COVID-19 Remote Work Guidelines

Earlier this week we set the following article as an email to our customers. Many have found it helpful in planning their business response to coronavirus, and so we are sharing the article more generally.

With the rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 across NSW, and the requirements for self-isolation, many of our customers have contacted us as they start to plan their contingencies for operation. Real World is here to support you regardless of what situation you find yourself in.

Most businesses will have a selection of staff who can continue to work even if they are quarantined. These staff might need to interact with customers or suppliers by phone, work with financial or administration systems, or access business applications.

There are several ways for Real World to assist your staff with gaining access to your work environment remotely. If you would like to implement any of these items, feel free to give us a call and have a chat to us about the cost of getting these done under your support arrangements.

Getting access to your company data

Staff work from PC

Our preferred method to provide access to staff computers is through a Remote Desktop Gateway. This provides secure access to one or several computers over the internet through a centralised authentication and control system that is more secure than forwarding remote desktop directly to a computer. Remote Desktop Gateway (RDGateway) requires Remote Desktop client access licenses and a server, however many businesses may be able to make use of the trial period. This does not require a VPN.

If you do not have a server, Team Viewer business edition provides a great way to provide secure access directly to desktop PCs. We can help you with commercial licenses for Team Viewer business edition.

In some cases you may be able to use a VPN to secure access into your network. We would generally recommend that this method is suited for a small number of users, and in some cases can be quite complex to set up.

Staff work from Remote Desktop

If you usually use a Remote Desktop server, we can configure a RDGateway server to provide secure remote access to your environment. This is a great solution and does not require a VPN. In most cases you will be adequately licensed for this.

Staff work from their personal laptops

If staff work from their personal laptops, it may still be wise to make use of a service like Remote Desktop to provide remote access to resources inside your office. If only a small number of users fall into this category, using our hosted Pulse VPN to enable remote access may be suitable.

If you already use cloud file storage services like Dropbox or Onedrive, these may be viable alternatives to using VPN to access data. The exact answer will depend on how you work with your data, what applications you use and how you structure your data storage. 

Staying in touch with your customers

If you use CloudPBX

In most cases, phones will be ready to use with CloudPBX remotely. Simply let us know the extension number so we can allow remote access, and then take a desk phone from work home. Real World will need to know the MAC address of the handset as well to ensure that remote provisioning is fully configured.

You can also use CloudPBX Mobile for remote staff. CloudPBX Mobile is available on the App Store and Google Play store and allows you to have remote access to your CloudPBX environment. 

If you have an on-site Real World PBX

Many of our on-site PBX customers can have remote access configured – particularly if the systems are also on Real World Fibre or NBN. If they are not, you need to ensure you have a static IP address.  Real World can configure remote access to your PBX platform and implement basic security to protect you from hacking attempts.

In most cases the only limit to the number of calls that can work through this system is the amount of “bandwidth” you have available. It’s important to understand that remote access will impact on this, but in many cases the impact will be negligible. Businesses with a 100/40 nbn plan or faster would usually be able to have 20 – 30 concurrent calls without issue.

Staff can take their desk phones home or purchase Bria for Remote Users. For quantities of 20 or more, Real World can provide a discounted site-license version of Bria for your users.

If you have a non-voip Phone System or another VoIP system

If you have a traditional, legacy or non-cloud phone system, Real World can deploy CloudPBX Emergency for you. This provides a short term emergency PBX platform for your business that we can set up in 30 minutes. You can request your phone company to divert your calls to CloudPBX Emergency and then have the full remote-work advantages of CloudPBX.

If you would like to use Microsoft Teams

If you are using Microsoft Teams, we can enable your Teams Environment for Phone System Calling, which provides the option to extend teams for remote calling. This will require:

  • A Teams Phone System license per user
  • An Office 365 user and license assigned for the audio bridge
  • Access to our Office 365 Phone System platform

Please note that setup can take up to 48 hours, so contact us if you would like this enabled as soon as possible so we can commence this project.

Making the most of your mobile plans.

