Business continuity and COVID-19

Friday, March 27, 2020 by Malcolm Briffa

Business continuity and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a concern for all of us on a personal level. On a professional level, many of us find ourselves needing to grapple with business continuity alongside safeguarding the health of our families and colleagues.

Even if your business continuity plan did include the eventuality of a pandemic, it’s unlikely that it had a scenario where a third of the world’s population went into lockdown. These are unprecedented times. In Malta the transition from office to home working has been swift and impressive; we can all be proud of this collective action. However this rapid response has meant that the local business community now has to cope with a limited availability of resources such as business laptops and related hardware.

As in all situations, there are aspects that we can control, below is a short list of technical considerations for businesses adapting to remote working.

Don’t compromise on security

This must be your mantra. No matter how fast you need to get it done, and no matter the pressure you’re under do not compromise on security. The repercussions even in the short term can be huge.

Too many horror stories are surfacing about businesses which have prioritised speed over safety in the last few days and fallen prey to cyberattacks. Follow your ISMS protocols at this time more than ever; access control, VPN, secured device and firewall changes need to be performed by the book. There are unfortunately hackers out there who are aware that businesses are taking shortcuts and are exploiting the resultant vulnerabilities.

Working from home should not mean a free-for-all; access to key data and services should still be limited in the same way it was at office. If a particular employee didn’t need access to a particular data set in the office, they definitely don’t need remote access.

Connectivity – changes in usage

The sudden increase in people working from home has caused significant changes in the way office services and applications are used. Suddenly you need to cater for increased external demand putting pressure on your protection mechanisms and your bandwidth. Businesses across the world have found they need additional bandwidth to support their core systems as well as improved home connectivity for their employees to operate remotely.

Distinguishing between the different types of bandwidth requirements is key here with critical applications requiring high availability connections with strict SLAs whilst home users and other, less critical, applications being more suited to standard connections. Applying this differentiation will help you manage your spend most effectively in these trying times.

Cloud services

Whilst not rushing to cloud applications without due consideration of your business needs, the current situation could well be a trigger to move certain applications that will allow enhance productivity as your organisation migrates to virtual working. Applications such as Business Hangouts from Google, Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business are enabling organisations in many countries adapt to social distancing and the necessary shift away from a reliance on face-to-face meetings.

Despite a few teething problems when millions moved out of their offices last week these services seamlessly integrate with your office applications and securely enable communication and collaboration across internal teams and external stakeholders. If you are a micro business without the internal expertise to get up and running on these platforms, reach out to one of the many certified system integrators in Malta – they will be able to help you deploy a cloud strategy efficiently and quickly.

Telephony wherever you are

Whilst working from home demands a reliable internet connection, it doesn’t mean your team need to stop answering the phones. PBX (private branch exchange) technology has advanced significantly and Cloud PBX (or virtual PBX) services enable your employees to answer their phones through handsets or applications as seamlessly as if they were in the office. There’s no need to change phone numbers; calls will be routed amongst groups in the same way as on a traditional PBX but without you needing to install and manage a system on your premises.

Grants and Government support

The Maltese Government, through Malta Enterprise, has announced a series of support mechanisms for businesses during this pandemic. One of the available grants supports investments in teleworking, with an allowance of up to €500 per employee up to a maximum of €4,000.

We’re here to help

Melita Business is supporting many clients with their business continuity, including remote hosting of applications, temporary dedicated bandwidth for core applications, home internet installations and rapid deployment of Cloud PBX services. Should you wish to learn more about how we can help keep your business running smoothly, wherever your team are sitting, follow this link:

Malcolm Briffa

Malcolm Briffa

Director of Business Services

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