OPINION: No commute, no-one stealing your stapler, pants are optional, and you don’t have to listen to Janet’s favourite radio station anymore. Working from home can be great if you are set up for it. However, many small businesses were not well set up at all when the lockdown started.

The problem, thanks to Covid-19, was the speed at which New Zealanders were forced to pack up and move their jobs into home offices. There just wasn’t enough time to do much more than grab some gear and your favourite coffee mug. For smaller companies with no existing, reliable IT support, there are a number of tech challenges that can seem really daunting.

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My company, Layer3, has been running free online IT clinics in conjunction with local Chambers of Commerce to support small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Here is some advice for a few of the most common tech issues people have faced.

PHONES

You’re at home and your business phones are ringing the office. Mobiles for outbound calls are OK, but not much help for customer calls to your main line or transferring calls to a colleague.

Solution: A low-cost hosted SIP system. SIP, also called VoIP, is an Internet-based phone service. You can use SIP deskphones or softphone apps on your computer or mobile. With a SIP softphone app signed in on your mobile, your work phone is always in your pocket.

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FAX 

No-one has a fax machine at home, but some businesses still need deal with faxes.

Solution: A fax-to-email service. You send an email with your fax as an attachment and the fax number as the subject and it gets converted and sent as a fax with the same in reverse to your mailbox.

Working from home can throw up some unforeseen challenges.

UNSPLASH

Working from home can throw up some unforeseen challenges.

ACCESS TO DATA

If your company data is stored on a computer or server in the office, getting access to it can be troublesome and a time drain for your team. You need to have a VPN tunnel or remote desktop app running or you’re up the creek.

Solution: Save your business files in a cloud system for easy, shared access to data so you don’t face the nightmare of trying to pull together all the different files and versions everyone has been saving on their home computers. Notable options are Dropbox, Google Drive, or my recommendation, Microsoft OneDrive or Sharepoint, which are both part of a Microsoft 365 subscription.

INTERNET/WI-FI

Most of us are not hibernating in an empty cave. Family members and flatmates are all sharing our internet. Is your home workspace on the other side of the house from your wi-fi? Poor Internet access will affect the quality of work applications, video calls, VoIP, etc.

Solution: Get fibre. If you already have fibre, you can ask your ISP for a bandwidth upgrade. If you are rural, look into a RBI fixed wireless connection. If your wi-fi signal is weak, try a wi-fi range extender from your local computer store or plug directly into your router with an ethernet cable for video calls.

SCANNING

If you need to scan documents and the company scanner is back in the office, don’t fret.

Solution: Download a mobile scanning app for your Android or iPhone. This will use the camera on your phone to quickly and easily get an image of each page, crop them, make them look like scanned paper and save multiple pages in a single pdf file.

SECURITY

Hopefully your work computer and network are properly updated and protected, but can you say the same for each computer at home? There are enough security issues among unprotected home workers to give any IT Manager nightmares.

Solution: Make sure the latest update for your operating system (ie Windows 10) is installed. Install a good antivirus app. Sophos Home and Malwarebytes are both very effective with free and paid version. Free is good, paid is better. Remember, there is always price difference for a reason. And now more than ever, be aware of phishing attempts. If an email is unexpected, creates a sense of urgency and wants you to go to any site that asks for a password, back away slowly. If you’re in doubt about an email check if the sender’s email address matches the name it claims to be from and make sure any link is actually going to the web address it says it is.

Need some more advice or support? Layer3 will be hosting a free Facebook live Covid-19 IT support clinic for small businesses on Friday, May 8 at 10am. Just visit https://www.facebook.com/layer3nz/ at the scheduled time with your questions.

Daniel Bohan is the sales and communication manager at Layer3 – IT management, cloud and security specialists



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