“Plan for the worst and hope for the best.” That’s been the mantra of IT departments for decades when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity plans. It’s unlikely to change any time soon. What will change in the wake of COVID-19, however, is the amount of risk enterprises believe they can take on — the “worst” for which they need to plan.
For example, most organizations have always considered the possibility that a percentage of their employee base might have to work remotely, with many assuming about 25%. This made sense — business continuity events have generally been geographically localized disasters (storms, earthquakes, blackouts and so on) — until this year.
Never before have we seen an event of this magnitude that affects the entire world. It’s leading many companies to realize they need to scale up their business continuity efforts and rethink their IT investments.
These four lessons learned can help enterprises and IT leaders prepare for the future — whatever it may hold.
Make business continuity infrastructure and everyday infrastructure the same.
One of my personal goals when joining Tangoe was to ensure we can communicate as one company — even though we are spread across the globe — to keep our employees performing effectively.
To do that, we standardized our online collaboration tools. We also upgraded our VPN worldwide to ensure secure connectivity and moved more services to the cloud. Doing this helped us immensely in the early days of the pandemic. It allowed us to shift to a remote-work environment without skipping a beat.
The lesson here is to make your “worst-case-scenario” infrastructure the same things employees use every day. This keeps everyone up to speed and well versed in the tools they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are.
Focus on what you can control — especially when it comes to security.
In a pandemic (or, really, in any disaster scenario), there are so many things outside IT’s control. But, there is plenty we can control. The first step is to put in place the appropriate security measures around networks, systems and platforms. For example, employees can only get into production systems via VPN with multi-factor authentication (MFA), or can only log onto cloud services using MFA.
Another step is to select the appropriate tools, set the right standards, continuously audit yourselves, and monitor your environment for any activity that might indicate intrusion. You can’t control all employees’ online behaviors when they’re outside an office. However, you can ensure what they do isn’t opening the door to risk.
Rethink your IT investments.
Right now, many CIOs are reconsidering their IT budgets to reallocate funds, with more investments going toward cloud and mobility. This makes sense. You have to make it easy for employees to get online and work with peers and customers — as easy as it was in an office — but you may also need to shore up security.
Align your IT investments with business continuity and disaster recovery goals, especially in the realm of security. Create an understanding of what technology you have today. You also need to understand what you’re spending on it and how it is being used within the organization. Then evaluate whether your current technology can help you meet your goals while staying secure. If it can’t, now you know where you need to invest.
Don’t assume things will go back to the way they were.
Tangoe was fortunate to have the right tools, infrastructure and processes in place that allowed a smooth transition for us earlier this year. In fact, we saw performance improve in some cases.
Organizations that needed to get there have had the opportunity to do so since. Those that haven’t might think they just need to get by for a little while longer, and if they’re seeing performance drop, they’re thinking this new reality is just temporary.
It’s not. Even when we go back to the office full time, the enterprise culture has changed. Working from home is going to be here for the long term. Many organizations will shift to hiring globally rather than locally, with some downsizing their corporate headquarters or spreading them into smaller micro-offices in new locations.
As work culture changes, so, too, will IT culture. That means the time to think about the future is now. If you’re still on the fence about things like mobile work environments and cloud adoption, the pandemic has been the great proving ground for showing just how critical it is to be agile, adaptable and remote-ready.
Don’t wait for another global event to strike. Use this time to get up to speed and ensure you can stay effective in future disaster scenarios. We have a new “worst” to plan for — but with the right processes and tools in place, you’ll be set up to handle it.