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The pandemic has changed our lives exponentially in a very short period.  Companies are faced with the realities of extended closures, or at a minimum a reduced workload and revenues. Individuals are concerned with the potential to be laid off in addition to the concerns about the health of family and friends. 

It is a very stressful time for all and certainly it can only be termed as “business as unusual”.

IT workers have been classified as essential workers during this pandemic and that comes as no surprise to the tech community. We are a team of behind the scenes performers ensuring that all critical systems are available and operational no matter what we may be facing as a community.

IT pros have always gone above and beyond for their clients. I remember during Hurricane Sandy being in my data center helping clients relocate servers before the storm. I stayed with our clients until everyone was fully operational, only then driving home on closed highways trying to stay in front of the storm.

My story is far from unique as many tech professionals have slept within data centers, pulled all-nighters, and done everything they can to serve their clients. For our customers, it forced the discussion to rethink about cloud computing and started the process of mainstreaming cloud infrastructure.

Now, as we are amid a global crisis it is the perfect time for our Virtual Chief Information Officers, or vCIO’s, to show why they will be a key part of each companies operational and recovery plans in the coming months.

 

Identify the Gaps

 

Many companies quickly discovered they were not prepared for this crisis. It is much different than a traditional disaster. Think about it, it is really a situation where the systems are performing, it’s the people that are gone.  Many were caught totally unprepared.

Virtual CIO’s can work with their customers and build a “lessons Learned” list. This list can be incorporated into your bigger strategic action plan with the client.

Recommendations and budget can be redefined to support the needs of a remote workforce that may not have been addressed in the current crisis.

 

Cyber Education

 

Cyber ThreatThe biggest challenge of sending your workforce home is that they are now out in the wild. If this crisis has shown us anything at this stage, no matter what is going on in the world the hackers and dark web never sleep. New ways to attack a mobile workforce and create security breaches are being devised every day.

As a vCIO you can educate your clients and help them understand what to look for and what best practices they can follow to reduce data exposure.

·        Even though you may be in your PJ’s, you are still at work. You can help employers educate their staff that the same acceptable use rules found at work apply at home. Especially on business issued machines.

·        Using Zoom? Don’t publish the link publicly on Social Media as Zoombombers, like photobombers, are joining corporate meetings as unwanted guests.

·        Stay on secured connections while using company assets. Remote need to be vigilant in connecting only via secure networks and leverage VPN’s when possible. Keyword loggers and password sniffers can help hackers get into your accounts.

·        Stay safe on social. In a time of crisis and panic some may overshare. Be careful not to discuss company issues on social media.

·        When working remotely the lines between work and home can become blurred. Remember company email for work, personal email for home. Do not mix sensitive data and personal data.

As new threats enter the market, our vCIO can help spread the work with our clients and reduce the risk of a breach occurring allowing data exposure.

 

When we have to say goodbye

 

Unfortunately, one reality of this crisis is going to be the reduction in workforce for many companies. Some have well defined exit plans, while others do not. One of the big challenges found in the ‘new normal” is many of these layoffs will occur outside the office walls increasing the likelihood of a security incident.

vCIO’s can help their clients review their exit plans and determine where the existing process will not meet today’s reality. With the COVID-19 crisis some new challenges are introduced.

·        Can we truly shut the door?: When we lay off a remote employee we are able to discontinue their email and cutoff access to the critical systems.

But what about synced data? Can that data be removed to a removable drive? Sent via personal email? Unlike the office where we immediately get their assets, we have more risk with the remote workforce.

·        Retrieving assets from remote workforce: How do we get these assets in a time of social distancing? Require the assets to be shipped back? Send staff to retrieve? Most solutions come with risk, either in asset or data loss or risking exposure.

Additionally, is there corporate data on those assets? The longer the asset is in the field with a laid off employee the bigger the risk.

·        Unhappy Campers: Any employee lay off comes with unhappiness for the employee, but there are some real fears associated with being laid off during the COVID-19 crisis. Finding a new job will not be easy, if not impossible until this issue passes. Insurance concerns are larger as contracting the virus is not fantasy, but reality.

These are new issues that can increase the likelihood of disgruntled former employees who may share trade secrets, intellectual property, or even company files as the anger and fear grows.

VCIO’s can help heir clients devise a strong remote worker exit strategy to reduce the risks associated with remote layoffs.

 

Building a new strategy

 

One thing is for sure is that when the nation Strategyreturns to “normal” it will not be the normal we faced prior to this crisis.  The strategic plan you and your customer were working towards needs to be thrown away. The business goals we were chasing in January have undoubtedly changed…dramatically.

We need to help our clients redefine that strategy.  We must incorporate into our strategic plan the lessons learned during the crisis.  Building a new plan based on adjusted expectations will be critical.

Our technology roadmaps will need to be rebuilt to include the needs of a remote workforce. We will have identified risks that will require broadening the security portfolio.  We will have to learn how to do more with less as companies fill the positions lost to layoffs.

 

Ready to step up?

 

The best part is we don’t need to wait until this crisis is over. Start engaging your clients now. They have already experienced many of the concerns outlined above and need our skills.  This is an opportunity to create real value for your clients and show true partnership as we battle as a global community.

Are you ready for the challenge vCIO’s?