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      Coronavirus: Productivity and security at risk from remote working

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      By Stuart Dickinson, COO at eacs

      Although the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is itself grabbing the headlines, the impact it is having on UK businesses, both big and small, is still unclear.  

      In light of the recent contagion across Europe, organisations are starting to respond by implementing remote working strategies, but how well will businesses cope if most staff are self-isolating or avoiding travelling to the workplace? According to eacs, leaders in the delivery of IT services to the mid-market, it is small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are least likely to have invested in the right policies and processes, underpinned by the correct level of support and technology, that risk significant compromise in productivity and security.

      Remote working is being stressed as a way to reduce the risk of daily commuters falling ill with coronavirus and is already being adopted as a solution by businesses across the UK. The advantages of remote working and cloud infrastructure have been widely covered, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 means these are now being mentioned as key tools to ensure employee safety and business-as-usual operations.  

      Most SME’s have robust Disaster Recovery plans that typically focus on the infrastructure and data protection but have not necessarily considered Business Continuity Plans (BCP). These SME’s do not usually offer remote working and could be the most at risk and must rethink their approach to BCP to keep disruption to a minimum.  

      It is increasingly likely that over the next few weeks and months we will see more and more companies of all sizes send their workforce home. Essentially, we could be forced into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment and for many SMEs this will be very difficult to implement, as they are less likely to have invested in the infrastructure and business continuity processes to support access from outside the office.  

      For them, merely asking their workforce to take a laptop or tablet home and treating it as business as usual will not be sufficient, as productivity will almost undoubtedly fall. At the top of people’s minds is the productivity impact of staff who are ‘out of sight’ or the availability of equipment but what should be of most concern, will be the heightened risk of a costly cyber-attack.

      A period of global disruption is always a particularly enticing time for cybercriminals, who often try to take advantage of crises to disrupt operations and hack businesses. Most of the time, their best way into a network is through a company’s users, and for a business that might not have invested in the security tools needed to support remote access, they will be at the top of a cybercriminals’ list.

      The question is then: What should these smaller businesses be doing to ensure they stay productive and secure?  

      It is important for smaller businesses to now get their plans in place to make sure that they are prepared for a sudden increase in staff self-isolating or avoiding travelling to the workplace. Crucially, is testing it before it happens, don’t leave it until the last minute.

      If in-house IT and technical teams are not able to initiate these plans quickly and effectively, businesses must look for outside support which specialise in SMEs. Getting an answer that is appropriate to the size of the problem is key to ensuring that productivity amongst employees or the security of the business isn’t compromised.