(“In Case You Missed It Monday” is my chance to showcase something that I wrote and published in another venue, but is still relevant. This week’s post originally appeared on PeopleMatters)
Truth be told, your employees are most likely headed to work this morning wearing their pajamas. As governments across Asia extend or re-establish nationwide lockdowns, millions of workers now find themselves having to work from home for an indefinite amount of time. The functionality of companies now rests in the hands of IT professionals. They face the pressure of maintaining all the digital elements making remote work possible, and most of them will have to manage this with limited direct access or visibility over corporate networks or devices.
If it isn’t already crystal clear, business success now hinges on whether a small group of IT experts has the time, tools, and techniques to manage an environment where there’s a one-to-one correlation between “the number of corporate remote sites” and “how many employees work here.”
So here are some ways IT teams can continue to ensure productive work from home experiences for their employees in the face of new work norms while they prepare for “recovery” in the many ways this word can be interpreted.
Preparation is the key to recovery
IT pros need to stay one step ahead and should start by forming a list of the top services experiencing high levels of demand from remote employees. For example, internet data traffic in Singapore has surged by as much as 60 percent, potentially resulting in lagging business networks and application interruptions. To cater to remote working arrangements, formerly on-premises businesses now clamor to move their systems operations to cloud platforms quickly, resulting in an exponential spike in traffic to the cloud. However, they run the risk of migrating to platforms without replication in Asia-based locations, whether it’s an absence of data centers or availability zones within the region capable of supporting this transition. Furthermore, with organizations in Asia now moving online to comply with social distancing measures, there’s the added challenge of performance concerns regarding the use of conferencing applications.
In short, the default stance of any IT team should be to anticipate and prepare for the worst. Here are some things IT pros can do to be vigilant:
Track scalable service costs
Higher traffic volumes and data interactions on “as a service” functions can (and likely will) cause costs to skyrocket—particularly those capable of auto-scaling to demand, like cloud services. This requires more than just a “double-check” mentality. It means setting up logging, tracking, and/or monitoring for those services—both in terms of usage and consumption as well as performance and availability—and leveraging, or creating if necessary, a comprehensive set of reports and alerts so you can proactively know about spikes and prevent unexpected charges.
Check licenses for digital tools
As employees practice safe distancing and isolation, the Asia-Pacific is becoming one of the major contributors to the increased usage of video conferencing tools. However, most online communication tools only allow a limited number of users per license. To prevent workflow disruptions and complaints from teams, IT pros should practice due diligence by examining licensing limitations thoroughly before engaging them, especially if teams adopted the tools without the IT pros’ knowledge.
Be prepared for latency issues
Though they may not have control over videoconferencing services, IT pros can expect an influx of emails or complaints regarding service performance. Yes, I’m saying you’re now responsible for “the internet.” One technique for managing this requires IT pros to remain vigilant over the status of these services through vendor websites or social handles and to communicate updates with frustrated teams. But a more effective option is to leverage tools providing visibility into the end-to-end user experience of these services.
Automate wherever you can
As demand for cloud adoption in Asia-Pacific spikes, the added pressure of managing more devices across multiple environments means IT pros will have little time left for crucial tasks like monitoring. To compensate, IT pros should adopt network solutions with some measure of automation to identify threats, highlight issues, and notify IT teams with minimal intervention. With the roles of IT pros evolving to encompass non-technical skills such as business planning, implementing self-service capabilities can help remote users gain access to the information they need in an instant, giving IT pros more time to focus on newer and more complex tasks.
Switch to the right tools
According to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2020, 52 percent of IT pros use a mix of native application performance management (APM) tools and third-party tools. In these unprecedented times, these remote management tools can enable IT pros to better manage troubleshooting, adopt better network performance monitoring tools capable of giving them visibility over external devices, and implement security and VPN monitoring measures to combat new threat vectors.
Work from home vigilance
As employees bring their laptops (along with their monitors, keyboards, and even their desktop systems) home to comply with quarantine orders, hackers see the perfect opportunity to take advantage of weakened security systems. In fact, the cybersecurity company Carbon Black saw a 148 percent increase in ransomware attacks in March 2020. Any device connected to the business network could become a potential point of attack at any given time, and security should not be taken for granted.
IT pros need to take extra measures to incorporate security and vigilance into any work from home policy or solution. Ideally, they should already have fundamental cybersecurity measures like user permissions, device access management, mandatory two-factor authentication, VPN, and deep network monitoring in place. IT pros can also tap into free vendor services—eliminating the need for time-consuming budget approval—to step up their cybersecurity profiles and ensure data breaches or cyberattacks remain under control.
Keep calm and well, you know the rest
There are other things IT pros can do to ensure a smooth work from home experience. For example, they can share any “good practices” guidelines they’ve picked up in their career or offer detailed instructions on how to connect periphery devices or set up reasonable home network security. They can also share sensible advice like reminding people to avoid bandwidth-heavy streaming or downloads during video conferences. IT pros can provide value and alleviate anxiety by setting up chat areas on internal tools like Microsoft Teams or on external services like Slack for topics like recipes, pet pictures, and book discussions.
At a time when so many people are working from home, the default stance of any IT team should be to anticipate and prepare for the worst. What are some things IT pros can do to be vigilant?
Ultimately, IT pros, and their leadership, should remember they’re doing the best they can, given the severity of current events. Like everyone else, they need some time to readjust to the new work reality and its accompanying challenges. Unlike everybody else, they’re probably providing tech support to family and friends as well as the entire corporation. Doing so methodically and sensibly will help them navigate and clear the path through these difficult times.