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If your business relies on Microsoft 365, you may have noticed that on Tuesday, September 29th, there was a multi-hour outage. Microsoft confirmed via their Twitter account that the "residual issue has been addressed, and the incident has been resolved." Still, for many, this was a wakeup call to the fact that they need to have a backup form of business communication.

Businesses are moving towards more modern workplaces. Many of our clients no longer utilise landlines and handle all communication electronically via platforms like Microsoft Teams, so when Microsoft 365 went down, they found themselves without any way to communicate to their clients or conduct their business.

For everything in life, to be prepared, you should always have a backup plan. In these cases of technology outages, we would recommend putting together a Disaster Recovery Plan detailing what to do if any of your virtual systems fail. That way if something happens, your business will be able to take it in stride with minimal interruption.

For example, in the case of losing your communication method of Microsoft Teams, your Disaster Recovery Plan should:

1. Plan how you will notify your team that the Disaster Recovery Plan is being enacted

2. Designate your secondary communication platform(s) for external communication and internal communication

3. Define where calls or messages should be forwarded to

4. Designate who will be in charge of setting up the call forwarding, be sure to include updated personal contact information for this person

5. Craft a generic message that can be posted to social media channels or on your website to inform your customers of the best way to reach you

6. Designate who will be in charge of posting your external messages, be sure to include updated personal contact information for this person and how to access the necessary accounts or website

7. Be shared with your team and kept in an accessible place so anyone can reference it if needed

If you are working with an IT provider, it is essential to share this information with them so they can help you adjust as needed if the time comes. Additionally, you can utilise their expertise to ensure your Disaster Recovery Plan is well detailed and sure to support you through a crisis. If your business could use help creating Disaster Recovery Plans for your solutions, we would be more than happy to help you out.

 

The Covid-19 crisis has forced organisations of all kinds, all over the world, to restructure the way they work. Technology has proven to be the backbone and pivot point of this restructuring process, with organisations transitioning to remote working environments and online services wherever possible. Unfortunately, this kind of transition is almost never a simple task—it takes time and resources. We’ve seen organisations struggle with a variety of things. They lose revenue because they can’t support their clients as well as they used to. The number of new security risks skyrocket due to unsecure data and remote access points. Problems with management and technology implementation result in downtime and productivity loss, which all feeds back into unhappy clients and lost revenue.

These things have been especially true for non-profit organizations (or, as we like to call them, “for-purpose organizations”). These organisations deliver essential services to their communities, and we at Sensible believe that it’s our duty and responsibility to support them as best we can. We’re a family business with 35 years of operational experience, and our expertise is focused on implementing information technology solutions to support various organisations. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t help in other ways.

While we can help our clients and for-purpose organisations implement and use technology solutions, there are other problems that non-profits have to deal with. Knowing that, we’ve put together a quick list of some grants that have come together to support the operation of non-profits during this Covid-19 crisis. We’ve outlined the basic information for our highlight grants below, but more information (and more grants) can be found online here.

Highlight Grants

The City of Sydney is providing Community Services Grants for between $5,000 and $10,000 to non-profit organisations up until the 27th of April. An eligible organisation must be non-profit, operate in the City of Sydney area, have experience and networks within the social service sector, and must describe how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted them. Sensible can help you apply this grant money towards implementing remote work infrastructure, staff technology training, and updating your e-commerce platform to maintain your revenue streams.

BHP has established the $50 million BHP Vital Resources Fund to support regional communities in the areas they operate. This would include, for example, the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. The goal of this fund, which will distribute various amounts of grant money, is to build critical infrastructure for local and regional health networks, and keep essential community services operational.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is offering an Individual Capacity Building Grant Round which is offering eligible organisations from $10,000 to $500,000 per year for up to two years. This grant closes on May 6th, so act quickly on it. The NDIA is looking for programs that ensure people with disability will have the skills and confidence to participate and contribute to the community, and also protect their rights. It also focuses on strengthening Disabled Peoples Organisations’ (DPOs) and Families Organisations’ (FOs) service capabilities. The Grant Round has three different grants, based on the building capacity; up to $25,000 for small individual capacity buildings, $50,000 for organizational capacity buildings, and $500,000 for large capacity buildings.

We Can Help

Sensible currently supports NDIA-registered organisations who provide services to people with disabilities, and we are a strong advocate for empowerment and capacity-building through technology—we work hard to provide innovative and effective solutions to these clients. We want our clients to spend more of their time helping the community, especially right now. We will talk you through the outcomes of working with us, and help you respond to your grant proposal. Our goal is to help you leverage these resources towards increased staff productivity, higher quality services, and a more connected and supportive work environment for everyone. Give us a call, we’d love to help you.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing businesses around the world to reexamine their operational structure. Companies now need to plan and prepare for employees to work remotely without any interruption to normal business functions, if they plan to stay competitive and productive.

