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Embracing remote working: considerations for CIOs

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Following the transition by organisations across all industries worldwide to home working, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) now hold responsibility for ensuring their teams can continue operating as closely as possible to business-as-usual throughout these challenging times.

Although many organisations wisely had remote working systems in place well before the COVID-19 outbreak, such systems were usually only anticipated to be used by a relatively small proportion of the workforce for short periods. These systems have now been scaled out quickly to support extensive remote working.

So, what steps do CIOs need to take to ensure their infrastructure and systems are robust and able to cope with an increase in employees working from home?

Immediate questions to ask

Encouragingly, this remarkable expansion in remote working has for many organisations been accommodated by having the right infrastructure and cloud-based systems in place. However, there are some important questions to be asked to ensure compliance is maintained and data and information remains secure and accessible.

The most important thing CIOs need to consider is whether a move to large scale home working has implications on the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the company’s data.

  • For confidentiality, this is looking at things such as whether the data centre is only accessible inside the company WAN / LAN and what difference access via VPN or published servers will have.
  • For integrity, it’s about whether home working will increase the likelihood of data breaches or leaks, such as offline copies of documents or uncontrolled versions.
  • For availability, CIOs need to understand what their data centre and cloud providers are doing to ensure they keep the lights on and cope with increased demand from all customers.

Another point to consider is that, if it hasn’t already, access to the data centre may become restricted due to the new social-distancing restrictions. In this case, CIOs need to ensure a remote hands service is in place and that steps are being taken to guarantee uptime. This means understanding what the company’s data centre and cloud providers are doing to ensure they keep the lights on and are able to cope with the increased demand from all customers.

Longer term implications

Aside from the immediate questions, there are also several issues for CIOs to consider around the implications of the entire workforce working remotely for a prolonged period. These include maintaining compliance and safeguarding data and confidential information, regardless of where staff are working.

Remote workers are still bound by the same policies, however, the measures to implement and control those policies may not be present at home, and the IT risk profile has changed in recent months with more frequent cyber attacks. Therefore, CIOs should consider implementing solutions such as monitoring software for data leak prevention, two factor authentication and network access control.

Another consideration is the additional workload on the VPN / proxy / external services. Typically, remote working platforms are designed to cope with sufficient capacity for a fraction of workers, rather than all, so any increase in capacity demands will need to be provisioned quickly. This extends to Internet bandwidth, both at throughput and carrier levels. Organisations using cloud-based services correctly should be able to accommodate a growth in remote working.  The key is to have scalable bandwidth and infrastructure, such as Pulsant Enterprise Cloud. Office 365 can also be used to balance workloads between on-premise data centres and public cloud.

Getting back to business-as-usual

While many organisations will already have had working from home policies in place, the reality is that having a 100% remote workforce is something most will not have planned for. And with the situation likely to continue for a while, organisations need to adjust. CIOs will need to take steps to reduce pressure on systems, perhaps by measures such as encouraging flexible working and the use of video conferencing systems.

By ensuring that they have a handle on their infrastructure set ups and leaning on the advice and support of trusted partners where applicable, CIOs can be confident that staff can keep working and delivering the high-quality service throughout and beyond this challenging time.

How can we help?

The Pulsant team remains at your disposal for any inquiries or need assistance you may have in the current situation.

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