14 Aug

Always be ready for an IT curveball

As remote work has increased with COVID-19 mandates, flexibility and reliability are top priorities for IT solutions. Since March, I’ve made it a goal to discuss how the landscape is changing for our customers and even our internal IT team here at SmartDeploy. Here’s what I’ve found.

Each company has their own unique story about how they adapted to work from home on the fly. Some had already taken steps toward virtualizing infrastructure, securing remote access, and allowing some small percentage of remote workers. Others had strict “zero remote workers” policies prior to COVID-19 and were left scrambling to find laptops to send home with users, get them connected and productive, and secure company data. For businesses that were able to adapt quickly without much complication, planning ahead of time proved invaluable.

Forward thinking IT team felt minimal impact

For Atlantic Bay Mortgage of Virginia Beach, Virginia, the transition was nearly seamless. One third of Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group’s employees (mainly processors and underwriters) had the ability to work remotely when needed. However, with increased demand for work from home (WFH), management predicted the remote workforce would continue to grow over the next few years. This gave Information Security Technician, Chase Ruszas, the insight needed to prepare his team to support WFH users indefinitely. This included building a fleet of loaner laptops, implementing home internet speed requirements, upgrading VPN to handle increased traffic, and monitoring the network for security vulnerabilities.

A SmartDeploy customer since 2014, Ruszas and his team had what they needed to build a fleet of 20 loaner laptops to allow employees who typically work in an office on a desktop computer to work remotely when necessary. Because SmartDeploy handles device drivers, Ruszas was able to take his standard golden Windows image and deploy it to these new laptops. By relying on SmartDeploy’s technician-maintained Platform Packs, Ruszas eliminated the need to create a new model-specific image or spend time acquiring the latest device drivers for the new model. This made his network deployments faster and more reliable.

Additionally, users working from home are required to test and record the internet speed of their home network that could later assist IT in troubleshooting issues. WFH users are advised to hardwire laptops and meet the minimal internet speed requirement of at least 5MB up and down.

Once remote user requirements were in place for hardware and connectivity, the IT department prepared their infrastructure for increased traffic by upgrading VPN and increasing security measures. Security software is installed on each computer and relied on for monitoring user activity and enforces web filters. With these measures in place, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group’s network is secure and at minimal risk for vulnerabilities.

An overnight shift to 95%, 100% WFH

While many IT teams were left scrambling due to the pandemic, Ruszas and his team were minimally impacted. Their preparation made the transition from 33% to 95% remote workers “as smooth as it could possibly be,” explains Ruszas.

For our own internal IT team here at SmartDeploy, solid planning allowed us to shift to 100% work-from-home (WFH) literally overnight. We relied on a business continuity plan (BCP) that took hundreds of hours to build. SmartDeploy CEO, Aaron Suzuki, explains “Although we paid primary attention to geological and ecological disasters, our thorough plan readily addressed the current COVID-19 pandemic,” in his LinkedIn article, How We Got Work from Home Right and Fast. While the BCP includes much more than the technical aspects of getting remote users up and running, this was the most vital for the circumstances.

working from home

Leveraging cloud offers deployment flexibility

Both Atlantic Bay Mortgage and SmartDeploy built a BCP that covers many scenarios and allows business to shift accordingly for unplanned circumstances. For the technical piece of a BCP, flexible solutions can ensure end users continue to be productive. For example, SmartDeploy’s cloud deployment service can be used to reach a remote endpoint when needed. A laptop can be drop shipped to an employee’s home and Windows and applications can be pushed via Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or OneDrive for Business, without the need of a VPN connection. For IT teams that are familiar with reimaging and managing computers via any deployment method using SmartDeploy, cloud deployment is no different and doesn’t require any specialty training or ramp up time.

Preparing for unforeseen events with a well thought out BCP and having flexible, reliable solutions in place is crucial for the modern workplace. When the environment and IT priorities change rapidly, SmartDeploy supports customers with flexible deployment options and the ability to manage endpoints wherever they are, allowing businesses to push forward without interruption.

About the Author

Heidi Flaig
Heidi Flaig has overseen the marketing department for SmartDeploy since 2011 and thrives on engaging with IT professionals to better understand how SmartDeploy products can improve their world. She has over 500 contributions in the Spiceworks community. When she’s not in the office, you can find Heidi hiking with her husband, two sons, and silver lab, Miles.