37 per cent of companies have made members of their IT staff redundant or placed them on furlough schemes, according to global research commissioned by Leonne International, the private equity firm. Out of 1,116 business decision makers from the UK, US, France and Germany surveyed by independent polling agency Censuswide, 418 admitted to removing IT staff since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Similarly, almost half (47 per cent) of companies surveyed have frozen IT budgets for the foreseeable future in order to save money during the Covid-19 crisis.
Interestingly, despite restricting IT budgets, 41 per cent of business decision makers admitted that their remote working system for Covid-19 is not compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation. Furthermore, 45 per cent expect a company data breach to occur during the Covid-19 crisis, due to staff using personal devices which are not properly protected.
Despite these concerns, 44 per cent of companies are aware that members of staff are using an outdated version of the Zoom video conferencing app – which can cause severe security issues. Also, almost half (47 per cent) have allowed members of staff to purchase their own laptops and tablets to work from home – many of which will not be properly protected or connected to company IT servers.
IT professionals play an important role in managing the transition to remote working, implementing new software, updating applications, securing data and ensuring home-workers browse the internet safely – meaning budget cuts and furloughed staff has come at a time when IT services will be in high demand.
In the UK specifically, 34 per cent of companies have made members of their IT staff redundant or placed them on furlough, and 49 per cent have frozen their IT budget until further notice.
Despite this, 37 per cent of UK businesses are still using outdated versions of Zoom; 37 per cent have allowed members of staff to purchase their own devices to work from home, and, 38 per cent expect a data breach to occur during the Covid-19 crisis.
Andy Harcup, VP EMEA, Absolute Software comments: “It beggars belief that businesses are slashing IT staff at a time when digital skills are so critical for delivering effective remote working systems. It’s also worrying that such a high proportion of companies are allowing employees to share confidential company data on personal devices, using outdated apps as well as knowingly operating in breach of GDPR rules.
“With thousands of companies ordering brand new laptops and tablet computers to support remote working, it’s also crucial that that companies have the necessary cyber security systems in place to ensure every device using the company network is patched, encrypted and protected from outsider threats.”
Sridhar Iyengar, MD, Zoho Europe comments: “Businesses should think twice before scaling down on IT expertise, particularly with lockdown measures scheduled to remain in place for the foreseeable future. With many companies scrambling to implement remote working systems, getting access to digital consultancy, guidance and support is crucial, to keep processes running smoothly and enabling employees to work effectively.
Many companies have already discovered that without the right software and apps in place, running important tasks remotely can pose serious challenges. Key to solving this issue is getting access to Software as a Services (SaaS) support, to manage analytics, finance, email and other key business functions through the cloud. This approach can keep costs down, replacing outdated manual and on-prem systems with easy to access professional services, which will enable the business to operate smoothly despite the Covid-19 chaos. Employers also need to reskill their staff to work remotely, offering training and mentoring to guide them, especially if new tools and processes are being introduced. For example, ensuring they know how they can collaborate efficiently.
As for companies expecting data breaches or security issues, this need not be the case if they assess the software vendors they choose to provide services carefully and if they adopt the right IT strategy to protect hardware. It is a simple but vitally important aspect to get right.”