Global concern over the spread of the coronavirus is high, with many businesses advising staff against unnecessary travel and encouraging them to work from home as efforts are made to contain the spread of the virus. For a lot of organisations, it’s a test of their business continuity plan and a stress test for the IT support infrastructure and their overall IT services. For others, it’s a reactive process requiring rapid response. Whatever situation you find yourself in, our project consultants have the following advice to see you through.
Prioritise security and business-critical processes
“Any plan for your staff to work remotely, individually or en masse always comes back to information and security,” advises Nutbourne Technical Director Patrick Burgess. “The bottom line is that you need to keep the business running and to keep your information safe and secure – obviously sudden changes to working practices can compromise some of that security.”
“If you are going into a business continuity process – which may be the case in the coming weeks and months - the first thing you would complete is a list of critical functions such as ‘Incoming Sales Orders or Incoming Phone Calls’. With this list of critical functions, you can determine the systems and information required to keep them operational. You can then take those systems and information and look at how you can keep them available and operating for your staff and clients whilst remaining secure.
“Prioritise who has and needs access to what remotely based on your most critical processes, and decide how those people are going to access this information and systems first.”
Be flexible and open to change
Whatever business you operate, whether you offer IT services, equipment procurement, network audits or anything else - “You need to plan for more than one business continuity scenario,” Patrick says. “So normally you would plan for a short-term business continuity problem, such as the containment phase of a virus that we are in now, where some but not all people can get into the office.
“And then you need to plan for the longer-term. The situation could change drastically in the UK, we don’t know. Italy went from a containment phase to a lockdown phase in less than 20 days. Although it’s unlikely, we could be looking at scenarios where offices are closed for more than three months.
“If it's done correctly, these policies and plans can bring benefits. Flexible working is a very big thing, so having a process in place that accounts for that has a lot of carry over into your business continuity plan. It allows people to be effective and productive, even if they’re unwell but still want to work.
“Once the current situation resolves itself, when somebody isn't feeling great, but they still want to work, you will be able to let them work from home. That way you keep the productivity of that person, and you keep them moving in the right direction. So there are things that can be done in business continuity, which bring you day to day benefits as well as waiting for the long-term benefits.”
Maintain open communication
‘Communication at all levels is vital,” says Patrick. “It’s arguably the most important thing you can do. Communicate to your teams, suppliers and clients, communicate simply and be clear with people about what is going on so that you can maintain your business and keep it operating.
“If you're not operating in a 100% capacity, tell people that, because then they won't be so frustrated when they don't get a call so quickly. You want to keep business operation open and disruption to a minimum. Equally you want to quell fear and concern among your employees and clients – so manage their expectations and make it clear what is expected of them during a business continuity phase.” An integral part of Nutbourne’s company ethos has always been the importance of open channels of communication. In times of stress and turmoil, it becomes even more important.
Back up what you need
“You should be doing this regularly anyway,” Patrick says. “But during a business continuity phase, it’s especially important because you need to ensure that your business can run efficiently and effectively.
“Keep in mind that you don’t need all your data to run your business. In all likelihood, you need the last couple of week’s documents, you need the current accounts, the HR documents and the policy documents.
“Of all the data you may have, only around 5% - 10% of it is what you actually need immediately. If you’re staring down the barrel of an enormous back up thinking it’s going to cost you a fortune, you might not actually need to back the whole lot up.” However much you eventually choose to back up, both cloud backup and remote backup services offer a pleasing solution to the situation at hand.
Spread your data storage
“Things like Office 365 and Dropbox can be bad because they’re implemented poorly and they encourage data to spread,” says Patrick. “But they can also be a solution if implemented correctly.
“By storing different sets of data in different places you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket. By spreading your risk you are limiting the impact of any attack on your data or system failure. This is not just for data protection; this is for business continuity. If you spread the risk you don’t get this all or nothing scenario.”
Put simply you need to plan ahead for what’s coming to ensure you can continue to operate. The current scenario isn’t going to go away and businesses are going to be mandated to shut over the coming months. If you are ahead of this then you will be able to iron out the kinks and make the changes in the most cost-effective way. Wait too long and it will be a knee jerk reaction which will cost money, security and business. Whether it be implementing cloud backup options, an IT network audit or updating your IT security, proactive measures are vital to ensure the long-term health of your business.
So, if you’d like to find out more about Nutbourne, a leading project consultant in London offering comprehensive IT services, then get in touch today! Call today on 0203 137 7273.