COVID-19 Lockdown in India: Top Tech Solutions for Businesses Working Remotely
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and a nationwide lockdown as underway until April 14, 2020, staff in most private and government organizations in India have had to suddenly work remotely.
The concept of the virtual workplace though is not as common in India as elsewhere, and this includes in several multinational companies (MNCs) as well. Many MNCs traditionally prefer an in-office set-up to telecommuting, either due to the work culture or organizational norms.
With the sudden shift to remote operations, businesses have had to immediately implement adaptable virtual work or telecommuting regimes for nearly all company processes. This includes IT solutions to ensure that management functions, such as HR, payroll, and accounting are not disrupted, as well as to secure the virtual workforce against a myriad of threats associated with the internet ecosystem. According to the Indian computer emergency response team, increase in cyberattacks on personal computer network has been recorded since work-from-home protocol began in India.
To make the transition from in-office-set-up to remote operations smoother and safer, businesses in India can use the following IT and tech solutions.
Virtual private network
Businesses in India should provide a virtual private network (VPN) for all the employees who are operating remotely in order to secure their network and protect their data.
A VPN is a service that reroutes the internet connection through its own private servers to establish a safer and more secure network.
While VPN masks the computer’s internet protocol (IP) address to prevent from hacking, it also encrypts the data so that no one knows what sites you have visited, or what has been downloaded on the laptop – so for instance, confidential client data or company records.
This protection is necessary for all businesses, but especially for financial firms, healthcare companies, tax, accounting, and audit firms, and for companies in the IT and outsourcing sector.
Mostly, organizations pay for VPN services, but there are free VPN services also available online. However, experts strongly advice not to use free VPN services as users often have to give up personal data in return. Free services earn revenue either by intrusive advertising or by selling customer browsing history – this will end up comprising the safety and security of your data.
If employees access company files and data through their personal devices, then they should be secured as well.
Enterprise resource planning
While operating remotely, businesses should consider integrating all their main functions under one system in order to main productivity and simplify workflow for all the departments.
For instance, businesses can implement an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to merge traditional management roles into an integrated structure.
ERP is a business process management software that combines and manages all functions of the organization, such as operations, finance and accounting, payroll, quality management, and supply chain, under one single software system. As ERP optimizes business processes, it helps in enhancing efficiency and output.
ERP can be helpful while preventing leak of sensitive data as it offers in-built security protections by restricting data access with advanced permission protocols and maintaining efficient firewalls. Further, it is easier to secure centralized data that is one place, instead of data that is scattered across several servers. So, in case of a data breach, it will be easier for the IT department to pinpoint the issue within a system instead of investigating different servers and platforms. Once the issue is identified, then the entire system can be updated at once.
Utilizing tech for HR
With the expanding role of technology in HR, several companies in India have been utilizing IT and automation tools for basic HR functions, including talent acquisition, onboarding, and performance management. However, as companies may have to extend their remote operations even after the nationwide lockdown is over, companies should implement some best practices for HR to ensure that they can continue to work without any interruption.
HR managers abroad are already using software as a service (SaaS) platforms to manage the remote workforce. SaaS platforms make software available to users online, without the hassle of either installing or running a software application on the computer. Examples include Microsoft Office 365 suite of applications, Google Apps, Salesforce, HubSpot, and MailChimp, among others.
In order to gain perspective on the productivity of employees and teams, HR managers can embrace a SaaS platform that facilitates workflow management and administration. This will be an effective tool, especially when HR managers are operating remotely. With one integrated platform, the HR management will be able to access all the necessary information, and also get insights on employee behavior – which can be used to create data-driven and employee-centric policies.
Businesses can employ a variety of tools to protect their system and network, but if the employees are unaware of the potential threats then the security of the company will be compromised. Therefore, it is essential that the organization conduct mandatory cybersecurity training to alert employees against potential threats and instill best practices in order to secure their network. Due to remote operations, these trainings can be conducted online via platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
The IT department should also focus on phishing – which is used to steal sensitive data including company and personal information. During work from home, especially during the three-week complete lockdown in India, employees can be stressed, distracted easily, or manage work and personal web browsing together.
In this case, it is likely that they may make a mistake and click on a malware link or open a phishing email by accident. Experts say that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, phishing emails could revolve around the pandemic, for instance, fake emails from the WHO or a fundraising request for a COVID-19 patient.
Therefore, it is vital that the IT department and senior management ask employees to be extra cautious and carefully look at links and emails before opening them. Alternately, they may verify with the internal IT resource, in case of doubt.
Further, employees should also be taught to back-up their data in case of a system failure or a security breach. The company should also have mechanisms in place so that the work can be automatically backed-up on the company’s network or system.
As employees operate remotely, a multi-factor authentication to access company and client data can be implemented to further secure the data. Some of the authentication that can be implemented include biometrics, phone calls, emails, one-time password or pin, and face recognition.
There are several authentication apps available in the market, such as Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator – these can also be used for multi-factor authentication to secure laptops and mobile devices.
Employees should also be taught to secure their Wi-Fi networks and routers with strong passwords.
At the time where a large chunk of the world population is working from home, adding extra authentication and security practices will only benefit the organization.
Businesses in India should consult with IT experts to conduct an audit of their information technology infrastructure, policies, and operations. An audit will help determine weak spots in the IT system, and help find solutions to improve its efficiency, and secure the company’s data and network.
This article was first published by India Briefing, which is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates.
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