We have traditionally thought of business continuity in terms of large-scale natural disasters. As a company with headquarters based in San Jose, California, we have an earthquake contingency plan – widely distributed data centers to ensure that our operations aren’t disrupted when the “Big One” strikes. While our local HQ based employees might not be able to get to work, our customers will have access to their necessary systems, and our employees around the world will still be able to provide support and services to customers worldwide. Today we are faced with an entirely new and unpredicted circumstance – the COVID-19 Coronavirus. If nobody can come to work, it doesn’t matter where your data center is – the disruption is national (or international) in scope and one must be able to respond with a true work-from-home strategy.
There are many elements necessary to build business resilience in the face of this level of uncertainty and disruption, but the key is to have multiple routes of secure access to critical systems. What are the crucial steps to take for business continuity in a time of crisis?
- Ensure that your workforce has laptops or high-end tablets to support work from anywhere and anytime. The change in pricing models promoted by the major laptop manufacturers (Dell, Lenovo, Apple) as well as our employees’ fear of being disconnected and missing a critical email has helped drive this. While most companies will have to budget to purchase a monitor and a keyboard/mouse combo for use while at the office, having an employee with their entire computer environment available at any time is well worth that expense.
- It’s important that your business has sufficient access to key systems and data. As companies move toward hybrid data-center models, it becomes easier to support the varying levels of access necessary without a large monthly investment that might not be regularly used. Utilizing Office 365 solves the core office application suite problem and more back-end office systems are also available in a hyper-scale cloud environment such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure. If your operation plans do not include this type of environment for everyday use, it could be part of the disaster recovery/resiliency plan to ensure these systems would be available if you had a large scale “work from home” event.
- Consider security of both “data at rest” and “data in motion”. While the laptop scenario provides a great deal of flexibility for employee deployment, it also means that every employee has some amount of company data in a machine that regularly leaves the office. Ensure that the laptop’s data store is encrypted by default. In addition, set forth policies about prudent storage of a laptop while not in the office or at home so that it isn’t a tempting theft from the front seat of a car.
For data in motion, look to a modern remote secure access solution like those provided by Pulse Secure. Our technology provides for seamless secure connectivity no matter where the user is and ensures that the IT department can change the location of applications without impacting (or requiring any training) for the end user. This also provides complete flexibility to respond to business resiliency events without impacting the end user experience.
- The final key to a technical business resilience strategy is testing. I cannot overstate the importance of testing every aspect of the plan and doing it at scale. You may find that a critical part of the new infrastructure works fine when 2-3 people from the IT department are using it, but then it fails completely if 1,000 customer service reps try to sign on simultaneously.
We in technology are facing a “brave new world” when having to respond to an unseen threat that forces entire countries to close their doors and “shelter in place.” At Pulse Secure, we are committed to helping you meet your immediate needs today and also help you build a comprehensive and more strategic plan after the immediate crisis has passed to ensure that you are even more prepared in the future.
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