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Coronavirus and your Business Continuity Plan – Are You Prepared?

Coronavirus and your Business Continuity Plan – Are You Prepared?

With the current outbreak of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), officially named “Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia” or NCP by Chinese Health Authorities in China, businesses in the region have started to relook at their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) on how to effectively maintain business operation where physical contact between employees or individuals is being restricted to a high degree. Enterprise Singapore, supported by Singapore Business Federation has published a comprehensive Guide on Business Continuity Planning for 2019 Novel Coronavirus. 

The gathering of a large group of employees in offices is now being avoided as much as possible, with companies instructing certain percentage of its employees to work away from the office or from home as much as possible to reduce the chance of infection risks in the office space.

In short, the standard business operations using the traditional mindset of mandating all staff to report to the office might now be a risky decision, in terms of risk of infection. However, this is highly dependent on the nature of business – such as operators for heavy machinery are still required to report to work, or telemarketers only requiring a laptop and internet to work. The reliance on digital communication channel is now critical as this is something that the current coronavirus cannot take advantage of. And NO, I’m talking about the actual infection and not cybercriminals taking this opportunity for email phishing or creating malware in the name this outbreak.

If you are one of many businesses that have not put in place a robust Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to mitigate current risks, now is the time to relook at your business operations, processes and infrastructure and do something about it. The authorities have mentioned that it could take months before this outbreak is over. They have also mentioned that the coronavirus is more infectious than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that was discovered and recognised in February 2003, however, Coronavirus fatality rate is lesser, according to the authorities. 

Businesses should put the focus on considerations on the short-term situation where employees may be restricted to work outside of the office as much as possible. Businesses will need to rely on the current digital infrastructure, or even look into new solutions to support the sudden surge of digital communication requirements.

For companies with robust BCP in place, working remotely from home may not be a problem. In Netpluz, we allow our employees to apply for telecommuting, or work from home in case a need arises. Netpluz utilises the Microsoft O365 platform where our employees are able to conduct their day to day operations, such as conferencing, file-sharing or even work together on a single document. The platform enables our employees to maintain constant contact with each other via this platform. CRM & ERP platforms are accessible through Virtual Private Network (VPN). Sensitive data are being encrypted before being transmitted between employees’ laptop remotely and servers in Netpluz private cloud.

Video conferencing between employees, particularly the usual weekly meetings on business operations updates, shown no issues as Netpluz infrastructure is robust and highly available. Kudos to the engineering team and their experiences.

For customer-facing staff, such as the sales team, the inability to meet will not be the main factor that affects operations. The sales team may consider inviting their customers/prospects to meet through video conferencing with Microsoft Teams on Microsoft O365 platform.

For companies who are not well-prepared, such as not utilizing Microsoft O365 or similar platform and only relying on the traditional communication channel such as Whatsapp and traditional telephone, the predictable outcome would be employees not being able to work productively.

The following are some recommendations for businesses wanting to ensure business continuity:

  1. Consider categorising your employees in at least 2 teams (Team A & Team B), and avoiding physical interactions between the 2 teams.

Recommendation: Have at least a team to work remotely from home. Ensure that either team will be able to take on the role of the other team, should the need arises.

  1. Enabling your IT department/staff to deal with the sudden surge of connectivity issue, as more and more employees may be required to work from home.

Recommendation: Understand your bandwidth usage/utilization and upgrade to a higher bandwidth if necessary.

  1. File servers are hosted on-premise in the office location.

Recommendation: With the mobile workforce, a simple Virtual Private Network (VPN) connectivity is the basic requirement to access the file servers in the private network. Do contact us if you need VPN setup or even consultancy on your current infrastructure to support this feature. 

  1. Ensure your employees are able to work from anywhere such as from home. Many SMEs, especially smaller companies have yet to collaborate digitally, as most may still prefer the in-person face to face meeting.

Recommendation: Consider working on Microsoft O365 and collaborate online with Microsoft Teams. Teams can be installed on multiple devices and employees can also work on their mobile phones on the go.

Netpluz is a Microsoft SPLA partner and Cloud Solution Provider. 

  1. Ensure that all employees who work remotely do have the communication channel such as mobile phone to be contacted or to contact their customers or suppliers.

Recommendation: Ensure that employees desk phones are properly set up to ensure call forwarding. A solution such as MobileRoam ensures that employees are able to communicate with parties more productively. This service is recommended for employees that might be facing limited mobile plan subscribed. Businesses may also consider Cloud PBX and IP-Phones should the nature of the business requires high volume call traffics. 

  1. Ensure that all employees’ endpoint such as laptops is installed with endpoint protection.

Recommendation: With employees working remotely and accessing the internet publicly, there will always be cyber risks of malware. To ensure that endpoints are properly secured with antivirus and anti-malware, Netpluz recommends Sophos Endpoint Protection such as Intercept X Advanced with EDR and MTR. 

  1. All endpoints should have a proper backup solution in place. 

Recommendation: As employees will move around to work remotely, there will always be a chance that the endpoint they work with will be stolen, lost or even data corruption. Having a proper endpoint backup solution such as Druva InSync ensures proper data protection and governance in this critical period. 

  1. Working from home is not an option due to the nature of business, e.g. Financial or Sensitive Data Handling.

Recommendation: In such a scenario, businesses may consider splitting their team B onto a secondary work area, similar to business Work Area Recovery (WAR), which is also covered under a comprehensive BCP plan. Such secondary workspace or Work Area Recovery solutions include complete office facilities and equipment such as PCs, telephone systems, facsimile, photocopier, manager rooms, meeting rooms and general office areas to which our customers can quickly relocate key personnel to the recovery site and resume business as soon as possible. Contact Netpluz today to find out more, from cost-effective solution to a full-fledged WAR room. 

  1. Businesses to relook at existing or even consider building a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

Recommendation: As IT landscapes are getting more complex with the subscription of multiple SaaS solutions or even on-prem solutions, devising a comprehensive and robust business continuity plan may require the guidance or advisory from a managed communication service provider who has decades of experiences. Netpluz has been offering advisories in terms of BCP on IT infrastructure. 

The above recommendations are some simple guidelines to enable your employees to continue to work remotely if required while waiting for the coronavirus outbreak to subside.

Solutions such as collaboration platform Microsoft Teams on O365 creates the modern workspace, where employees can collaborate without the need to be physically in a specific office. Companies that have proper BCP in place would have a competitive advantage in this crisis period.

For businesses who finally understands the importance of digital communication platforms and in need of assistance, Netpluz can advise, propose, implement and manage an end-to-end robust solution. Please contact contact@netpluz.asia to set up an appointment to discuss how Netpluz can support you in communication services.

Author: Rueburn Liang