March 5, 2020
It’s a little bit scary this whole Coronavirus situation. It seems to be very fluid and changing on a minute by minute basis. New figures on cases, new protocols announced and the realities of the situation are constantly evolving. We appreciate there a lot of concerns and are obviously keeping a close eye on the developments.
We’re also very mindful that there may be the need for employees to self-isolate at extremely short notice. For some this may be for themselves, but for others it could be to care for others such as dependants, including children or the elderly. Not to mention the potential of schools being forced to close for two weeks to contain the progress of the disease, forcing much of the workforce to have to work from home.
For many businesses you will potentially already have a proper remote desktop server up and running and if this is the case then you and your staff are probably already familiar with working remotely. And if this is the case, then you are unlikely to be reading this! However if you’re running a small or large business which doesn’t have this facility and need to ensure that people can remote access the office quickly, then there are a few IT options available to you:
Plan A – Set up a VPN
First; ideally, you need one of these. Oh no what is a VPN! Well this stands for Virtual Private Network. This catchy title simply put is an IT approach that makes a secure connection on top of your internet connection, linking you to your office. But be warned if you allow connections to your office without a VPN, then really you are leaving the equivalent of the office door open all night and welcoming intruders in.
If you do have a VPN, then your home-working member of staff can make a quick configuration change and then connect to the office network. This can be done using their own PC or work laptop on their home internet. Although it’s important to flag that Tablets won’t work; it has to be a PC – Mac’s can work but struggle with older VPNs.
OK, so you don’t have a VPN, but you do have a server in the office? If yes, then a VPN can be set up (quite quick and relatively easy if you know what you’re doing and should be free to use). Once connected to the VPN, you home worker can then remotely control their office machine (providing the office PC is switched on). This is really the simplest way of working, as it means that anything they can normally access in the office can be accessed from home.
“But we don’t have a server in the office…” Then, it’s time to look at Plan B!
Plan B – Get a service which connects and controls remotely without any network changes
All this is easy for us to say, as we know what we are doing; but if you can’t get a VPN to work quickly, you can just connect to the machine in the office remotely. What does this involve? Well you could do this by punching a fist-sized hole through your firewall, but let’s face it this would be a very bad idea! The alternative is to purchase a service such as GoToMyPC, which allows you to connect to a remote machine and control it without any network changes. It’s not free, but there is a 7 day trial and if you are facing a number of your team needing to self-isolate, then it really could be worth it.
Finally – what about the phones?
If you run a proper VOIP (or Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system then you might be able to unplug your desk phone and take it home. Another option worth exploring is installing an app on a mobile to replace your desk phone. This means no diverts and you can field calls as if you’re in the office. If you are looking at this, then it’s probably easiest to speak to your phone provider to see if your system will allow this.
Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this. But clearly no-one knows what direction the situation is going to take. Whatever it is worth just making some preparation plans should the situation become worse (and let’s face it this approach would work equally well should adverse weather restrict people from coming into the office, so no harm lost!).
And obviously, we can always help whether you are working with us or not! And you’ve guessed it we have all of this already in place for our team, so wherever we happen to be, we’ll be here to take your call.