Business Continuity

Prepping for the unknown to ensure business continuity

Can your business enable most of your employees to work from home in an instant, without potentially compromising IT security?

It was the day of New Year’s Eve when the World Health Organization began hearing reports of a new and mysterious virus in eastern China. Now, as of February 7, 2020, there are 31,534 known cases of the coronavirus  worldwide. Organizations with operations in China’s quarantine zone are having to make difficult decisions. Many are either halting operations or restricting employee travel to China (or both). A large number of knowledge workers in the quarantine zone are being told to work from home indefinitely. Smaller countries  around the globe are also at risk, and must quickly come up with a solution to enable their employees to work from home, for their health, and safety of their colleagues. For example, a single company in Bavaria  announced that seven employees had tested positive for Coronavirus, and as a result, made a corporate decision to have the majority of their 1,000 employees work from home. For some businesses, asking staff to work from home at the drop of a hat is relatively easy. But for others – especially those with a global workforce, sensitive corporate systems/IP and traditional on-premise desktop deployments – it can be the stuff of nightmares. Although there are several ways your organization can prepare for such an event, one of the easiest – and most cost-effective – is to implement secure and compliant, cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). So what should organizations do to ensure they’re always prepared – or, at least, as prepared as possible – for staff to work as productively (and securely) as possible from virtually any location, at any time, no matter the situation?

How organizations can prep for city-wide emergencies

Organizations, no matter their industry, location or business model, face a variety of potential hazards every day. These include natural hazards such as floods, extreme weather, and earthquakes; human hazards like accidents, violence, power or equipment failures; and, of course, health hazards like pandemics or epidemics.

Although it’s next to impossible to plan individually for every possible hazard, luckily most emergencies – from earthquakes to terrorist attacks to pandemics – require a similar preparedness plan. The costs of being unprepared are simply too great: According to ready.gov, three-quarters of organizations without an emergency plan will likely have failed within three years of a major disaster. Medium-sized businesses that close or halt operations due to disasters lose an average of $23,000 per day.

The U.S. government’s resources for emergencies like earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding recommends businesses:

  • Identify risks: Which types of risks are the most likely to affect your organization? Which could have the most serious implications?
  • Develop a plan: Having a plan in place before an emergency reduces the chance of bad or uninformed decision-making during a chaotic situation
  • Take action: Once a hazard is recognized, immediately implement your plan

Help others: If you’re able to, use your resources to help other people or organizations in need.

Get Prepared with the Five S's

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends organizations develop preparedness plans for major natural disasters according to five S’s: Staff, space, systems, structure, and service:

1. Staff.
This includes preparing your staff for emergencies by developing a communications plan, along with conducting employee awareness and training programs

Secure Equipment

2. Space.
Non-structural mitigation measures such as securing equipment like computers and filing cabinets.

Systems

3. Systems.
Includes measures like securing water heaters, installing protective coatings on windows, and anchoring/bolting down air compressors or propane tanks.

Structure

4. Structure.
Structural mitigation such as reinforcing concrete and masonry constructions.

Community

5. Service.
If able to, plan to help assist your community by providing your services or resources.

Measures such as test drills to ensure employees know where to go and what to do in an emergency can also be beneficial.

Businesses can play a big role in helping fight pandemics by taking the right actions

Similarly, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has free tools available for organizations to plan for potential epidemics or pandemics. Because businesses can play a big role in helping fight pandemics by taking the right actions, the CDC developed this checklist for U.S. businesses with overseas operations in the event of a pandemic. Among other things, it advises organizations to:

  • Appoint a pandemic coordinator at every international facility to oversee planning and implementation
  • Establish pandemic response team(s) with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and authorities at your international facilities
  • Identify business functions that can be outsourced or transferred to other facilities
  • Identify and develop plans to augment the current workforce with temporary workers and contractors
  • Advise employees who are ill to stay home from work

This last bit – augmenting your current workforce with contractors and keeping employees at home – can have serious implications for business continuity, especially for knowledge-based businesses where your human capital needs timely and secure access to corporate systems and desktop work environments.

Ensuring business continuity for a global workforce

Thankfully, more tools than ever now exist for workers to punch in just as effectively from home as from the office. These include video conferencing services like Skype or Google Hangouts, workflow management and coordination tools from Slack or Trello, and remote access to corporate networks and systems through secure and compliant cloud VDI.

When it comes to IT infrastructure, cloud desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) options have been the prudent choice for a few years now – before that, the most companies could do was ask people to work on unsecured personal devices and residential WiFi networks. Unfortunately, DaaS systems tend to assume everything inside an organization’s network is trustworthy (a position which, in an age of ever-more-sophisticated attacks and insider threats, is foolhardy).

Secure and compliant cloud VDI, however, can help organizations leveraging remote, global workforces during a pandemic by providing:

  • An on-demand, backup virtual workplace
  • Secure, remote access to corporate systems
  • Least privilege permissions to ensure network and application isolation
  • Detailed logging and auditing to ensure control (and auditability) over and of the remote work environment

Secure and compliant cloud VDI is practically tailor-made for companies with a global workforce, both during an emergency and the routine course of business: onboarding new workers securely can be done in minutes, and your capacity for new desktop workstations can be easily scaled up or down as needed. Organizations can quickly leverage specialized skills from any location on the planet with an internet connection, without fear of malicious attacks or bad actors infiltrating internal systems, thanks to secure and compliant cloud VDI’s compliance and security barriers and layers.

Tehama’s secure and compliant cloud VDI can help your organization with its desktop infrastructure needs, and can help organizations simplify their IT emergency planning. Contact us to learn more.