Preparing for a COVID-19 Outbreak: Can Your Team Work From Home Securely?

The word 2019-nCoV, a.k.a. COVID-19, shown close up on a memo or text.If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, you’re aware of the developing public health emergency related to the new novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19. As of Tuesday, March 4, according to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation dashboard maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 93,164 confirmed cases worldwide in 77 countries, including 108 cases in the U.S.

Here’s what you should know about preparing your business for a possible pandemic.

What Businesses Can Do to Prepare for an Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidance specifically for businesses and employers on how to plan for a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. You can read the guidelines in full on the CDC’s website, but one of the organization’s recommendations for formulating a response plan involves exploring telecommuting as a way to prevent the spread of disease.

“For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved,” the site states. “Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.”

How to Ensure Your Team Has Remote Work Capabilities

Do all of your workers currently have the tools and tech needed to securely work from home/remotely? If not, the Stratosphere Networks team can assist you in providing your team with remote work capabilities – including accessing applications and data securely as well as making and taking business calls.

Here are some factors you’ll want to consider as you prepare your public health emergency response plan:

Laptops and Mobile Devices

  • Providing a company approved laptop or tablet with proper anti-virus software and endpoint protection is the recommended method for a work-from-home device.
  • BYOD (Bring your own device) is feasible. However, without the proper security measures in place and our monitoring agent installed, it will be challenging to support your staff remotely.
  • Access to data and applications on your in-house servers requires a secure VPN connection through your company’s firewall.

Cloud Line of Business Applications

  • Web-enabled applications, such as email via Office 365 and Salesforce, are accessible from any web browser on any computer, including mobile phones and tablets (if configured).
  • Hosted applications such as QuickBooks (online versions not included) may require a separate VPN connection in order to be accessible.
  • Access to Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services servers will require VPN connectivity as well. 

Communication Methods

  • For those with cloud hosted phone systems, there might be a softphone option to install on your computers to allow for voice, video and/or chat communication.
  • For those with Office 365 (Business Premium, E3 or higher subscriptions), Microsoft Teams is an excellent tool for Unified Communication via voice, video and chat features.
  • For those with on-premise PBX phone systems, you might have VPN phone capability to bring your office phone home and plug it into your home network.
  • Webcams with voice and video capability are an excellent option combined with Microsoft Teams.
  • Sharing mobile phone numbers is likely the easiest method to communicate.

Security Measures

  • VPN Access – your firewall and Internet service provider at the main office may have limitations on how many employees can securely connect to the network. Proper VPN licensing and configuration is required.
  • Anti-virus and endpoint protection – these are two key security feature layers we strongly recommend are in-place on remote devices.
  • Stratosphere Monitoring Agent – Having our agent installed is essential for us to support the employee and their computer. Our agent can only be installed on computers covered by the support agreement.

It’s wise to have remote work capabilities in place in general, but with a potential pandemic looming, it’s especially crucial. We’re prepared to help you craft a work-from-home strategy fast: Get started by calling us at 877-599-3999 or emailing sales@stratospherenetworks.com.

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