Article By Ian Sherratt, Services Director – Cloud Centres

The Coronavirus pandemic posed many challenges for businesses and one of the biggest was how to ensure employees could keep on working if they couldn’t get into the office.

Homeworking has been part of the work landscape for some years now, but still many businesses relied on the traditional model of having their employees work in an office for most, if not all of their working week. But coronavirus changed all that to the extent that 49% of workers said they worked from home at some point in the seven days to June 14, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Surveys have reported this has been popular among employees, with the majority saying they are happy working from home and would like to do so more often. They enjoy the flexibility it gives them and better work-life balance.

Indeed, many organisations I’ve been speaking to said they’re not going to fully return to office working when the crisis is over. So now they are asking me, ‘how do I take what’s been a temporary measure and turn that into something that my business can use, going forwards, as its main model?’

This also feeds into the issue of business continuity. In February this year, a lot of our customers around South Wales had to deal with serious flooding and some couldn’t get to their premises – so how can they ensure that they can keep their business running in such circumstances and employees can work from home securely?

Times like this always lead us to open our minds and change the wy we think about what business is. And I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity to utilise the benefits of homeworking – and hybrid cloud computing to enable this to be done securely.

Considerations

There are various issues that have to be considered for employees to work from home permanently, or at least on a regular basis. For instance, there is connectivity – whether broadband speeds are fast enough to let them work effectively, such as taking part in video conferences – and security, not just in terms of access controls but the devices employees use.

In addition, what technology will be left back in the office? What technology is provided for those people who are working remotely? What needs to be available and accessible? And by who? And for what purpose?

With such issues to consider, businesses will have to think about whether they have the right diversity of suppliers and the right resilience in those communications. Chances are you’re going to be accessing core business systems, remotely in the large part, certainly for the foreseeable future. And then you have to look at what each staff member needs in terms of bandwidth, connectivity, and equipment.

Some business systems aren’t designed for remote working. But there are ways of giving people access to your network back at the ranch or wherever it happens to be via a VPN or something like that.

With connection security, it is about making sure the information passing between your employees is not easily compromised. But it depends on your line of business. There are various methods of enhancing security, such as two-factor security, when you have a password and a secondary barrier, such as a passphrase that’s randomly generated or a physical fob-type device that you carry to provide a code.

Cloud-based systems

This is where cloud-based systems come in. Cloud is something you should seriously consider, particularly in these post-Covid times. Nevertheless, it’s not a strategy, it’s information, it’s applications on the internet. Cloud is becoming that place you say, ‘I can put everything in the cloud.’ Most organisations can’t easily do that on day one, they still need a data centre. But you can go for colocation, where you give your equipment to somebody else to look after and retain some on your own premises. And having some on your premises depends on whether you’re intending to reopen certain offices. The great thing about hybrid cloud systems is that it’s not a distinct choice.

You can have certain applications in a data centre and the remainder that can’t can be in the cloud or the other way round where most of your productivity application is completely in the cloud and everything else could be sitting in a data centre managed on your behalf. The hybrid cloud really is where people are focusing now.

One of the most important factors is managing how you move your information and your system from your premises into the cloud or data centre. This is something you will likely need assistance with, which is where companies like Cloud Centres come in.

It is also about backup. It should be there to protect people. Often no one thinks about where the backups are until the until the machine crashes. Then they really care about where the backups are. You have to manage keeping that up to date and think about whether you need to increase and extend the security and antivirus measures.

This goes back to business continuity and the February floods in Wales. We operate a business continuity suite that has the hybrid cloud model. Earlier this year a customer took advantage of it when their offices flooded – we helped them get back up and running within a couple of days. Then, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the following month and people had to start working at home, they were already able to plug in and do everything they could in the office.

At Cloud Centres we are at the forefront of hybrid cloud systems, ready to meet any challenge that face businesses in Wales that want to increase the number of employees working from home after coronavirus and do it securely.

For Wales Tech Week, I spoke at length about business continuity, home working during lockdown and how to keep computers and data secure with a hybrid cloud model. You can watch my full presentation below.

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