks to the rise of cloud services, SaaS and mobile apps for work, an outage can have far-reaching consequences financially, as well impact an organization’s competitiveness and reputation.
That’s why it’s imperative that your company include a plan for ensuring uninterrupted Internet connectivity, and continued operations in the face of an outage, as part of your Business Continuity Management (BCM) process. In most cases this includes installing a backup circuit, such as a wireless failover option, in the event the wired infrastructure is impacted; but there are many different connectivity approaches that can be put in place.
This may seem expensive or complicated, but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be. For instance, an SD-WAN can provide a crucial overlay for cost-effectively orchestrating these connections to the outside world.
Know Your Outage Risks
As part of your BCM process, it’s important to understand the risks and the vulnerabilities that would be in play should the Internet suddenly disappear at the office.
For one, most businesses today conduct a large portion of their business online, whether that’s in the form of eCommerce (every hour of downtime corresponds to lost sales), interacting with partners or customers, maintaining an informational website meant to drive in-store or phone traffic, or simply taking online payments for services.
For those selling goods and services online, the question then becomes: how much revenue stands to be lost or delayed by every hour you’re knocked offline? Understanding that number alone should be a core consideration.
Another concern is lowered productivity – it’s an exercise in frustration watching your employees become stalled with nothing to do because they can’t access the information or apps they need to do their jobs. Aside from the fact that you may be paying them to sit and wait, outages can have deeper impacts. Outages put the brakes on development cycles, back up production times (in the case of real goods), and keep innovation teams from effectively collaborating – all aspects that impact your capacity for differentiating your business.
A third risk is reputational damage. A business without a functioning website looks like it isn’t ready for prime time, and that could give potential leads (and even long-term customers) pause. A business’ website is often where customers gain their first impression of the organization.
Outages also impact sales and customer service organizations, who may be relying on cloud-delivered applications to house customer information and initiate orders, trouble tickets, escalations and the like. Moreover, an unexpected outage during an important sales call or critical meeting can be embarrassing and costly, and customers calling into a contact center tend to be unforgiving when they’re not served well.
Fire, flood or even civil disorder are real threats to the operations of any business. Putting a back-up connectivity plan in place will allow you to stay connected via phone and Internet throughout outages and ensure you can access the tools you use to communicate to partners, employees and customers.
Wireless 4G LTE Failover
Wireless connectivity allows you to set up a remote site quickly, or keep remote sites open during outages. Unlike dual-wired connections, which often share the same trench into a building and are subject to errant backhoes, 4G LTE provides true path diversity and ensures non-stop Internet access.
TPx is the first nationwide provider to offer SD-WAN over 4G LTE as primary, secondary and redundant options to reduce or eliminate the need for wireline connectivity. In a primary configuration, all traffic is transported over the 4G network. In secondary mode, the 4G circuit is active but sharing throughput with a primary wired circuit. In failover mode, the 4G link is dormant until it’s needed for automated failover of the primary circuit, so you won’t be unnecessarily using up your mobile data allocation.
Managed SD-WAN for Peace of Mind
There are also other types of Internet failover options which, along with 4G LTE, can be managed by an intelligent SD-WAN. TPx Managed SD-WAN allows you to mix and match any type of transport – whether it’s provided by TPx or your local Internet or wireless provider – to securely and seamlessly fail over your primary Internet connection. This can include MPLS Private Networks, High Speed Internet Access, SmartVoice SIP Trunking and UCx Hosted Unified Communications. Our SD-WAN network will automatically route traffic to the secondary circuit.
Our SD-WAN also provides “bonding” to increase cost effectiveness: both circuits can be active, so that the failover circuit is not sitting idle. The SD-WAN decides, for each traffic session, which path is the best path in that moment. That means you don’t have to pay for bandwidth you’re not using. And for added peace of mind, you can utilize three circuits — all active, or one in standby mode — for the ultimate measure of connection certainty.
On the inbound continuity front, this provides static public IPs between the core network and the gateway to support inbound Internet failover for remote users and web traffic.
Contact your TPx representative to see how you can gain peace of mind for your employees and customers. Downtime can be scary. You may not initially know the length of the outage, but not knowing when it will occur can feel worse. Mitigate the stress on your leadership and staff with a reliable backup plan.
About the Author
Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Managed Endpoint, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.