IT Challenges ahead in responding to Covid-19

Disaster RecoveryMobility
Mar 17 , 2020
| Greg Spencer

With the share market convinced Covid-19 is fake news one day, and that the world is ending the next, the constant change that we endure on a daily basis within technology is starting to look like stability. However as remote collaboration and communication technologies that we have been deploying into the business for years start to get a real workout, a few questions have started to emerge:

A) Will the telco infrastructure hold up? 

NBN is forecasting 70% increased traffic peaks during business hours, and a 40% increased peak traffic in the evenings. The former due to work from home traffic with a much more significant increase in upload traffic, and the later due to increase social isolation driving more Netflix and other video streaming and gaming platforms.

Firstly the good news, the 70% increase in peak traffic during business hours is not expected to exceed the current evening peaks. However due to the significantly different traffic profile of synchronous business traffic, we can expect some performance impacts due to the limited upload capacity in the network. The news is perhaps not so good for those trying to watch 4 separate UHD screens between 8 and 11pm where we can probably expect some avalanche congestion. These impacts of course will get significantly worse if/when the schools close and 3 million kids start streaming and remote learning on the network.

The less good news, many households have yet to make the transition to NBN and will be relying on hotspots from their mobile phone. As some mobile networks are already struggling with the existing growth requirements for their network backhaul, we already know that this will cause problems in some areas for some networks. The only solution for this is to make sure that staff have access to a wireline solution from home as quickly as possible. Our advice to organisations is to start at the most important staff, and audit their home access through a staff survey and identify where you have problems – a NBN install may take a couple of weeks, but it is important to remember this crisis is only just beginning and the prime minister is already suggesting that impacts will be continued to be felt for the next 6 months.

B) What are our OH&S responsibilities when we direct staff to work from home? 

I am not going to attempt to answer this one myself, but perhaps some of my LinkedIn contacts that are experts in this area may provide some thoughts. I will however provide insights into what I have seen a few organisations recently do to mitigate potential concerns. One company has been quite specific in their instruction to work from home with directions such as “If you are able to work from home…”, while others have directed staff to purchase required equipment (Chairs, monitors, keyboards etc) to support there work from home requirements.

C) Has the Cyber threat matrix increased with the larger volume of remote access activity?

Well, quite simply YES. Unfortunately the Cyber thugs are all soldering on and there is evidence that they are ramping up phishing activity to take advantage of the disruption. Many IT organisations are cutting security corners to enable improved remote access throughput as many had not previously envisaged such a large cohort of staff working from home.  Conditional Multi-factor authentication (for example) should be enabled on all remote working capabilities, and the cyber gangs are looking to exploit those that have not.  At the very least the capabilities of your IT function to monitor the security event logs when remote access usage has significantly increased – while also dealing with the other pressures that we are putting on them, is likely far from ideal.

The IT function of all Australian organisations will be tested in the coming months, Beyond Technology is ideally positioned as Australia’s leading independent mid-tier IT management consultants to assist with IT review and strategic planning to ensure that you have certainty about your organisations ability to respond.

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