By Nick Sacke, Head of IoT and Products at Comms365.
The Covid-19 crisis initiated a dramatic change to the working world almost overnight. With offices closed and employees advised to work from home, businesses were forced into adopting mass remote working without warning. Moreover, with many organisations in many industries forced to furlough employees and close, they have had to rapidly transform business models in order to maintain operational continuity and cash flow, be that through moving to online models or changing their business offerings completely.
For the vast majority of businesses, the crisis not only brings a level of uncertainty, but also complexity with the need to transform many elements of their business practices. As Nick Sacke, Head of IoT and Products at Comms365 explains, there are a number of factors organisations should consider when adopting a new way of working. By implementing the correct communications technology solutions, business resilience can be rapidly assured - not just for now, but also as we adapt to the ‘new normal’ post-lockdown.
Digital business transformation and remote working has resulted in increasing volumes of application traffic per user. Application usage as high as 700% has put networking infrastructure under significant strain, both at the user end and in the cloud. This has increased the requirement for network performance and resilience to ensure a quality user experience and business continuity. However, broadband speeds for many homes are still painfully slow, especially if all the family are competing for internet resources with remote working and schooling. The strain on the broadband infrastructure is rising, which is evidenced by a rise in the number of outages in recent weeks, sometimes affecting thousands of connections. This means that access to corporate networks and cloud applications reliably can be a challenge. This is where 4G data services can add a reliable and cost-effective backup connectivity option, or even primary access where fixed line access isn’t possible. With supplementary connectivity for resilience via the form of business grade 4G with quality of service technologies, business traffic can be separated from consumer streaming, and prioritised accordingly.
Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C)
Until now, the shift towards remote working had been a gradual process, with the adoption of collaboration tools being undertaken by businesses at their own pace. But with this unexpected crisis among us, businesses have had to rapidly adapt and roll out these services to entire workforce populations at speed. With no office premise open, SMEs have had to invest in new laptops, headsets, reliable video conferencing and collaboration software, hosted telephony, and training on how to effectively utilise the new UC&C tools to ensure employees can continue to operate as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible. With the speed of the decision to lockdown, many businesses struggled to get full UC&C solutions in place.
These elements are essential in the current circumstances but will also be an integral part of the future business environment. As lockdown measures start to be lifted, businesses will not immediately shift back to the working practices of before – and the future workforce will expect businesses to embrace remote working as an integral part of business operations. Many businesses will continue with remote working for the foreseeable future; some may implement a combination of office and remote working – research has revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift some of their employees to remote working post-lockdown.
But even when some offices reopen, open-plan seating layouts will have to be redesigned to keep employees further apart from one another.
IoT technology including temperature monitoring solutions in thermal cameras, such as those used at Amazon, can be an ideal solution to alerting employers and employees to potential viral symptoms before coming into contact with colleagues.
The question of IT security has become critical during the Covid-19 restrictions and will continue to be. It’s more important than ever for organisations to invest in the right security systems and educate their employees about the signs for possible threats, especially as cyber-attacks have increased five-fold during the crisis.
Some businesses have had to implement a BYOD (bring your own device) policy, at least temporarily, as employees were not set up with work devices. But without the same corporate security protocols, personal devices can expose organisations to dangerous external cyber threats. For example, many companies have web-based IPVPNs securing their corporate traffic, but there are many other routes hackers can take in these challenging times, such as via third party mobile devices that may introduce threats to the internal network. Whether your data is held in the cloud or on a physical server, businesses need to take action to ensure they have secure access to their stored information. Another key defence for organisations to consider is a Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) software license which can overlay any network infrastructure and secure access to applications, devices and even personal social media accounts.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how resilient and capable businesses are to deal with unique challenges, and to transform their offerings. We have seen manufacturers across varying disciplines such as motorsport, fashion and homewares re-tool to produce much needed medical supplies such as PPE and ventilators, large call centres continuing to take enquiries and deliver support despite the agents working from home, and restaurants stopping table service but embracing home delivery.
In order to make this shift successfully, businesses will need to make the necessary changes to support this transformation and maintain continuity. The tactics employed in the new business plan include rapid connectivity deployment, increased internet quality / throughput, and the addition of connectivity infrastructure resilience.
Many companies weren’t prepared for a shift in business structures, operational procedures and modelling, which may put them at a severe disadvantage if they don’t get the right tools in place. With the economic pressure caused by Covid-19, without a way to reliably transform to a new way of working or to diversify their offerings could spell the end for many organisations. Working with a provider that can support you during these unpredictable times means that you have the reassurance that the right tools are in place to provide a reliable foundation for your business. Be that 4G, hardware, software, telephony or security, they can be tailored depending on the specific need of the business – either on a temporary or permanent basis.
These are the most unusual times that we are living in and the changes we have seen in business so far means that a ‘new normal’ is inevitable for everyone. Organisations need to prepare now to not only adapt to the new way of working, but also future proof their businesses for life post-lockdown and post-Covid-19.