What Changes and What’s Here to Stay – 6 Long-Term COVID Takeaways

2020 continues to be a year of great uncertainty. It’s brought with it a number of major changes to how we do business. With 2021 approaching, everyone’s wondering the same thing: How long are things going to be this way? What’s going to change next year and what’s going to stay the same?

Many of today’s tech choices evolved out of necessity. We’re meeting on Zoom and collaborating in digital spaces because on-premise office locations are still closed. However, a number of these trends and processes were well underway before the pandemic and lockdowns. Things aren’t just going to go back to normal in the post-COVID world. It can help to understand which technology changes are temporary and which ones are going to stick and become key parts of your IT strategy in the next decade.

In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the long-term COVID takeaways. These are the things itSynergy is helping our clients prepare for as they get back to business.

The Long-Term Changes You Need to Prepare for

1. How We Collaborate: Virtual Meetings Are Here to Stay

If you’re dealing with Zoom fatigue, we feel you! For better or worse, virtual meetings are here to stay. Face to face still matters and helps immensely to establish trust and build long-term business partnerships. However, with the world becoming increasingly interconnected, with people collaborating across continents and time zones, those Zoom conference calls will remain a cornerstone of business communication in the long term.

What will change, though, is the quality of the experience. With little time to plan for a long-term lockdown situation, most small businesses today are repurposing yesterday’s tech for today’s virtual meetings. Poor online connectivity, low-quality webcams and basic collaboration tools make the moment-to-moment work experience less than stellar. In the months to come, we expect new innovations like Meeting Owl – a 360-degree video-conferencing device – to improve the meeting experience.

Vendors of collaboration tools are working hard to scale up server capacity and improve netcode for a more seamless experience. Face-to-face meetings will make a comeback once COVID restrictions ease up. However, virtual is here to stay and small businesses will want to explore ways to make the collaboration experience easier, more efficient and more meaningful.

2. Cybersecurity: Due for a Reckoning

With the world going digital, small businesses can’t afford to compromise in terms of cybersecurity. COVID’s introduced a number of unique security challenges. Overloaded VPNs, inconsistent MFA practices and nonsecure personal devices and home networks put small businesses in a lot of risk. In the here and now, “duck-taped” will work and help maintain continuity. However, in the months and years to come, small businesses need to take a serious look at their cybersecurity readiness and take meaningful action.

The FBI’s Special Agent Joseph Hooper sat down with us for a webinar on security strategies small businesses can leverage to stay safe in today’s digital environment. The key takeaways are secure your business email, harden your systems against ransomware, integrate 2FA with hack-resistant passphrases and train your team on security best practices. Hackers aren’t sitting around idle. Now that businesses are getting off the ground, it’s time to focus on security.

3. Capex and IT Spending

The lockdowns and work-from-home are major challenges from a capex perspective. Many small businesses have been forced to invest in extra hardware, including PCs and expensive software licenses, to enable staff to work from home. Server costs are also going up, with WFH and video conferencing eating up bandwidth.

If you’re worried about rising capex costs, this is a great time to switch from a capex-driven WFH model to opex-driven cloud solutions. itSynergy’s cloud services help you move apps, data and processes to the cloud for secure, anywhere, anytime access. By reducing on-prem server costs, license fees and hardware purchases, the cloud can help you save big and engineer agile, resilient and competitive processes for 2021.

4. Data Access, Backup and Recovery Challenges

Conventional data storage, backup and recovery approaches are creating challenges for businesses in the post-COVID world. Many small businesses have most of their data located centrally on an on-prem server. Access and bandwidth aren’t issues when everyone’s in the office. However, with the advent of WFH, server bandwidth and connectivity have turned into major problems. Your on-prem server just isn’t designed to handle that much traffic at one time. And what happens to your continuity strategy if that server goes offline or gets hit by hackers? This is a great time to start thinking about cloud backup, recovery and data access solutions. Public cloud solutions like SharePoint can scale up to deliver the performance you need, even when your entire team’s working remotely. Also, the cloud makes it easier to create and sync multiple data backups, mitigating risk and ensuring continuity in case you lose on-prem access.

At itSynergy, we use OneDrive as a folder redirection solution. This lets your workforce use the local folder structure they’re comfortable with while backing up data to the cloud – the best of both worlds. Whether you’re looking to secure your data or scale your remote access capabilities, the cloud is the way forward.

5. Line of Business Apps

Getting line of business apps to work well in remote environments is proving to be a major COVID challenge. Many LoB solutions, like accounting and operation management software, are designed to work best in an on-prem environment. Access, speed and compatibility are all impacted. This forces business owners today to work around remote access issues with their LoB tools. This isn’t sustainable long term, but what’s the alternative?

itSynergy helps businesses strategically migrate their LoB solutions to the cloud. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we vet each LoB application you use for compatibility and help you build a migration strategy that mitigates risk, reduces operating costs and ensures your LoB tools work the way they’re supposed to.

6. Compliance and Risk Mitigation

Digital solutions and processes are going to be a bigger part of your business post-COVID than ever before. In the months and years to come, you will be dealing with a wider range of IT vendors to address new technology needs. But, not all vendors have the capabilities or qualifications to deliver solutions that add value. Security is an even greater challenge. When you provide access to third parties, you need to make sure your data and tools are secure. Compliance audits and mitigation strategies can go a long way towards reducing your risk when working with new third-party vendors.

How itSynergy Can Help

In these times, what you need is a trusted, reliable managed IT services partner. With decades of experience, itSynergy can help you meet your immediate technology needs without compromising your long-term IT objectives and strategy.

Collaboration, security, processes, the cloud – there are so many IT issues that the lockdown is forcing business owners to address right now. We’ll help you overcome remote collaboration obstacles, assess your long-term security posture, migrate critical LoB solutions to the cloud and ensure policy compliance across the board. 2021 is going to be digital, and it’s going to be a struggle. With itSynergy, you’ll be ready for whatever the future throws at you.

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