In a pandemic, IT and communications are more important than ever.
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Out of adversity often comes new opportunity, so it’s little surprise that according to Companies House between June and August 2020 an additional 59,358 new companies were created.
Last year was a record year for new company inceptions with a 12.3 per cent increase in numbers year-on-year.
Undoubtedly the rise was due Covid-times - those made redundant set up new ventures and those who were furloughed or just simply had time to take a breath and re-evaluate their life ambitions, chose a new direction.
Setting up a company at any time has its challenges but doing so when the world is working largely remotely and currently in a lockdown makes it even harder.
Technology has demonstrated its worth throughout the pandemic, but for those new business owners just starting, having the right IT in place is a competitive advantage and there are several aspects to consider for successfully setting up an IT infrastructure during a lockdown.
Embrace cloud computing
Where possible, set up IT infrastructure that is cloud-based – for example in Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. It’s an OPEX model whereby you pay for usage which means adding new employees adds cost, but there is no flat fee each month.
Onboarding new employees is also very simple – they can be up and running in no time with access to everything they require.
The cloud also ensures that no matter where you are you have access to your data and so does your growing workforce. It also means that you have all of the benefits of cloud computing; your data is backed up, you have the latest version of the software and no maintenance costs to worry about.
It also means that data is securely backed up to the cloud, so should the worst happen, and a laptop is lost or broken, the data is secure and easily accessible via a new device.
Ideally, a sync functionality is also advisable in applications like Microsoft Outlook or SharePoint because it means that employees can work offline from time to time if home broadband is patchy.
Which brings us to the subject of home broadband. Wherever possible, employees should have good home internet with fast and reliable fibre connections to their homes. This is often beyond our control given the UK’s fibre links in some rural settings, but installing the best possible connection pays dividends.
Put security at the heart of IT
Ransomware, phishing, data leaks, hacking, insider threat – the list goes on. It can sound alarmist, but cybersecurity should be at the heart of a growing IT infrastructure, and where possible, you should involve experts to help set up and maintain it.
Threats are growing in both number and sophistication, and with employees working remotely it has become even more critical to consider IT security.
At an absolute basic, install 2-step authentication to prevent hacking as it adds another layer of security to every online platform that’s accessed. This advanced check on the identity of a user means its twice as hard for cyber-attackers to access your data, and it significantly reduces the opportunity for fraud or data loss.
It’s a sad truth that an alarming number of cyber-attacks could have been if software and systems had been as secure and up to date as possible. Make sure software updates are installed when you are notified to do so.
Attacks are often caused by a ‘hole’ in the fence that wasn’t mended. Keep your operating system automatically updated too and as an organisation, regularly enforce password changes and screen locks after a few minutes of inactivity – and make sure that employees can’t override or alter these settings.
Solutions like Azure Active Directory or Jamf can help with this.
It’s also wise to deploy DNS protection to prevent ‘man in the middle’ attacks on all laptops and PCs. This is even more important in a remote working set-up because in an office environment there is often a business-grade firewall that has been deployed to stop such attacks.
This solution provides an additional layer of protection when accessing the internet from anywhere by blacklisting dangerous sites and filtering out unwanted content.
DNS resolves the names of internet sites much like a phone book of the internet and means only legitimate websites are accessed, avoiding employees accidentally entering login or card details into fraudulent websites.
It is possible with the help of an IT managed services partner to deploy a solution to protect data regardless of where employees are based.
When it comes to back-up, the advice is to do it with a third-party provider so that backups are automated, kept offsite and can take advantage of unlimited storage. Hard disk encryption and central management of it also reduces the chance of losing data as well as IP loss should a device be stolen or lost.
Last, but by no means least, employees should have access to security awareness training, so they completely understand the part they play in keeping data secure and how to be more IT security conscious.
Choose a reliable IT support partner
Organisations are increasingly seeing the cost and operational benefits of working with a secure managed service provider. Business-as-usual tasks that take up time and resources in IT departments can be outsourced leaving the in-house teams to focus on strategy, innovation and growth.
Choosing a reliable IT support partner also means that downtime due to IT glitches are reduced, employees can remain productive and you have an expert ear to consult for advice. IT is a critical element of running a growing business, but it isn’t most business owner’s speciality.
Allowing a partner to take the strain of looking after your hardware as well as helping employees with access to the resources they require to do their jobs – or conversely removing access where employment is at an end, means the business owner can get on with doing what they do best – growing their company.