Disruption. That word is an understatement when we talk about what municipalities have experienced over the last few months. Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have disrupted our daily office operations, environments, and routines. As employees work from home for extended periods of time, your business continuity can become impacted by this disruption.
Depending on the strength of your IT infrastructure, tools, and support, you will adapt to this disruption smoothly or…not so smoothly. If you’re having a rough ride so far, then ask yourself the following 5 questions to see if you can leverage IT better to help with business continuity as your employees work from home.
1. Can your employees remotely and securely access their desktops and municipal servers from home?
Let’s look at three situations:
- Unable to access anything: In some situations, employees may not be able to access their desktops or municipal servers. This disrupts business continuity either from lack of access or the use of risky workarounds (such as sending files through consumer-grade email accounts or uploading files to their personal computers on a thumb drive).
- Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN is best when an employee uses a municipal-owned computer secured and supported by IT professionals. Otherwise, if an employee uses a VPN on a computer they own, the VPN is only as secure as the employees’ computer. (Hint: The employee’s computer is probably not that secure.)
- Secure browser-based remote portal: If an employee is using their personal device, then we recommend using a secured, typically browser-based remote portal. That way, the connection between your employee’s computer and their office desktop and municipal servers is unlikely to get hacked by a cyberattacker.
Ideally, a VPN for city-owned devices or a remote portal for personal devices are your best bets for employees to quickly and easily access their office desktop and documents from home.
2. Can your employees conduct meetings through tools such as video conferencing?
Video conferencing may be a little tricky to master at first but soon it becomes invaluable when people must work from home. Many video conferencing tools exist, some built into software and applications you may already use. Be careful of security issues related to certain tools. If you are discussing sensitive or confidential matters, then make sure you can confidently say that your video conferencing software is fully secure or use a different option (such as a phone call).
You may want to help your employees transition to video conferencing calls by explaining in plain English how it works (don’t assume it’s “easy”), ensuring that employees have working computer microphones and speakers, and giving them some tips on video conferencing aspects like lighting, sound, and a professional appearance. Once employees are used to using these tools easily and professionally, then formal and informal meetings can continue without a hitch.
3. Do your employees have access to responsive IT support when they have technical issues?
Remember, your employees are home. An IT vendor, IT staff member, or tech-savvy municipal employee will not be able to walk around the corner and take a look at an employee’s computer. Inevitably, employees will run into technical issues as they connect through a VPN or secure portal, access municipal applications, and open files and documents. Major IT problems can severely impact business continuity.
This is a good time to assess the state of your IT support.
- Are they 24/7? Employees may need help at all hours.
- How do you handle IT support requests? How fast are they handled?
- Can your IT support handle most problems remotely?
- Can your IT support ensure that your servers and devices are secure, including your employees’ computers?
- Is your IT support proactively monitoring and maintaining your IT environment, including security patches, antivirus updates, and software updates for your work from home employees?
4. Do you have a reliable data backup and disaster recovery solution?
When employees work from home, you don’t want to increase the chance they will permanently lose important files and documents. But how do you make sure they’re backing up important files? Using a centralized document management system, enterprise-class email, and software applications residing in the cloud can all help you store data in locations that you can manage and back up. Policies then complement these efforts to warn employees not to store important information locally on their computers.
Ideally, these centralized data storage locations are backed up offsite in different geographical areas (in other words, not at a server or servers located in your city or town hall building where they could fail or get destroyed by a tornado) and tested periodically. That way, if an employee’s computer dies or a server at city or town hall dies, you don’t lose any data and can retrieve it in a matter of hours—from anytime, anywhere.
5. Do you have a website accessible and editable from anywhere?
Some cities and towns may use outdated website technology that limits employees from quickly and easily updating your municipal website. A website is a critical communication tool, especially during a time when people need to hear timely, updated information from you.
If you’re having trouble or an inability to update your municipality’s website during this time as people work from home, consider modernizing it. Part of modernizing your website includes receiving backend access so that non-technical employees can make updates. Employees working from home should be able to log into your website and make needed changes and updates so that citizens stay informed.
With a little technology help, it becomes much easier to ride out this crisis. Municipalities are in a unique situation compared to businesses. While businesses can optionally shut down or make abrupt shifts in strategy, municipalities must stay steadily operational and continue to serve citizens. These citizens are really relying on you during this time. For them to rely on you, you need to rely on your operational capabilities and provide business continuity. Is your technology helping or hindering this mission?
If you need help with your municipality’s business continuity, reach out to us today.
Original Date: 6/17/2020