The coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken over global headlines and continues putting the public on high alert. Hand sanitizers are flying off store shelves, and excess messages enforcing the need to effectively wash hands are being shared online more than ever before. With the growing concern over the coronavirus’s potential spread throughout the United States, the pressure to avoid its transmission has reached employers. Several customers have asked Accudata what their businesses can do to better prepare for an increase of employees connecting and working remotely as precautions are taken to combat the virus. While there are many different ways to prepare for this increase, including verification of the business-continuity processes and technologies in place, this article focuses on two possible technical solutions: Microsoft Teams, a collaboration tool, and Windows Virtual Desktop, a remote-connection tool.
Even if workers cannot make it into the office, there will still be a need for them to collaborate with others to complete their work. Many companies have already experienced the benefit of using one of the many collaboration tools on the market today that help promote remote work and increase productivity. If your organization has not yet made that kind of investment or is looking for one consolidated tool for collaboration, Microsoft Teams is a good option to consider. Teams enables users to post important announcements for everyone to see, chat with other users across an organization (even outside their organization, in some cases), share and collaborate on documents, and host online meetings for conference calls and screen sharing. In November 2019, Microsoft announced that Teams had reached an average of 20 million daily users. Many organizations that have invested in Office 365 may have already paid for Teams as part of their licensing plans. By enabling Teams, your organization will have invested in a great collaboration tool that can be used to help increase productivity in case employees are required to work remotely.
Beyond collaboration, organizations may need to increase their ability to allow remote workers to connect to internal systems. Many tools on the market today allow remote connectivity. Some of the most common are virtual private network (VPN) solutions and remote-desktop solutions. However, remote connectivity could be challenging for some organizations. If little or no investment has already been undertaken to promote remote access, such as building out the required infrastructure, time and possibly a large amount of capital may be required. Security is also very important to consider when implementing a remote-connectivity solution, as such solutions should ensure that only the people who are supposed to be accessing the internal systems are connecting to them.
Given these requirements, a quick need for remote connectivity would be a great use case for leveraging public cloud technology. One remote-desktop solution that Accudata is seeing a lot of interest in is Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), which runs in Azure. With WVD, you can deploy a Windows 10 multisession desktop in Azure, allowing users across the world to connect to that desktop and granting them secure access into your organization’s environment. All that would be required for connecting to it is a web browser. Since WVD leverages Azure, the number of connected machines can easily be scaled up or down as the number of remote workers increases or decreases. Also, the machines can be turned off, and you would only pay a small amount for the storage those Azure machines consume. Then, whenever remote access is required, the machines could be started again, as needed, to optimize the amount of money spent on the solution.
Collaboration and remote-connection tools are beneficial for any business, as they have been proven to increase productivity. This is a fact during a natural disaster, a nationwide health scare like the coronavirus, or a normal Tuesday afternoon. Businesses should not wait until the next big event displaces workers to realize the need for business continuity. Take proactive measures now.
In reaction to the coronavirus, manufacturers, including Microsoft, have opened services that will help keep businesses running during times when remote work is necessary. Microsoft is offering a free six-month trial for a premium tier of Teams globally. As mentioned previously, this tool is highly integrated with much of what is needed to stay in contact with employees and collaborate on projects and tasks. Contact your Accudata account manager for more details on enabling this service.
By Jason Asbell, Solutions Architect