Common IT challenges and recommended workarounds brought about by COVID-19

March 24, 2020

 

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With the steady rise in COVID-19 related quarantines and the rapidly changing directives from governing health bodies, most businesses have no choice but to move to a work-from-home culture. While some have been doing so for years, many businesses face significant hurdles due to having systems and operations that were never fully set up to handle the scale of this activity. As an example, the events of recent weeks have forced many businesses to impose rotational hours since their network is unable to handle the concurrent access of more than 10 - 20 employees.

The volume of ongoing operations and additional initiatives required to setup and secure a remote workforce often far exceeds the capacity and perhaps capability of IT teams. Fortunately, potential workarounds that we have provided for clients may offer relief. Here are some of the most common challenges we have seen and the corresponding solutions:

Challenge: Remote access to necessary systems is unavailable

When working at the office is no longer an option, lack of remote access to necessary systems basically brings businesses to a halt. This could be as simple as trying to access your shared drive or your application that is sitting on a server accessible from the office. There are several options that we have provided to our clients to help solve this issue including setup of Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Remote Desktop Server (RDS), Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), and setting up remote applications like LogMeIn. It is important for a business to review and determine the best option that quickly allows them to resume business-as-usual.

Challenge: Multiple employees cannot achieve remote access at once

When setting up items like remote connectivity, the general assumption is that only a certain percentage of your users will need to have remote access at any given time. As a result, when a business has their entire workforce working remotely, access issues arise. Only in rare scenarios have we have seen companies set up remote access connectivity based on the assumption that 100% of the workforce will need access. This is not only an issue for smaller businesses – we have seen similar situations with larger financial institutions. In fact, they had to deploy a rotational workforce to not stress the connectivity and allow continued business operations. Some solutions we have implemented to help guide our clients through scenarios like this include expanding the VPN connections or leveraging a cloud-based footprint.

Challenge: Existing systems were never built to work remotely

Many clients had chosen the route of setting up everything in-house in an effort to keep operating costs low and increase security through limited public exposure. In a remote working environment, this presents a particularly tricky challenge especially if the client lacks the capability to extend their application for secure online access or accelerate a cloud migration. We have helped customers identify the most suitable accelerated roadmap and actively worked within their unique business situation to move them there.

Challenge: IT team is having difficulty responding to the increase in technical issues associated with a larger-than-usual remote workforce

As you can tell from some of the examples above, managing the required daily IT operations for a remote workforce can be overwhelming for many businesses IT teams. It is not always strategic or even possible to hire full-time or contract positions to fill the gap during periods of increased remote workforce needs. Engaging a managed IT vendor may be the answer. Through our strategic partnerships, we have been able to assist our clients with accelerating key IT projects by allowing then to offload their remote IT operations such as an IT Help Desk, hardware procurement and provisioning, and remote desktop / infrastructure support services.

Challenge: Increased remote access brings increased security concerns

A sudden increase in staff working remotely can open the door to new security challenges. In the last decade, cybersecurity has become a key topic for Canadian businesses and has sprinted to the forefront with the added exposures associated with a remote workforce. We have helped our clients address security concerns with initiatives such as vulnerability assessments, on-going security patching, systems monitoring, and multi-factored authentication. These approaches can help to keep your business safe as you continue to adapt to a work-from-home culture.

How BDO can help?

We understand the consequences to regular operations that these scenarios present for businesses across Canada. We are here to help the Canadian business community navigate through the challenges, paving the way for efficient operations and productivity.

Austin D'souza, Director, Managed Services & Cloud

 

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