At the time of writing we are still under lockdown here in the UK and aside from key workers, home working or furlough continues to be the norm for most of us.

Some businesses are already struggling, and when we emerge from this stage there will undoubtedly be some casualties, particularly among the small business community. But business in its widest sense must and will continue. So as we await the government’s next review on lockdown timescales, here are a few tips on what IT teams should consider in the run up to preparing for staff to return to work in the coming months.

IT industry sources report that a large number of IT departments across all sectors have imposed a change freeze, putting non-essential tech changes such platform upgrades and other big projects on ice. This is a prudent way of protecting the business from any changes that could potentially hoover up resources and even interrupt operations.

A change freeze is a chance to make sure your IT housekeeping is absolutely in order, and that any essential work such as applying security updates and patches is still being done as necessary.

Security – naturally this is top of everyone’s priority list at the moment, and hackers are being increasingly ingenious in trying to trick users into giving them access to systems and data.   Cybercrime is now a strategic risk issue that should be addressed at board level. Keep asking questions about security and make sure you are using all the latest tools to defend the business. Don’t neglect your supply chain’s security either, targeting smaller organisations is an easy way for hackers to get access to bigger partners.

Backup – with your people working from many different locations, this is a good time to review and update your backup arrangements. Is it fit for purpose? Are your recovery point and recovery time objectives still relevant? How often do you test it in a live situation? No backup means no recovery. Different organisations require different solutions, and the best place to start is with a backup needs analysis.

Bandwidth requirements – the last few weeks saw many of our clients request an urgent bandwidth increase to cope with a sudden influx of home working.  Make sure your supplier agreement allows you to reduce that as and when you need to, so you are only paying for what you use, when you use it.

Phased return – when the government does ease lockdown restrictions, it looks increasingly likely that the majority of organisations will implement a phased return of staff to the office. For instance half the workforce might be based in the office one week, while the other half work from home, before switching over the following week. Bandwidth requirements may need to be flexible and increased and decreased incrementally, along with need.

Unified communications – our day to day communications have been made much easier by having intelligent and responsive UC platforms in place. This is the ‘must have’ set of tools at the moment, and we have all quickly become video conferencing natives. Sales of laptops have gone through the roof, and being able to instantly contact colleagues, clients and partners using the usual channels just like they did from their office has increased the comfort levels of people who had never been expected to work from home before. If your communications have not been as smooth or easy to implement as you would have liked, it’s the ideal time to review what communications tools you need to support your business.

Training and certifications – are the certifications of your in-house IT team up to date? Make sure you have a detailed list of staff and their certifications, along with milestone dates for renewal. This is the perfect time to review the breadth and depth of your technical expertise, and fill any gaps either by recruiting or incorporating an element of managed service from our expert and highly qualified team.

Industry developments – it’s an ideal moment to keep up to speed with the latest developments, for instance Microsoft’s rebrand of Remote Desktop Service to Windows Virtual Desktop, which is a comprehensive desktop and app virtualization service running in Azure cloud, and the only virtual desktop infrastructure that delivers simplified management, multi-session Windows 10, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus, and support for Remote Desktop Services environments.

We were one of only a handful of UK partners to be invited to be part of Microsoft’s Azure Stack Early Adopters group, and we deployed the world’s first available Microsoft Azure Stack at our flagship data centre in County Durham. It allows us to offer cloud functionality within our own data centre, while giving users the security and regulatory requirements that only on-premise deployments can provide. Our technical experts are always happy to discuss new technology with you, and bounce ideas around about where it could potentially suit your needs.

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We hope that’s given you some food for thought around preparing for whatever scenario we are faced with over the next few months.

None of us can predict what the future holds, particularly right now. But please be assured that here at ITPS our team is pulling out all the stops to deliver an enhanced level of service, observing all due precautions when we need to be on a client’s site, responding quickly, and flexing service levels as and when our clients need them.

Give us a call with any questions or concerns. We are here to help.