The Novel Coronavirus – COVID-19 – is making headlines around the world.  Businesses are cautiously being advised to review business continuity plans (BCP) in the event the global virus outbreak is upgraded to a pandemic, and people are advised to self-isolate to reduce the spreading of the virus. Some estimates suggest that up to one in five people “could be affected by this” in the event of a pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 belongs to the same class of viruses like the common cold and MERS virus. At present, significant parts of Asia, Europe, and North America are on high alert, governments are outlining emergency preparations in direct response to the virus. It is advised that businesses do the same and review readiness guidelines and business continuity planning.

There is a very real chance that government guidelines will be updated to advise US citizens to self-isolate to contain the virus. Some businesses (including Google and Twitter) are already taking preventative actions and asking all employees to work from home. COVID-19 is also starting to affect day-to-day business; for example, a large number of companies initially pulled out of the HIMSS exhibition, a major Healthcare IT conference in Orlando, and today, the conference has been canceled.

Remote Working

A core element of any business continuity plan is the capability of remote working. Atlantic.Net is uniquely placed to help with remote working requirements.  As a tech company, we already have the ability to provide our workers with the technology to work remotely.

We also have the infrastructure in place within our cloud platform to help any business with their contingency planning. Atlantic.Net can provide consultancy services if needed, so please get in touch if you are looking for help.

It is estimated that a large number of employees will potentially be off sick over the coming days, weeks, and even months. This could result in individuals, departments or entire offices being unable to travel to, or occupy, their place of work. Businesses cannot simply stop operating, core business operations must continue to function, for many, remote working is the key to providing a business-as-usual service. In such situations, it becomes crucial to efficiently manage remote payroll tasks, including the ability to create paystubs, ensuring financial processes remain smooth despite disruptions.

Fortunately, we are working in the digital age, and the majority of office workers have a desktop or laptop computer. It is important to know which of your employees can take their laptop home and work remotely.  Not everyone may have a laptop, so can the business provide spare laptops to employees? Can your business allow employees to use personal laptops in an emergency?

Homeworking will likely require a VPN connection to connect to the corporate network and access internal business services.  Does your business have a VPN? Do you have enough spare licenses and bandwidth to cope with the surge in demand? Is your phone system available over a VPN connection? Do procedures exist to train non-technical personnel on how to install and configure a VPN?

The use of VPN software is increasingly popular and might be perfectly suited for an on-demand VPN requirement.  There are several open-source VPN software solutions available for Virtual private servers. But since cybersecurity is a major concern these days, most businesses are opting to get a little help from service providers like Atlantic.Net to ensure security, privacy, and compliance.

Once the Remote Access VPN is established,  all your employees need is a computer, an internet connection, and the VPN client (or guest credentials to the Atlantic.Net VPS). Users can then remotely connect into the VPN tunnel and access business applications as if they were sitting at their desks.

Windows Desktop Edition virtual servers can be deployed for every employee in our cloud to help provide a remote desktop service within seconds.  Users install a local agent to connect to an existing business platform. These products can also be stood up on an Atlantic.Net VPS, and although licensing costs may be higher than a VPN, the user experience is often improved for non-technical employees.

Business Continuity

Other core business continuity elements can be completed now in the event of a pandemic. Most importantly, test and secure remote access for any work-from-home situation. Ensure that the technology works, ensure everyone knows their user credentials, and ensure VPN accounts are not locked.

Consider any employee that might need access to data or onsite file shares. File shares can be rapidly migrated to the cloud, with access granted on predefined permissions.  It is vital to ensure data integrity, data protection, and data security are upheld during the entire process. Atlantic.Net engineers can advise on the best practices to follow to protect your data.

Identify the key personnel that are needed to keep the lights on and the business functioning. Appoint at least one Business Continuity specialist,  or select team members responsible for coordinating pandemic readiness activities. Keep your employees updated on the latest news regarding COVID-19, including calm, practical advice cascaded from senior management. You may want to consider a “buddy system” where a primary employee has a backup buddy who will take on their workload in the event of prolonged sickness.

Communication is the key to a successful BCP, and creating and testing an employee communication plan is a necessity. Ensure that all business mobile phone lists are current; in some circumstances, it might be useful to have critical employees personal contact numbers. Use technology such as Slack or secure messaging tools that encourage employees to interact.

Coordinate with key vendors and third parties what your business continuity plans are, these might be suppliers, technical contractors or providers. Use any spare time to conduct staff training on remote working and BCP arrangements, this will help employees understand their roles and responsibilities during a business disruption.

These are uncharted waters we are entering with the Coronavirus. The difficulty is not knowing how the virus will mutate, and no one knows what impact will occur.  Because of these unknowns, Atlantic.Net is standing by, our business continuity planning is fully operational and we are prepared for any eventuality.

Contact us today about getting help with business continuity planning. If you’re interested in acquiring a VPS to support remote work or other efforts, Atlantic.Net is currently offering a VPS hosting solution that includes a G2.1GB Cloud Plan, 50 GB of Block Storage, and 50 GB of Snapshots, all free-to-use for one year. Sign up today!