Was Your Business Ready for COVID-19?


 Was Your Business Ready for COVID-19?

When COVID-19 hit the United States, it affected different businesses in different ways.  Some jobs require a physical presence while others can be done anywhere there is a phone and an internet connection.  Of course, police, fire, EMS, hospital jobs were deemed essential from the beginning; we know that we cannot extinguish a fire from behind our computers.  But there are many businesses that can function without a common office.

Businesses have been doing remote work/telecommuting for years.  In the past few years, it has become easier and therefore, more common.  But now, it became less of an option and more of a necessity to continue the business under home quarantine. When some businesses failed to make it on the “essential” list, there was accelerated buying of computers, webcams, routers, and any other technology that would assist people to work from home.   Webcams that normally sell for $80 were seen on Amazon.com selling for over $300!

If a business had already made the move to “The Cloud,” then their employees were mostly constrained by their own internet connection and computer resources at home.  Sometimes a move to the cloud is expensive and disruptive but those companies that already decided to use the cloud and had completed the move found themselves able to continue most business operations.  But there are many reasons why the cloud might not be the best option for a business.  Can a business that is not cloud-based still function in the time of the COVID-19 home quarantine?

Lockatong Engineering is a small engineering company in western New Jersey.  According to their website, they provide “comprehensive building-related engineering and environmental services for commercial, institutional, manufacturing, residential and associations properties.”  Their staff is usually comprised of fewer than 10 employees including office staff and engineers who go to client sites in the field.

In 1998, founder and president, Robert Roop saw a medium-sized manufacturing firm go out of business after a fire. They thought they were protected because their backup was floppy disks stored in an onsite fireproof safe.  They were reduced to calling their accounts receivable to learn if they were owed any money.  Roop was determined that Lockatong would be better prepared.  Several years later, Lockatong’s office was razed to the ground by fire and they lost everything; all their documents and computers but by that time they were burning CD-RWs daily for offsite storage and lost only one day’s worth of data. Those backups saved the engineering practice but managing the daily CD burn was cumbersome and relied on staff doing it and taking the backups offsite.

Lockatong engaged information technology (IT) support services from Landau Consulting and together they devised a plan for their business continuity and disaster recovery.  Landau Consulting set about crafting plans for protecting Lockatong’s data and systems from external cyber-attacks as well as technology failures that can swallow data by the terabyte.

Of course, it is possible for Lockatong to suffer another devastating fire.  But sometimes the smaller, commonplace “disasters” take a harsher toll on a business.  For example, where Lockatong is located, snow becomes an issue as employees are not always able to reach the office.  Snow has been known to take down power and telecommunications lines; so even if they could get to the office, they could not connect with the outside world.

Some “disasters” are thoughtfully provided by Mother Nature. Others are from humans. Ransomware and other malicious software attacks account for billions of dollars in lost revenue and remediation each year.

And then, of course, there is just the failure of technology.  There is never a convenient time for a server to crash or a laptop to die.  But it happens and the risk it creates can be mitigated with careful planning.

Landau Consulting ensured that all servers, workstations, and laptops were protected by antivirus software.  Hardware network appliances offer further protections.  While there is no security package that can stop 100% of threats, Landau Consulting’s constant monitoring of Lockatong’s computers and network increased the likelihood of keeping the bad guys out or early detection of a breach.

All computers were equipped with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS, also known as battery backup) and surge protection.  If there was a power outage, at least they could work a little bit and the computers could have a graceful shutdown instead of shredding the work in progress at the time of the event.

Since it is the lifeblood of the company, email was moved offsite.  Prior to that, Lockatong maintained their own internal email server.  Recognizing the need for email to be available always, Landau and Lockatong decided to let email experts manage their email.

Landau Consulting also provided guidance about backups.  Backups to local drives are fine when your office does not burn to the ground.  Lockatong Engineering didn’t forget their fire.  Online backups are an excellent way to ensure files and data are backed up and taken offsite.  But what if the internet is down?  Then there are no backups?  Lockatong opted for a “belts and suspenders” approach to backups and Landau Consulting provided both local and online backups.  Employees enjoy the speed of restores from local backups and if they are in the office without internet, they can still recover files if needed.

The online backups offer a taste of the cloud.  Lockatong gave careful consideration to moving to the cloud but decided to stay with an on-premises server.  The online backups enabled employees to access files, even if they were out of the office.  If ever there is a server-destroying event such as fire, ransomware, or a technology failure, Lockatong’s employees might be inconvenienced but they will still be able to work while their IT consultant worries about replacing the server.

Finally, on those occasions where the technology is working but staff cannot make it to the office, Landau Consulting provided guidance for remote access software, allowing Lockatong staff to connect remotely to their desktops at the office and work as if they were there in the office.

So, how is Lockatong Engineering faring through the COVID-19 home quarantine?  All things considered, remarkably well.  They are all working from home and since their email is hosted on the internet, they can continue to serve their clients and support one another.  They have remote access capability to connect to their desktops at the office and all the necessary files on the server.  Their backups and security are still monitored daily by Landau Consulting.  Of course, these are trying times for everyone.  But Lockatong’s foresight and planning and assistance from Landau Consulting has made their technology the least of their worries.

This case study was used with the permission of Lockatong Engineering.  www.lockatong.com