The coronavirus pandemic has had a seismic impact on how all companies organise and conduct their business. Over the course of the past few months, offices have emptied, client lists have shrunk, and both employers and employees have suddenly found themselves juggling childcare and health concerns alongside their daily workload. But if you thought this was a temporary inconvenience, and sooner or later things would go back to normal, you may be in for something of a surprise.
There are certain events that are so significant that they end up changing our habits and attitudes forever, and it’s looking increasingly likely that COVID-19 will be one of them. Your business will have to adapt to survive, and your IT support with it.
Coronavirus has affected almost every part of the business world to some extent. Some of these changes, like smaller client lists, will hopefully return to normal with the ending of lockdown, but others may never be the same again.
One of the most significant changes businesses have had to make is allowing their workforce to work remotely. This has meant stripping the business down to its bare bones, which has forced many companies to reassess their daily practices and priorities. A significant number are finding that, after going through such an upheaval, the idea of returning to an in-house team is not quite as appealing as it once was. Even tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft have extended their work from home policies, while Twitter has said its employees can work from home ‘forever’, if they wish.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to working from home, however, as most businesses have no doubt already discovered. On the positive side – apart from keeping employees healthy – businesses can save money on renting office space, travel costs will plummet, and employers will be able to choose from a wider pool of talent when hiring new team members and taking on new clients, freeing themselves from geographical limitations.
However, working remotely is not without its challenges. A scattered team can easily become a disorganised one, as it becomes much harder to ensure that everyone is completing tasks at the same pace, and has received the same information at the same time. Disparities in technology may also hamper you.
One employee may live in the heart of a city with access to superfast fibre-optic broadband, while another may live in the middle of the remote countryside. One unreliable internet connection is all it takes for a Zoom meeting to descend into farce, and for vital work to be held back. It may be that a reduced workload and lack of an office has meant you’ve had to make the difficult decision to dismiss your in-house IT expert, but without dedicated IT support at your disposal, it can be difficult to overcome what should be relatively minor technical problems. That’s why, if your business is has to make remote working a permanent arrangement, you should consider outsourcing your IT support.
Companies like Syntax IT Support London provide a range of services to businesses adapting to life post-COVID such as remote working solutions. Access to a pool of highly skilled and experienced technical and managerial resources can provide you with invaluable support during key projects and periods of peak workload, as well as helping you to cover any skill shortages and to organise planned absences. Most of these outsourced support services are highly flexible, allowing you to request them on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis (daily, weekly, monthly etc) depending on your individual needs. This support means that your company has a safety net during a time of potentially disruptive transition.
An important reason why many businesses are looking to outsource their IT support is that the coronavirus pandemic has had an unforeseen impact on cybersecurity. Digital has become our default mode of communication with each other, and looks likely to remain our default mode of doing business for the foreseeable future. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the greater number of businesses relying heavily on digital tools by launching an increasing number of attacks.
There are a few things you as a manager can do to minimise the risk of a successful cyber attack being launched against your scattered team, including:
- Stepping up your cyber hygiene standards: Just as washing your hands helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, cleaning up your digital habits can help protect against virtual viruses. Ask your employees to protect their home Wi-Fi routers with both strong passwords and up-to-date firewalls, and not to reuse passwords across multiple accounts.
- Verify, verify, verify: Installing software and signing up to new services on a home computer is much less secure than doing so on an office network protected by an IT expert. Remind your employees regularly to verify the sender of every email, and the source of every URL. Phishing emails can look almost exactly like the other emails you open a hundred times a day, so you should ask your team to treat every single one with a healthy dose of suspicion. And remember: only use trusted, official websites, and never click on an email hyperlink or webpage advertisement.
- Keep updated. Just as it’s important to keep abreast of the latest health advice, it’s also vital that you keep your software and anti-virus programs constantly updated. Cyber criminals are always improving the technology they use, so you should be too. When it comes to computer software, an older version is a weaker version.
However, there is only so much you can expect of your team in terms of keeping their IT updated and protected. IT support probably isn’t the main part of their job, and this is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for everyone. Clients and partners are even more risk-averse than usual. Your employees are likely to be stressed, both about work and other issues. This combination of significant change and personal stress is the perfect environment for cyber criminals to work in.
Stress makes people careless, and hackers are clever. Their job is to devise increasingly creative ways to exploit users and technology in order to access passwords, data and networks. This could be through phishing emails, ransomware, dodgy hyperlinks or tempting advertisements created with malicious script. If your employees feel as though their work life has been thrown upside down, and that they do not have the same level of support as they once did, they may not be as careful as they would otherwise have been: not pausing to verify the sender of an email before opening it, or creating different, strong passwords for their separate accounts.
Any successful hack or piece of malware that deprives you of your ability to communicate, or access key data could be particularly devastating at this delicate moment in time. Outsourcing your IT support to an external company is a flexible and manageable way to stay protected against constantly changing cyber threats. Their expertise could ensure your business’s survival, and may help to give you and your employees valuable peace of mind while you adapt to life in the ‘new normal’.