Business Continuity in light of Coronavirus Pandemic

Gene Libov and Niharika Srivastav

March 22, 2020

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The Coronavirus pandemic is not only impacting daily lives but is also changing the way businesses operate. Companies are grappling to continue operating their businesses while keeping their employees safe from infections. Businesses are taking significant measures to prevent the virus from spreading from one person to another. In order to reduce interactions between employees and customers, many businesses are encouraging their employees to work from home, as well as telling them to refrain from travel if it isn't urgent. During this period of crisis, many companies are focusing on critical operations and putting a temporary hold on non-critical projects.

Organizations that have traditionally kept their employees on site are now using remote access systems to enable their employees to work remotely. Typically, companies have up to 30% of their workforce working remotely on any given day. Due to the threat, the percentages of their workforce working remotely has skyrocketed to a staggering 90-100%.

This new mode of operation has opened up a lot of questions:

- How will your desktop support/helpdesk function in an environment where everyone works from home?
- How will your critical phone lines be handled (e.g. customer support)? Does your office phone get routed to your employees' personal phone numbers?
- What is the capacity of your remote access systems? Can the remote access system support the number of remote connections and volumes of data transmitted?
- Do these systems have enough IP addresses allocated?
- Do you have enough remote connection licenses aside from bandwidth and capacity?
- Are there sufficient video conferencing licenses?
- Do you have security measures in place to support the remote workforce?
- Have your workforce members been trained on the security risks and measures when working remotely?
- Do your vendors have the infrastructure set up to enable their employees to work from home and to support their customers? Have you reviewed their plans?
- How is the user experience for employees accessing the applications remotely? Will the workforce productivity be affected?

Companies will have to answer all these questions to ensure a smooth transition to remote operations. The only way to prepare for this is to test your business continuity plan. The test should include different scenarios to ensure that all your critical business functions can continue to operate remotely. Running tests of the plan will help you identify points of potential failure, and evaluate the sufficiency of tools and technologies you have. You'll need to ensure that the technologies implemented to support all these business functions have enough resources to support the remote work. You may need to increase the number of licenses and capacity of your resources if needed; for example, you may have to upgrade the level of service of the video conferencing and collaboration tools you are using.

When your employees are working remotely, it's important to train your employees on the extra security measures that need to be considered. For example, protecting their work assets while kids and babysitters are at home. Also, training them on the coronavirus-related phishing emails they may receive while isolated from the rest of the workforce.

To summarize, organizations require thoughtful planning and preparation to handle the crisis, and also to come back to normal operation after the crisis. Switching to the remote mode of operations requires organizations to consider and test all the business and technology aspects including capacity, connectivity methods, communications channels, and security.

About Authors:
Gene Libov is the Founder of Planet 9 Security, a security consulting company Niharika Srivastav is a Regional Network Director at WITI. She has moderated panel discussions on Cybersecurity at WITI Annual summit and regional events.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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