TIME TO READ: 5 MINUTES
The old Boy Scout motto is: "Be Prepared."
Almost no one expected the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that we've faced it and have started reopening, what do we do next?
Other crises lie in wait—a possible COVID-19 resurgence this fall, more rolling blackouts, natural disasters, cyberattacks, and economic upsets.
We can prepare for those. Specifically, prepare our business' IT infrastructure to continue working under nearly any circumstance.
In today's WOOF, we're sharing 8 recommendations from Robert Douglas, President of PlanetMagpie. On their own and together, these recommendations help protect your team & defend against crises. You can use these to improve your business' resilience, right away.
1. Stop buying desktops.
While desktops have long served as quality business computers, they just aren’t mobile. Replace your desktops with laptops.
2. Deploy a hardware-based VPN.
We talked about these in a recent WOOF issue. A hardware (or on-premise) VPN provides the most secure access to your network for remote users.
- Make sure you have licenses now for every user who would need access to the company network. In the COVID-19 lockdown, VPN license procurement was delayed across the board because of the sudden demand. This meant employees were sitting idle waiting for network access.
3. Keep & verify regular cloud backups for servers and workstations.
Malware/ransomware attacks go up during a crisis. COVID-19 saw an enormous increase. If you're hit, the only defense are your backups. Make sure your server backups run at least daily, include versioning, and store backup files in two separate locations (one being in the cloud).
Perform test restores regularly (at least quarterly, if not monthly) to make sure those backups stay viable and ready when you need them.
Also, consider adding your company workstations to your cloud backups. Laptop thefts happen all the time. If one happens, you'd want to only lose the hardware—not years of work!
At the very least, add your company’s critical workstations to your cloud backups: Finance, company leaders, and project managers.
4. Adopt a mobile-first communications system.
By "mobile-first," we mean a communications system that moves with your team, wherever they go. Your team should be able to:
- Run video meetings with team members and customers
- Have a phone number that always stays the same, regardless of where they are
- Securely message other team members, with a conversation history they can reference
- See their team members’ “presence” (and know when they’re online)
- Use any device with all features available (laptop, tablet, mobile phone)
Microsoft Skype for Business/Teams is one such system.
5. Schedule an annual Cybersecurity Awareness training for all team members.
Capterra’s "Remote Work Survey 2020" reports that phishing scams victimized 30% of organizations during the COVID-19 lockdown. Whether it’s bad password management, using coffee shop Wi-Fi, or not recognizing a malware/ransomware email, your risk of a network crisis (on top of the national one) goes up when your workforce is working remotely.
Train your employees annually or bi-annually on good cybersecurity practices. It lowers your risk of such an event ever happening. Cybersecurity training turns your biggest risk – your employees – into network gatekeepers. No matter where people work during the next crisis, this kind of awareness can make the difference between business-as-usual and complete disaster.
6. Buy spare equipment & keep it ready.
Keep a small number of extra laptops, printers, etc. in stock. Why? In case a breakdown occurs and someone needs a spare.
The COVID-19 outbreak caused a major slowdown in worldwide supply chains, on everything from toilet paper to electronics. We saw big delays in deliveries of new IT hardware – laptops in particular – as a result. Desktop printers literally flew off the shelves.
If you have spares on hand, supply chain issues won't affect you.
7. Install remote monitoring and access service on all laptops.
You might read 'remote monitoring' and think 'spying on everyone.' That's not the intent here. No, remote monitoring & access software lets you provide IT support to remote workers.
You can use the software to support your workforce at any time. However, it's especially helpful when you don’t have physical access to their computers.
We use and recommend two Solarwinds products for this: Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM) and Take Control. These two enable you to:
- Install security patches and manage software updates
- Initiate or schedule backups
- Access a team member's laptop for IT support
- Receive alerts on malware attacks or hardware issues
8. Plan for backup power.
Planned rolling blackouts and unexpected power outages endanger your on premises servers, and leave your network inaccessible. Worse, the unplanned outages can damage hardware and corrupt data. If you can make the investment, install a UPS and a generator for backup power.
Absent that, consider co-locating your servers to a professional datacenter, or host your data on their servers. Datacenters like PlanetMagpie’s make big investments in redundant power systems and climate control, so your servers stay up during power outages. Datacenters also employ redundant bandwidth to protect the datacenter from going offline, and offer significantly stronger network security than most businesses can afford.
Prepare Your IT and it Will Protect Your Business
Nobody knows what form the next crisis will take. Or when it will come.
With tools like these in place, you can at least rest easy technology-wise. You'll have made your business' IT resilient. Continuing to help your team do their work, one day after the next.
How resilient is your IT infrastructure? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.