Remote work means that people will rely more heavily on their mobile devices. Data and call costs will likely be higher on older plans. Real World can help you connect or upgrade any Telstra services you have, or help you connect mobiles on the Optus Network billed through Real World.

Telstra offers plans from $50 per month with 15GB or $60 per month with 60GB data on a month-to-month SIM only plan, and we’d be delighted to connect you. For a limited time the $60 and up plans include a $10 per month credit for 12 months. Data can be pooled across all your staff.

The Real World mobile plans on the Optus network start from $15 per month.

Preparing for excess data usage

It’s worth remembering that when staff are working remotely you will have higher data usage on your office internet service, and your staff will also incur higher data usage. All our current NBN and fibre plans have unlimited data, and the Telstra 60GB for $60 mobile plans provide great value.

Protect at-home machines

Use anti-virus to protect remote computers

While most businesses are conscious of security of work machines, home machines are not often considered. If your staff are working from home it is important to ensure that your staff’s home machines are protected from Viruses. Unlike coronavirus, most computer viruses can be prevented by installing anti-virus software.

Real World recommends BitDefender, and this can be licensed per user, per month. The cost is $5 per machine protected. Larger quantities may be eligible for additional discounts.

Make sure computers are kept up to date

If staff are running Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can make sure that they are protected with Microsoft Windows 10 Professional and have access to current versions of Office Apps by upgrading them to Microsoft 365 ($27.50 per month per user). If you already have licenses for Microsoft 365, these can be installed on home computers.

Plan to keep communicating between staff

Provide easy ways to connect during the day

When staff are working remotely, it’s important to stay in touch. Real World uses a program called Slack to allow instant message exchanges between staff across multiple offices or working remotely. You can make use of a wide range of tools, including:

  • Facebook
  • WhatsApp
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

If you need advice on setting these up or making use of them please don’t hesitate to get in touch and have a conversation with us.

Plan to stay in touch regularly

In addition to using chat programs, it’s important to organise daily conference calls to check in with team members working remotely. We do this daily at 4pm. Set up an agenda that staff can follow to share information. We use three part template:

  1. What have you been working on during the day
  2. What do other people need to know that you have done
  3. What are you stuck with that you need help with

Each person spends 1 – 2 minutes talking through this list with the other members of their team.

Real World can help you set up conference calls on CloudPBX with a pin for remote access. If you’d prefer video access, you can use FaceTime, Slack or Zoom to provide connections to remote workers. Again, Real World can help you with all of these technologies.

Getting PCs to your staff

If staff don’t have a home computer, Real World can supply a range of notebooks from our instock catalogue, although this catalogue is dwindling due to global supply constraints as a result of the virus’ impact on manufacturing facilities. When stock is available, these can usually be delivered next day. You can take advantage of our financing options to reduce the impact on your business cash flow.

Where do I get more information?

There is a lot of misinformation and confusion about COVID-19, how to test and where to find out information about the virus. As of Monday 9th March, unless you have travelled overseas or had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, there is no current recommendation for you to get tested.

If you have flu-like symptoms, you may choose to get tested anyway. NSW Health will be opening dedicated Coronavirus screening centres from Tuesday 10th March. Details are available from them on 1300 066 055. If you get tested, you will need to self-quarantine until your results are available.

The Coronavirus information line operated by the federal government is available on 1800 020 080. They can assist with general enquiries and recommendations between 8am and 8pm.

How are we responding?

We have implemented quarantine restrictions for staff who have travelled and meet the risk profile provided by the Federal Government.

Staff who suffer respiratory related symptoms are required to work from home until they have either recovered or been tested and cleared; subject to advice from their GP and NSW Health. We are also reminding staff of regular hygiene practices. Real World already makes use of several of the remote work technologies we have identified above, and continue to make these available to staff.

Experiencing Financial Difficulties

Some businesses will struggle as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on their business operations. If you experience financial difficulties, please get in touch with us early and we will work with you to help minimise your bills, spread repayments, or if required, to set up a payment plan.

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