Adapting enterprise IT to the new normal [Q&A]
The past year has created an unprecedented shift, with businesses scrabbling to implement technologies to allow large numbers of staff to work remotely.
It seems likely that as we emerge from the pandemic a large proportion of this shift will become permanent. So, what can companies do to adapt their IT to this 'new normal' and ensure access to essential systems while maintaining security and compliance standards?
We spoke to Luis Navarro, CEO of London-based IT support specialist Totality Services to find out.
BN: Can we expect to see IT provision moving from 2020’s crisis mode to a 'remote first' culture?
LN: From what we've seen, many small to medium sized businesses knee jerk implemented many solutions during the early days of the pandemic, these included the obvious video conferencing platforms such as zoom, and cloud-based collaboration solutions like Monday.com.
Although these solutions are great, and are fit-for-purpose for remote working, it has led to companies having to administer multiple applications, like staff on-boarding / off boarding, managing security etc.
Unless there's a central management solution in place to aid with these tasks, it can result in a fair bit of work, and poses a risk -- human error when managing all these apps manually can creep in. A good example is forgetting to remove access to business critical application (e.g.) from a staff member whose contract has been terminated.
A solution like JumpCloud can help bind multiple applications, so all you need to do is the cut the staff member’s access to all solution in one place and avoid issues occurring.
Going forward, all IT decisions will be more considered with remote working in mind. Many businesses will be going 'all in' with platforms like Microsoft 365, which have pretty much all the applications a small business will need. Unless there are cultural business drivers, why use Google Workspace and Zoom when you can just use Meet which comes with Google's platform?
BN: How difficult is it for heavily regulated sectors, finance for example, to adapt to remote working?
LN: We work with many FCA regulated business, and legal services firms. On the whole many of these companies, were already set-up to work from anywhere as they work with business as usual files and use standard platforms such as Microsoft 365. However, these types of business require a lot more security than say an estate agent.
We resell a vast range of security solutions that can help protect businesses against all threats. The key difference between working from home or a coffee shop vs the office is network protection. Having a secure VPN and layering DNS protection can help with this dilemma regardless of the location staff are working from.
Where we really saw more issues was with our architect, town planning and marketing agency clients that work with large artwork files stored on physical servers. The problems arose when staff members with home-grade, contentious internet were trying to access large files via VPN -- this was obviously very slow and caused user frustration. We have now pioneered cloud-based file access solutions for this type of company that negates this type of issue.
BN: How does remote working impact onboarding and offboarding of staff?
LN: At Totality Services we on-board and off-board 100s of our client's staff members every month. The key to doing this successfully this through having extremely detailed information on each of our clients requirements, and having a check-list for our engineers so that nothing is missed.
One thing that we place a lot of importance on is quality control, not a single laptop or PC will be sent to a new starter's home or office unless a second engineer has verified that the device has been set-up properly. This results in no user frustration and a great first impression of our service!
The remote working aspect of staff onboarding and offboarding hasn't had an impact. For off-boardings we can remove a staff member's access to all systems remotely, and immediately, and also remote wipe endpoints if required. Onboarding users has not been an issue as our office has remained open throughout the pandemic, so that process has not changed.
BN: Has the pandemic accelerated the drive towards digital transformation?
LN: On whole it has, however many businesses in the travel and hospitality sectors have frozen their IT budgets, so they will need to catch-up.
There are many stats out there, and one of the most interesting ones is from a study by McKinsey which states that Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation by 7 years. This really doesn't surprise me, look at how internet usage has increased, and I'm sure you’ve noticed how many traditional, smaller retailers now have an online presence and shop.
From our point of view, we have managed over 40 server to cloud data migrations in the last year -- that says it all really! This shift is fantastic and it's the right thing to do, as long as the right security measures are in place.
BN: Is this an opportunity for more responsive businesses to challenge the more established competition?
LN: I think smaller, more agile businesses can have competitive advantage up to a certain point when it comes to digital transformation.
For example, getting a product online quickly and grabbing early market share is very possible. The issue is that big businesses, with their huge online marketing budgets for SEO and PPC will dominate in the long run.