There is no doubt that how people want to work will change now that so many have experienced the convenience of working from home. But what implications will this have on workplace IT and business telephone systems and how will this impact security risk? Link ICT asked Managing Director, Mark Fryers for his views on the future trends.
IT Systems and Networks
It is clear that the impact of the lockdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic which started in March 2020 will have a lasting impact.
In the world of IT and telecoms, it proved what we have always known. It was possible for people to work from home when previously it was thought necessary for them to be based in an office. Notwithstanding the basic human need for interaction with others, this sea change in attitude cast aside any previous doubts that staff could be just as, if not more productive, working from home. They just needed the opportunity and to be given the tools and the opportunity to do so.
As a result, the future will see many organisations begin to further upgrade their IT networks to provide faster and more secure access to enable people to work from anywhere. This will include adding in layers of security that are determined by user access rights, and the implementation of tighter passwords and two-step user authentication.
The technology to enable ‘mobile’ working has been around for ages. It simply required the ‘push’ that has now seen a massive cultural shift in attitudes and behaviours to make it more appealing to employers to have their people work remotely.
Business Phone Systems
The functionality provided by the business phone system is an area that caught out many businesses, particularly schools. Organisations found themselves having to allow staff to use home landlines and mobile phones to make business related phone calls. This had the potential to cause security risks, as well as data protection and safeguarding issues as teachers had to make safeguarding contact using personal devices.
The trend in this area will be that more businesses will want to migrate to IP/SIP based telephone systems. IP based telephone systems give greater flexibility by allowing the users telephone extension to roam with them, whether in work or not. Users simply download a ‘Soft Phone’ App to their mobile or laptop and can use this to make and receive work related calls from anywhere they wish securely.
It is a now proven fact that employees work more effectively if they are in surroundings they find comfortable. They are more productive, innovative and research shows they also collaborate better if the environment promotes these behaviours.
Greater adoption of the above technologies will lead to a wider acceptance of agile working. Not only in and around the workplace to allow employees to work in places that suit their preferred work style. For some this could be sat on comfy sofa or in the staff café, at a workstation or from home…. literally anywhere in which they believe they will do their best work.
In turn, I believe this will mean that allocated desk spaces with lots of keyboards, monitors, and IT tower units will become a thing of the past as employees favour the kind of IT equipment that will afford them more mobility and ability to work from anywhere. Demand for laptops and mobile devices is likely to continue to growing.
Video Conferencing Equipment and Software
One of the overarching comments post COVID19, is that workers have relished not having to endure the traffic congestion that has become an accepted part of the 9-5’ers daily commute, or the time spent travelling to meetings. Many have said that they will continue to use video conferencing for meetings to reduce travel costs and traffic pollution.
This is testament to the greater reliability, speed and data processing capability provided by the latest 5G internet connectivity. Many of the previous criticisms for using video conferencing facilities such as the frustrations with buffering due to poor connections, blurred images and slurred speech have been resolved and people have been happily engaging using Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp video and MS Teams and Skype for Business.
A word of caution though. If video conferencing is something your business plans to continue to allow we strongly advocate that you ensure the software you are using is accessed from within the your cloud infrastructure, such as Microsoft Teams as part of Microsoft 365 or Google Meet with G Suite. As this will allow greater control of data being shared with external organisations and the benefits of secure collaboration.
Only when used within your own cloud infrastructure, can you be certain your discussions are taking place securely. The risk that your conversation with be hacked are significantly minimised. For this reason at Link ICT we have a video conferencing policy and we only allow our employees to discuss work via Microsoft Teams. This allows us to ensure that security is maintained by utilising various security methods, such as two-factor-authentication and Conditional Access with Microsoft 365.
The privacy and data protection policies of other software when used without security protection may leave your businesses vulnerable to cyber-attacks and fraud, and may also compromise your ability to comply with privacy and data protection laws.
We believe the trends post COVID19 will be:
- Workers will demand more agility. The hours people work, how they work and where will alter.
- This will drive changes in their requirements for IT Hardware and Software
- Organisations will need to be capable of supporting remote workers.
- If not already, organisation wide Network security will become a strategic priority and even more robust.
- Businesses will revisit their business continuity plans to scenario plan in much greater detail to consider all risks that may lead to it being unable to operate from its main base. Fire, flood and electrical failure as well as a pandemic.
- Existing working procedures and infrastructure will be reviewed, to see if cloud based services can be harnessed or if they can be made available by traditional remote access services such as Remote Desktop Services or Citrix.
If you would like to learn more about how Link ICT can help your business provide secure systems and equipment to enable your employees to work and collaborate remotely please get in touch.