COVID-19 has no doubt tested even the most well-thought-out business continuity plans, and as UKFast’s CTO Neil Lathwood said in his recent blog post: “maintaining communication across your business is key”.
I can’t echo those words loudly enough. Remote working has been a crucial part in maintaining business operations over the past few months, and will no doubt continue to hold teams together as lockdown restrictions evolve throughout the year.
As a business, we’re lucky to be agile enough to have quickly responded and adapted to the new tools needed for everyday communication, whilst also helping our customers maintain business continuity. But there are many companies out there who have, understandably, struggled to do this.
Having worked as an infrastructure engineer for the majority of my career, I speak from experience when I say it’s all about planning! Business continuity planning (BCP) comes in many different shapes and sizes, but rarely do we think about something as complex as minimising physical contact with each other. We usually talk about drastic measures such as a plane crashing into a data centre, whether our data is housed on a flood plain or close to a railway line – with physical considerations like power and network access being at the forefront of our minds. But the last few months have truly changed the way the world thinks about business continuity.
There are a couple of areas that our customers tend to consider when planning for disasters:
Either of these approaches towards business continuity take the human element into consideration. However, they both purely address data availability concerns and not where that data is actually accessed from.
COVID-19 has forced organisations to make their applications available to their users in new ways from outside the office. As such, we’ve seen businesses making a sudden shift towards cloud-based applications, which allow them to access app data from anywhere, where possible. We’ve also seen a huge uptake in businesses using remote desktops or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – like UKFast’s FastDesk platform – to host their existing applications and services in the cloud.
There are two major pitfalls to consider with this sudden step change to remote working: data and security.
When major incidents like COVID-19 occur, it’s extremely important to remember that the data your business generates is your primary asset and its protection should remain paramount to any work you’re undertaking. Where it is located and who could potentially gain access to it remains absolutely critical to your business. So, make sure any new tools or providers you’re selecting treat your data with the reverence it deserves. If data sovereignty plays a big part for your business, make sure this has been considered.
Routine operations like backups and replication should also remain as critical as ever. You don’t want to find yourself dealing with a disaster within a disaster – especially if recovering from it means losing data.
When you’re midway through making 150 changes to your environment to allow people to work from home, it’s so easy to forget the quick changes you made to the firewall to open a port for a user, or that one user who was granted more access than usual to work around somebody who couldn’t gain access.
It’s times like these when security loopholes are made and forgotten about. Sticking to policies, following processes and remaining stringent about change control is more critical than ever.
At UKFast we’re already starting to see our customers expand their BCP and plans for the future, considering a wider range of events and ensuring that they’re ready for the next problem, should one occur.
Whilst COVID-19 has been a shock to so many businesses, internally we’ve seen that a wide range of our customer base was actually ready and prepared for such a major event. Our support teams have continued to be available for those that needed assistance, which is testament to our internal support team which was able to get our 300 staff up and running from home in less than a week. We’ve even had some amazing success stories from some of our new customers who needed our help to prepare for working from home.
It’s a brave new world we find ourselves living in right now, where nothing will be quite the same again. My advice? Just make sure the decisions you’re making right now are the right ones for your business, whether they’re related to business continuity now or in the long term.
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