Is your business prepared for a pandemic? First, read about how San Diego businesses are using IT to prepare for the coronavirus. Then, find out how to keep your business productive and your team connected and learn about cybersecurity offerings for remote teams.
We’ve been impressed by how organizations in San Diego are taking quick action to protect their fellow citizens from the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What is one of the top solutions? Using new technology to modify group meetings and events to keep attendees safe. Here is how a few San Diego businesses are using IT to prepare for the coronavirus.
- UCSD: UCSD announced Monday night that they will shift all classes to an online platform and restrict public access to their campus in Spring Quarter. Their plan is to use Zoom, which can be used to deliver real-time online lectures. Students can meet with TAs and professors can record short lectures.
- SDSU: SDSU’s health services page contains information about the shift to online offerings. These offerings follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for public gathering safety during a pandemic.
- USD: USD will implement campus-wide remote teaching for all courses by March 23rd with platform tools like Blackboard or ZoomPro. Online class options allow students to continue uninterrupted with their educational tracks, while minimizing contact.
Online Medical Care Support
On March 10th, the CEO of San Diego Alzheimer’s Society announced the cancelation of all classes and group programs. Phone, email, and an online live chat program on their website now provides community support.
Supporting Work from Home (WFH)
WFH options protect employees from possible contamination are are used to isolate employees who have recently traveled out of the country.
- Travel Precautions: We spoke with one local tech company that mandates a 14-day WFH period for recent international travelers. Additionally, to prevent future chance of infections, they also banned future domestic and international business trips.
- Testing WFH: legal department of the Port of San Diego is doing a pilot test on Friday of their remote work setup. The test will ensure viability in the case extended isolation becomes necessary. So far, shipyard activity has been unaffected, though hotel revenue is affected by event cancelations).
Working on the Cure
San Diego has a thriving life science community, with many local businesses actively working on solutions to cure the disease. On January 23rd, Inovio Pharmaceuticals was selected by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a coronavirus vaccine. In March, Arcturus Therapeutics was awarded $10M for Potential Coronavirus Vaccine development and has already developed a vaccine.
What Else Can San Diego Businesses do to Prepare for Coronavirus?
San Diego businesses have done a great job of following guidance from the California Department of Public Health on how to handle public events and workplace safety. This week we’ve seen a ton of event cancellations, service modifications, and future events to online platforms. What day-to-day aspects of doing business can San Diego businesses use IT to prepare for? How can they help employees who might have already been infected by the virus?
(Properly) Set Up Work From Home (WFH) Options
Most of the US is at an early stage in the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, best practice is to avoid infection by practicing social distancing. To keep distance between people in the office, businesses have begun to encourage employees to work from home. Many businesses are learning how to effectively implement remote setups for the first time, and have many questions.
Here is a common statement we’ve seen: “We now have an entire office working remotely. Now they all have different IPs, and I don’t know how to keep track of them.”
To get a feel for both the technical and people challenges of remote working, we’ve put together our Top IT Tips for Working from Home (WFH).
Set Up Video Conferencing
Video conferencing is a powerful technology tool to keep people connected during the coronavirus pandemic. There are three areas where video tools create the value: connecting remote workers, connecting with non-employees, and as an alternative solution for regular in-person meetings.
Video for Remote Workers
Employees working from home is on the rise; some are self-quarantined due to possible travel exposure, others are remote because their employers asked them to stay home fro general safety. Live video chat enable remote groups to collaborate almost as if they were in the same room together. Video-enabled facetime also helps prevent feelings of isolation among remote employees.
Video for External Business Meetings
Your business might already be using video conferencing to connect with clients, suppliers, consultants, and other non-employees who cannot visit your office in person. During the current coronavirus pandemic, consider substituting all remaining in-person meetings with effective video conferencing. First, your meeting room needs to be well-lit with the camera correctly positioned on the faces of your attendees. Second, audio devices need to be sufficient for the size of the room and distributed evenly among participants. Lastly, remind participants to speak clearly without interrupting each other.
Video for Regular Department Meetings
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) recommends keeping a distance of 6 feet from others to prevent infection from coronavirus — something that’s nearly impossible to do in a crowded conference room. Some San Diego businesses have taken the initiative to cancel all in-person meetings. Instead, employees call-in from their desks or remotely from their homes.
What tools should you be reviewing?
- Zoom: Zoom has a robust plan selection with options accommodating everything from free personal meeting spaces to enterprise-level meeting options.
- Cisco Webex and Webex Teams: Cisco makes it easy to use both video and chat to keep employees connected, with easy to use plug-and-play equipment options to get your conference room set up. For instance, Cisco offers the all-in-one Cisco Webex Room Kit Plus with an integrated dynamic 4K camera and audio system.
- Microsoft Teams: If you are already using Microsoft O365, Microsoft Teams is included with the premium business plans and offers chat, video conferencing, and other collaboration tools in both desktop versions and as an app on your portable devices.
Other companies are also offering great short-term solutions to provide affected populations with immediate access to these helpful tools.
Review your Business Continuity Plan
If your business continuity plan (BCP) does not yet contain a pandemic response plan, now is the perfect time to add it. To get started, download our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Business Continuity Checklist.
Remote work options, such as the ones outlined in a corporate continuity policy, are also beneficial if a natural disaster restricts employee access to the building.
While you’re reviewing your BCP, also take into consideration that decisions like migrating from on-site servers to cloud servers allow geographical distribution of your data. Always back-up your data to at least one other location in case your primary facility becomes inaccessible.
Review Current Tech Options with your MSP
Your MSP’s experienced resources can help your organization respond quickly and implement new technology for your team. For example, even if you have had no previous business need for a particular set of IT services, your MSP has the knowledge you need. They can set up your meetings remotely, build a secure VPN for your users, and get your organization up and running to provide remote working options to employees.
More importantly, managed IT service providers can include pandemic or natural disaster planning in each company’s business continuity plan (BCP). A periodically reviewed IT business continuity plan is part of the long-term strategic planning and roadmapping for each business. First, BCP plans include guidance for unusual events or incidents, such as pandemics or security breaches. Second, they include instructions specific to IT assets. An IT business continuity plan defines how to implement regular data backups, disaster recovery, cloud services, email archiving, SaaS applications, remote connectivity, and improved collaboration tools for users.
Finally, test your plan. The only way to ensure your business is disaster-ready is to test your disaster recovery plan. Then, document the test results and remediate any gaps to best prepare for a real disaster situation.
San Diego County’s main website has a listing of resources on how to prepare for a pandemic. These resources advise what to do in your household, school, or business to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.
Buildings have regular fire drills to protect occupants in case of a fire. Practicing and validating business contingency plans can protect employees and the business. In a pandemic situation like the emerging coronavirus crisis, these plans protect employees from risks associated with exposure. Review your business continuity plan regularly and update it with any new developments that San Diego County has identified as a risk for its citizens. And remember, there are lots of ways that San Diego businesses are using IT to prepare for the coronavirus. You can too!