With South Africa working hard to contain the spread of coronavirus, many businesses will be asking employees to begin working from home, writes Rob Lith of Telviva.

In many cases, leaders and executives themselves will be staying at home or working remotely from separate locations as a key risk mitigation strategy. Given the frequent load shedding that local businesses have been enduring of late, many businesses are already prepared (to an extent) for remote working.

Without doubt, businesses that have already shifted key data, workflows and communication platforms (such as email and telephony) to the Cloud, will be best positioned to keep running efficiently during external shocks such as coronavirus and prolonged load-shedding. For businesses that have lagged behind this shift, now is a critical time to begin moving data and key processes, tools, and platforms to Cloud-based environments. Not only will it ensure data security and data compliance, but it will empower employees and help them to remain productive (and motivated) while working remotely.

Let’s take a closer look at how these two elements of business efficiency (data management and productivity) are supported by the Cloud.

To begin with, employees working remotely have to have quick and secure access to business data and workflows in order to provide uninterrupted service to clients and customers. This means that processes such as email should ideally be Cloud-based, so that employees can simply login and stay connected wherever they are working from –  as well as when they are travelling and on the move.

In addition to email, leaders should be looking closely at Cloud-based data storage and data backups. Again, this will mean that authorised users and employees can access critical data at any time, and also that the data is protected from physical threats such as power surges that may threaten on-premise IT servers and on-premise data.

Enhanced data security

Although many business owners may be anxious about placing business-critical (and sensitive) data into Cloud environments, we believe this is in fact the safest and most efficient option for small and medium-sized businesses today. One important element to keep in mind is that data centre providers such as Teraco (that basically power your Cloud environments) have proven to be extremely reliable and robust – and have not been offline once despite frequent and ongoing countrywide load shedding.

In addition, these data centres have taken robust security and health precautions to remain efficient and up and running as the government deals with the alarming spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Notably, with the increasing likelihood that many leaders and employees will be working remotely and from different locations, it is worth considering new collaboration tools and team video conferencing platforms to keep teams connected and working together. Tools such as Slack, Google Hangouts and Zoom are all readily available (and affordable), and can play an important role in keeping remote teams motivated, accountable and efficient during a national crisis such as Covid-19.

With regards to telephony, Cloud-based telephony is becoming almost a no-brainer as load shedding impacts the country’s mobile operators – which now also have to deal with the added threat of coronavirus. Businesses need to have the option of making Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, particularly as the country’s key infrastructure remains fragile.

One critical – and often overlooked – feature of today’s VoIP phones is the ability to forward calls to alternative numbers when there is no connectivity on one line. So, if your Johannesburg office is in the dark and no longer connected online, you can make sure that VoIP calls are directed to the office in Cape Town which is still online (or to your home office). This way, your business and employees will not miss out on any critical sales opportunities or client service issues.

Resilient response

Additionally, another important tool which forward-thinking SA leaders can be leveraging is the emergence of softphone software for mobile devices (in addition to PCs and laptops). Softphones allow users to make VoIP calls directly over their computers… but with recent mobile trends, many developers have begun integrating softphone software directly onto users’ mobile devices. Consequently, mobile users are given the same softphone features they would have on their desktop.

Looking ahead, the next several weeks may prove particularly challenging for local businesses across sectors. By ensuring that teams and leaders are equipped with secure, efficient and engaging Cloud-based tools and platforms, businesses can mitigate many of the major risks and ensure that they emerge from the current crisis as more cohesive, resilient and responsive than before.

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