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Providing cyber essentials for remote workers during the coronavirus crisis

Providing cyber essentials for remote workers during the coronavirus crisis
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Providing cyber essentials for remote workers during the coronavirus crisis
Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

The coronavirus lockdown has put businesses in challenging positions and forced new ways of working for almost all of us. At the forefront of this shift to remote working has been our Chelmsford customer, Johnson Technical Systems, who provide small and medium enterprises with IT support and managed services. Whilst supporting their customers’ shift to the new normal, they have also been adapting to working from home themselves.

Working to continue business as usual

Johnson Technical Systems  has provided IT support, such as Microsoft Office 365, for SMEs for over 16 years. They also specialise in setting up and managing new IT equipment and networks for customers, as well as providing cyber security. Their team of cyber security experts work with businesses to ensure that all necessary steps are being followed to reduce the chances of a cyber-attack. 

The company has wide experience in the sector, but director Nick Johnson admits that even for seasoned pros like themselves there have been new challenges in maintaining business operations through the coronavirus lockdown.

Supporting client challenges during the coronavirus lockdown

As individuals become accustomed to working from home, adjustments have had to be made to ensure safe cybersecurity practices; this especially applies to some workers making do with non-company sanctioned equipment.

Nick comments, “There is such a thing as ‘hacking the human’. Even with the best IT security equipment, staff still need to be aware of the signs. That’s why we ensure that our customers understand the implications and risks of threats and viruses on their home computers.”

Johnson Technical Systems also provides a wealth of remote-working safety information to ensure their customers are taking the right steps to help make their computers as safe as possible for handling company documents.

Operational challenges during lockdown

“Another challenge we have faced is transitioning to working from home ourselves,” continues Nick. “Although most of our work can be done remotely, we’ve had to change our methods for preconfiguring equipment.”

As Nick’s team would usually preconfigure their equipment at the office in Waterhouse Business Centre, this has had to change due to restrictions on leaving the house. Instead of installing the basic software and tagging equipment as usual, the units have had to be sent either to a home address or straight to the end-user, adding another step to the setup.

Despite the changes, the process seems to have run smoothly: “There’s always a workaround, and the challenges we were facing at the beginning of the lockdown have started to ease.”

This also follows on from an unprecedented rise in laptop prices, with costs almost tripling in some cases as companies scrambled to buy equipment to enable staff to work from home at the start of the crisis.  “We did have to resort to using suppliers we hadn’t used before for some customers,” says Nick, “but the situation seems to have calmed considerably.”

Helping key workers where possible

During the crisis, many businesses have stepped up to help key workers and charities where they can – Johnson Technical Security included.

“We regularly help several registered charities with IT support and cyber security services” says Nick.  “As many charities’ fundraising efforts have become even more difficult due to COVID-19, we've gone over and above from an IT aspect to ensure they can continue to operate as best they can.”

Valuable lessons learnt from the crisis

Communication has played a key role in Johnson Technical Systems’ business survival during the lockdown.  “It’s incredibly important to keep in touch with all clients – particularly over the phone rather than relying on emailing. We’re not drawing in much new business at the moment, but the priority is our current customer base.”

Nick’s philosophy is a valuable one to adopt – making sure existing customers are informed and happy is paramount, as well as keeping the lines of communication open to let customers know that it is still business as usual. “Overall, I’m amazed at the amount of productivity we’ve been able to achieve working remotely, though I do miss the socialisation of the office.”

Looking forward to the end of lockdown

A lesson learnt from remote working, according to Nick, is the ease of qualifying contracts virtually via video calling. “Now that we’ve gotten more accustomed to virtual means of communication such as using Microsoft Teams to video chat, it will be easier to initially meet with potential clients this way, instead of travelling long distances to meet them.”

Nick’s emphasis on communication has also inspired him to encourage the team to build up a pipeline of business coming out of the lockdown when circumstances change.

Communication has been the key to maintaining business for Johnson Technical Systems, as social distancing measures mean it’s more important than ever to stay in regular contact with clients. Whilst thinking creatively to deliver reliable IT support and cybersecurity for their customers, Nick and the team have also adopted their own new ways – some of which will help improve the efficiency of operations when they can return to Chelmsford’s Waterhouse Business Centre.

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