If you find you and your company are facing these decisions, Sensible, will do everything in our capacity to help keep your business running as close to normal as possible.

This might cause some challenges for organisations that don’t have the right technology or structure to support this. It doesn’t help that, during times like these, we see a severe spike in cyber-crime activity because employees are accessing the network from personal laptops and home computers.

Companies who aren’t properly prepared during these times might suffer from possible data loss and unplanned downtime with more associates working remotely, but having a few simple steps in place can help prevent this.

Step 1 – Develop a Remote Workforce Plan To Fit Your Organisation’s Unique Needs

World-wise health pandemics can jeopardise and possibly damage the operations and future of any company, so it's critical to develop a Remote Workforce Plan to help ensure ongoing business processes in a crisis.

IT Professionals and Cloud Solution Strategists can help provide a roadmap that organisations can follow and implement to ensure sustainability, as we have the ability and responsibility to help local organisations, our peers, and our employees survive and thrive in these difficult times.

A professional IT organisation, like Sensible, can help rapidly adjust your business model towards remote work, as well as set up a consistent and effective line of communication with your employees and clients.

You can schedule your Remote Workforce Plan.

 

Step 2 – Implement a Remote Workforce Plan With a Trusted IT Partner

In the rush to provide remote access, don’t sacrifice cybersecurity or the ability to manage systems and devices in order to get employees up a running. The ability to support users remotely will be essential to ensure smooth operations, especially if users become quarantined due to health concerns. Remote workers need to have clear communication protocols for IT support and for crisis management if they encounter unusual or suspect issues that could be the result of a breach.

Therefore, you not only need a detailed Remote Workforce Plan, but a trusted IT partner to help facilitate that plan and manage all users and networks.

Here is a quick list of items an IT company, like Sensible, can help organisations facilitate a Work From Home (WFH) environment and continue to operate productively:

Organisations with an Office 365 subscription:

  • Implement Teams, Sharepoint and OneDrive for secure communication and collaboration with cloud file storage and anywhere access on any device:
  • Teams can be used for team-based chat, as well as, voice and video communication.
  • Sharepoint can be a repository for shared documents (replaces file server)
  • OneDrive is to able to be used for cloud storage of your own documents.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication to secure access to resources.
  • Implement device management policies on smartphones, tablets and other BYOD devices such as home computers.  This will allow the ability to control where corporate data is stored and provide the ability to wipe data if needed.  Device encryption can also be enabled on these devices to ensure that data is not exposed in case the device is lost or stolen.
  • Provide training on how to use these tools to employees that don’t have experience in using them.

Organisations with onsite servers:

  • Setup secure remote access directly to employee desktops.
  • Setup access to Remote Desktop Servers for all employees (if one exists).  We will need to ensure there is enough “horsepower” on the server(s) as most companies with a remote server typically don’t have all employees working on them simultaneously.
  • Discuss options to transition to cloud servers and WVD (windows virtual desktops) to enable a WFH (work from home) workforce.
  • Discuss options to transition to Office 365 to remove reliance on the onsite systems and provide employees to work from anywhere at any time.

Telecommunications:

  • Setup VoIP phone systems to allow phone calls to be received on employee smartphone apps or softphone apps installed on a laptop.

Step 3 - Audit Employee Environments

In addition to helping organisations get set up with appropriate Work From Home (WFH) resources, Sensible can provide assistance with assessing and auditing employee environments

There are continual disclosures regarding vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and this is an excellent time for employees to take action on securing them with strong passwords and updating their firmware/software to the latest versions.

Consider promoting, or even mandating, the use of a connected home monitoring app before allowing work devices to be connected to home networks. The scan or monitoring will highlight devices with known vulnerabilities, outdated software or firmware, or default passwords that need to be changed.

If your staff are going to use their own home computers, consider mandating CyberSecurity Essentials to protect your systems from malware, etc.

This is a stressful time for all of us, employees and business owners alike. Be the calming and supportive voice in your community. Working closely with your team and a steady IT resource can help you keep operating and keep your team employed. It’s the best case for everyone.

If you need any help or assistance getting your team up and running remotely, please reach out to the Sensible Team at 1300-SENSIBLE (1300-736-742) or you can book some time for chat on our calendar

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing lots of organisations to implement Social Distancing practices.

Employees are being forced to Work From Home (WFH).

Is your business ready to continue to operate in this environment so you can continue to serve your clients?

To help with this , we have developed a FREE COVID-19 Remote Work Readiness Self Assessment Tool for Australian businesses so you can work out how ready you are to implement Work From Home.

This will help keep people your employed, which is good for everyone involved.

Also, check out our other free information about Disaster Recovery Planning !

2020 has already proven itself to be a tough year, particularly here “Down Under” in Sydney, Australia. We’ve dealt with widespread and devastating bushfires, floods, and now the global pandemic of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus. Not just businesses, but entire nations are being shut down to contain the virus and minimise the death toll.

Many organisations may be forced to lay off employees to survive, or shut down entirely, which will hurt both the business and the employees. There’s a way for your organisation to continue operating amidst this crisis, and keep people employed, which is good for everyone involved.

Fortunately, there is a way to do that for many industries. Remote work has been a growing trend worldwide, and has now become a necessity. Social distancing recommendations given to us by our governments and the World Health Organisation disallow communal gatherings in the name of safety :  in-person workspaces may be next. The answer, then, is to work from home. Facilitating a remote workforce gives more flexibility to both the business and the employee, and it keeps both safe in this time of crisis. Many companies may not have the infrastructure built up for this yet, but we’ve been helping organisations improve their technology for over 35 years; and is something we can help you with.

Modern IT Best Practices

Modern IT Best Practices make a huge difference in how a company will respond to this crisis. We’ve noticed that the organisations that follow seven specific practices are adapting to the current climate much more smoothly than others. The 7 modern IT practices are:

  1. C-Level executives directly engage multiple times a year with their business-savvy IT provider to ensure their IT systems properly deliver their business requirements.
  2. They no longer have onsite IT departments who are not geared for providing uninterrupted remote support.
  3. They have provided secure systems for their staff to perform all their major functions from anywhere
  4. They have already carefully migrated a large part of their systems to securely configured cloud based systems.
  5. They have migrated to cloud-based communication systems.
  6. Their IT Support team are already experienced in the (more complex) back-end world of the cloud.
  7. They have invested in regularly training their staff to properly use their technologies and measuring these productivity gains.

If you examine your organisation, how many of those seven things do you do or have done?

We can help you get these policies in place, and adapt to the current reality. Swift action might be the thing that minimises the damage to, or outright saves, your business in this trying time. Schedule an introductory chat via our calendar.

You wouldn't have known, but we had our own fire disaster last week!

Early last Tuesday, we received a call that a fire was blazing in our building. Naturally we rushed down there but like all the occupants, we were not allowed access to our office at all. Later, that day we found out a tenant on the floor below us had an electrical failure in their computer room which was the start of the whole disaster.

Thankfully, there were no personal injuries, and only damage to a few units (not ours). However, many businesses did suffer. The fire department rightly blocked off access due to the poisonous fumes, not to mention that the power was cut off for most of the day. Outside, hundreds of people milled around wondering what do next. Comments overhead were:

"All my files are there - I need to get to them !"

"I need to finish something urgently for a client - now what ?"

"This is costing me a fortune - my staff can't do anything productive. I can't even get remote access.."

Privately,we smiled - We never ceased normal business operations at all !

We Had No Downtime
Our Business Continuity Plan kicked in and we didn't miss a beat! In fact, I don't think most of our clients even knew this had occurred.

We lost no sales, we missed no service calls, we continued to deliver the same service, we lost no data and there was minimal impact on the organisational productivity. We dod not lose a single cent.

How is this possible?

  1. We already had a Written Continuity Plan (we could continue keep normal business operations whilst the disaster was occurring, and as it was already written down - we knew what we had to do without missing important steps in the early panic).
  2. Most of our systems are cloud-based (doesn't matter where you work from).
  3. Our cloud-based software systems are the "right type" of cloud (works on any device, secure, runs all of our apps and is optimised for slow internet connections if staff work from home).
  4. Our communications systems were cloud-based so we could still receive client calls (not perfect, but we know what to refine for next time).

Over the previous months, you’ve probably heard about new technology trends like virtual assistants, smartphones, and automation technologies. Some of these IT solutions may even be placed on top of your business priority list. However, with fires and power outages just around the corner, disaster recovery and business continuity plans should always have a place on your annual budget.

Business Continuity isn’t a huge investment
A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment and that only large enterprises can afford it. Expensive secondary data centres, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it
Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimising company downtime - especially if you can't get access to your office. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the right cloud  you don't have to restore critical data or applications - they are already available.

Business disasters can be man-made, too
Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable business continuity and disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you
A business without a Business Continuity plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage or small fire, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

You might even have insurance, but that doesn't help if your clients go to your competition because you couldn't deliver service when they wanted.

Smaller businesses usually have "less fat" to weather such instances - it is even more important that they protect themselves,

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it rather than without it..

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today if you need assistance. Also, get a hold our free guide :

14 Little-Known Facts Every Business Owner Must Know About Data Backup, Security And Recovery"
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