This past week, despite a strong desire to stay the course, we elected to postpone a company trip to Charleston to avoid unnecessary travel risks. Many of our client meetings are actively being transitioned to video-based meetings as the inescapable news surrounding the Coronavirus – now designated a pandemic – dominates our culture. Travel restrictions and emergency declarations around the world are translating to a massive lockdown affecting millions of people.
We’ve struggled with the balance of messaging our ability to help with a desire not to be viewed as capitalizing upon the situation. This post is an effort to provide some useful information in a single place, for contingency planning and preparing for the inevitable isolation protocols that will follow as the virus continues to run its natural course.
First, here’s a link to the CDC guidance for business and employers for any infectious disease protocol – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fguidance-business-response.html
Following are some of the basic building blocks to successfully pivoting to a remote work environment.
*Each of these can be piloted quickly and brought into production in days to weeks.*
#1: Usable Broadband / High-Speed Internet
The first thing you need to do as a business owner is surveying your employees to see what kind of broadband they are using at home. In order to run business voice and video calls, they’re going to need plenty of bandwidth. A good standard that should provide enough horsepower is 50 Mb down, 5 Mb upload speed. If your employees aren’t getting those kinds of speeds, you may consider offering to subsidize the difference to upgrade them from their current plan to 50 Mb x 5 Mb. There are some cable, best-effort fiber, and 4G Internet providers that will allow your executives and other employees to get a business-class service delivered to their residence. We recommend having your users run a comprehensive network performance test like can be found at the following URL: https://mediatest.webex.com/#/main
If you’d like to review your options, our client managers have access to a toolset (shown below) that will tell them, what providers (and prices) are available at your employees’ locations.
# 2: VPN Technology
VPN stands for a virtual private network. A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that creates a safe and encrypted connection over a less secure network, such as the Internet. Virtual Private networking is a way to extend a private network using a public network such as the Internet. It makes use of tunneling protocols to establish a secure connection and is used broadly in Enterprises today.
VPN technology was developed to allow remote users and branch offices to access corporate applications and resources. To ensure security, the private network connection is established using an encrypted layered tunneling protocol, and VPN users use authentication methods, including passwords or certificates, to gain access to the VPN. In other applications, Internet users may secure their connections with a VPN to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship or to connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet. Some websites, however, block access to known VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of their geo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developing strategies to get around these roadblocks.
Using VPN is legal in most countries. The legality of using a VPN service depends on the country and its geopolitical relations with another country as well. A reliable and secure VPN is always legal if your intended use is not for any illegal activities like to commit fraud online, cyber theft, or in some countries downloading copyrighted content.
# 3: Move Your Contact Center / Phone System to the Cloud
Roughly 25% of US Enterprises now use some sort of cloud-based communications platform. Now maybe the time to finally make that jump. Many of the providers are offering flexible on-ramp contracts that have lower costs and short-term commitments.
As more and more offices are closing due to school closings, fear of infection, or potential government mandate, this is likely the tipping point for Enterprise organizations that have been on the fence with regard to cloud-based collaboration technologies.
In the past, many on-premise phone system users cited quality issues related to running essential traffic over the Internet as a reason not to move to the cloud. Those issues can be addressed through SD-WAN technology, which fixes packet loss and other factors that degrade voice and video quality.
Key features of a cloud-based collaboration system that you can leverage are:
- Video Conferencing – The importance of understanding and knowing that you have the full/ undivided attention of the person you are talking with can’t be underestimated. If your team is forced to stay at home, having a high-definition video conferencing bridge will enable you to stay connected as a team, and to stay connected to your best clients.
- Mobile App – when you move to a cloud-based platform, every employee will be able to download an app to their iPhone or Android phone. Once installed, the app will extend the majority of the features to their mobile phone, allowing them to receive and make phone calls from their work number, to transfer calls to fellow employees, to fax, text, page and with a general IVR/ Auto-attendant route calls to your team’s softphones by department, skills, etc.
- Collaboration – using available messaging tools (i.e. Cisco Teams/ Jabber, Glip (RingCentral), Slack, 8×8, Nextiva, or Microsoft Teams), your teams will be able to communicate one-to-one, one-to-many, in a persistent chat (much like a group text that never goes away).
- CRM Integration – Cloud-based platforms were built to integrate with other cloud-based systems, especially CRMs. Many providers have already built APIs into the most popular CRMs: SalesForce.com, Zoho, ZenDesk, Method CRM, MS Dynamics, Sugar CRM, Hubspot, etc.
#4: Move the Desktop Workspace to the Cloud
One of the reasons many companies require their workforce to come into a centralized office is the specialized software required to do their jobs. Another reason is access control. Many employers want to control who has access to what file and inside a physical office, using Active Directory, you can ensure certain file-sharing rules exist within your own Local Area Network.
Desktop as a Service – this service (shown below) allows you to virtualize your employee’s individual desktop computers, putting the actual computing in the cloud, and allowing your employees to “see” it through a light-weight app that mimics the PC’s workspace from anywhere they need to work.
#5: Remote File Share
When you send your workers home, it’s imperative that they be able to share, collaborate on, and store files in the cloud. The most popular cloud file storage providers are:
- Microsoft Office 365 – OneDrive
- Google G-Suite – Google Drive
For a few additional reference articles check out the following URL’s:
In the meantime, stay safe, work smart, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds!