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New guidelines may shortly come into effect, slowly re-introducing “normal” working – however what normal is seems to be changing daily.

Introduction

Under the current guidelines all staff who can do so are required to work from home and practice social distancing to arrest the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19, however the situation is becoming unclear as new guidelines may come into effect, slowly re-introducing “normal” working – however what normal is seems to be changing daily.

Our continuing revised working practices

In line with the Government recommendations we are mostly working from home, while maintaining a rotating skeleton staff at our London office.

We have full remote access to our support systems and we have managed to continue working without a degradation in service. We have by necessity needed to temporarily alter how we manage contact however, allowing us to most efficiently triage and allocate tickets due to unprecedented demand. 

Our office hours are not affected. Subscribers to our 24x7 support facility are also not affected, taking into consideration the below regarding potential restrictions to our movement.

On-site support

One aspect of our service which has been subject to change however is our on-site support policy, which was obviously affected due to factors outside our control. Our movement may be limited within the City by the Government measures to combat the Coronavirus and we may also be restricted by Landlord-imposed restricted access to premises. In exceptional circumstances we may be limited by the availability of personnel within London, however in this unlikely event we will prioritise our visits thoughtfully to minimise disruption. 

These amendments are subject to change at short notice in these unfortunate and rapidly evolving times. Rest assured we will continue to make a best effort attempt to maintain our high standards at all times. 

Should the upcoming advice be a relaxation of the lockdown rules, we will increase our London based presence however we will most likely not return to a full complement of staff onsite for a while for the continued safety of our colleagues and their families.

Your revised working practices

There are a number of measures available to enable your staff to remain productive during these difficult times - many of which may already be part of your infrastructure but unused. If you currently don't have these either enabled or available contact us and we will get you up and running as fast as we can. The industry generally is still experiencing delays for a broad range of IT equipment, however we have access to several suppliers and will be able to expedite orders wherever possible.

Many initially thought that the lockdown would be brief and made do with temporary workarounds, or put up with less than optimal working arrangements., However, as the future is looking uncertain and with many believing that the nature and shape of working will evolve to incorporate a much greater share of working from home, organisations are going back to the drawing board in terms of their medium to longer-term plans for their infrastructure to accommodate a greater proportion of remote workers and distributed systems.

This includes greater use of non-geographic collaboration systems like Microsoft Teams and greater use of videoconferencing. It will also influence what happens when they go to renew their IT systems, with many businesses ditching their philosophy of maintaining their infrastructure on-premise and moving more and more services to the cloud. The cloud offers many benefits, however the greatest of these is the easy provisioning and support of remote workers.

We have prepared several brief security updates to keep you abreast of issues which have become more prevalent during current crisis. This includes being even more vigilant when it comes to the various forms of Malware currently out there, and the importance of considering the various security protocols that should be implemented into your business to ensure it is as safe and secure as possible; for example, Zoom has come under fire for being deemed not secure enough – so if this is software your businesses already uses, or is considering using, then you should examine this tool thoroughly.

Be vigilant

We have noticed a couple of unforeseen issues becoming more prevalent the longer the current crisis continues, from scams to outages.

  • We urge you to be vigilant, as there has been a rise in the number of Covid-19 related Phishing scams. The various Government schemes and allowances have provided pretexts for a wide range of seemingly genuine scams, whereby sensitive data and information is harvested easily by fraudsters using the current pandemic as cover.
  • Electricity – there has been some mention of the increased chances of “brownouts” in metropolitan areas as reduced staffing is affecting maintenance schedules for key infrastructure.
  • SharePoint/Teams delays – the sudden increased demand for online services has left providers struggling to keep up, exacerbated by the reduction in supply of IT equipment coming from Asia. Microsoft for example has reduced the feature set of some of its services, reduced the quality of Teams video calls and reports delays in synchronisation for its SharePoint services with no end date in sight.
  • ISP failures – in similar vein to the electricity infrastructure, major ISPs have scaled back service calls and maintenance of key infrastructure.
  • Price increases – along with shortages of stock, we have seen the price for basic IT items skyrocket.

Returning to work

Over the coming weeks it is hoped that many people will be able to return to their offices. Many have found working from home to be a very agreeable solution and may resist organisations who had previously not considered it as an option for remote workers, while other organisations are facing the challenge of how to manage social distancing in open plan office environments. No one knows what the future will hold in terms of re-emergence or spread of the Coronavirus, or even other pandemics, and thinking is evolving as to the future of the workplace and the role IT will play as an enabler.

In the short term, office that are re-opening again will face a number of technical challenges, as a great number of staff will remain working from home. Many IT projects that have been planned may need to be cancelled as the availability of parts or labour are heavily restricted, and many organisations review their plans in the light of the new working landscape. Collaboration between organisation will continue to be reliant on online tools (such as SharePoint Online ), as staggered working patterns will mean that without careful planning face to face meetings will continue to take a back seat. Cloud service providers like Microsoft have stated several times that they have struggled to keep up with demand for capacity for their online services, and their ability to rise to meeting this demand will continue to be hampered along with every other organisation.

Whatever the long-term outlook, it will mean the current disruption is likely to be with us for a long time to come – possibly indefinitely.