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NAA Partner News: Coronavirus – Planning for the Unexpected

The NAA’s IT Partner, Network ROI, offers some timely guidelines on how to prepare for and minimise the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) through remote working…

This subject will also be discussed at our Cyber Security workshop on 24 March 2020, where you can register using the link below: www.northernautoalliance.com/event/naa-networking-event-discovering-cyber-security-solutions/

Business continuity has recently become a top priority for many UK organisations in order to prepare for and minimise the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We believe it is timely for businesses to evaluate and update any potential gaps in their business continuity plans.

It has never been more important to review business continuity processes, especially remote working, to ensure a seamless service is maintained. Particularly if employees need to self-isolate for 14 days in the event of individuals in the workplace having contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

At Network ROI, a leading managed services company, remote working has been a core part of its working practices over the last few years and Managing Director Adam Johnson reflected below on its experiences to date:

“For every business, it is essential to have an up to date business continuity plan and to maintain a working IT infrastructure that allows employees to securely work from remote locations and for us, it is crucial to practice what we preach. Two years ago, when we had a Met Office red warning, our ticket closure rate remained unaffected when we closed our office for a few days”.

“As part of our business continuity planning processes, all our critical IT and communications systems are accessible, regardless of where our people are working. We use an advanced software phone system which links to our office-based extensions, enabling our Service Desk to take calls and provide support remotely, to ensure service levels remain unaffected. Remote working is a core part of many of our employees’ daily lives and we have equipped our team with fully encrypted laptops, along with Bluetooth headsets”.

“In order to mitigate against COVID-19, we have put out guidance to our staff reiterating the importance of being able to work from home at short notice and to take steps to encourage good hygiene, through collective responsibility in the office, including wall mounted hand sanitisers in offices. We also have a culture where if people are ill, they must not turn up for work, until they are fully recovered”.

In order to help minimise the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Network ROI has issued the following six-point basic guidance for business continuity preparations and remote working:

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans should be revaluated. This should include the organisational infrastructure needed to react to the onset of a pandemic and the planning for continued operations of the firm.
  • Ensuring your organisation is prepared, begins with a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to evaluate the potential effects of an interruption to your business operations.
  • Providing the capabilities to work remotely and securely should be the overarching priority and non-critical projects may need to be put on hold.
  • When we built our Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans, we focused on how quickly we can make decisions and tested our processes and scenarios e.g. If we lost access to data and phones, how would we cope?

Remote working necessities

  • Consider the basics of remote working, such as implementing policies that replace in-person meetings, with video or telephone conferences.
  • Evaluate access to business-critical software and cloud-based platforms for all staff.
  • Assess and hardware requirements e.g. Is there enough secure laptops or mobile phones to cope with working from home for an extended period? Can staff redirect landlines to mobiles?
  • The latest telephony can enable first line workers to respond to queries as if they are in the office, especially when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth headset and mobile. It’s not always practical to take a desk phone home, so a softphone lets you make calls over the Internet from a computer or other smart device.
  • Ensure that staff and supplier lists are centrally accessible.

Video Conferencing

  • Meetings and staff interactions can continue as normal with video conferencing replacing face-to-face interactions. Virtual whiteboards can be used to share ideas.
  • The solution should enable users to use the system out of the office, via instant free video calls from smartphones through an app or preset from meeting rooms.
  • But video conferencing doesn’t have to mean replacing everything you currently use. The system should be able to work with your existing communications systems such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Cisco or Slack.

Document Management

  • Staff should be able to remote access documents remotely as easily as they would in the office.
  • Organisations should consider migrating documents over to cloud-based portals such as the OneDrive or enabling access to documents through a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network).
  • Staff can access, share, and edit Word docs, PowerPoint, and Excel files in real-time, through software such as Microsoft Teams

Instant Messaging

  • Employees working remotely can usually get answers quickly, without having to disrupt the work of in-office employees, through systems like Chat. Teammates can then see when colleagues are available or when they are booked in meetings.
  • Individuals can chat with each other or teams can group chat, removing social isolation and enhancing team performance.

Security

  • Secure practices in remote working are a key consideration.
  • Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) applications can be used to allow a secure environment to be created for remote working.
  • Multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication should be installed to give an added layer of security on laptops and mobiles.

Adam concluded: “Everybody’s environment is different, with different solutions and no one size fits all. Gap analysis of your business continuity and disaster recovery plans can be a useful starting point. This can identify key issues which need a quick decision, such as giving all employees remote access securely”.

“Organisations need to work through different scenarios e.g. if your head office closes, how do your other locations operate seamlessly? What systems can’t you live without for an extended period? Each business or organisation needs to evaluate their priority activities, people, skills and minimum staffing arrangements from their business continuity plan”.

“Technology can provide many solutions to enable workforces to work for extended periods remotely but evaluating your workforce is equally important. For example, evaluating employees who work in prioritised or frontline roles is an important consideration as well as knowing which employees can provide back-up, if colleagues become ill”.

“Your business continuity plan, technology disaster recovery plan and crisis communications plan must all work hand in hand, to develop the most cost-effective approach to restoring and resuming critical and essential functions and processes”.

“All organisations can benefit from re-evaluating their business continuity plans or if they don’t have a plan, reviewing how they would cope should their working practices need to change”.

For further information, please contact Colin Thomson

Tel: 0131 510 2345 or colin.thomson@networkroi.co.uk

Network ROI is a UK employee-owned IT Service company orientated to support, tackle and protect. We are a team of 50 growth enablers, accessible 24/7, with a UK reach from offices in Scotland and England.

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