As companies across the state transition to remote work, information-technology service firms have been getting slammed with requests to set up the software, security and other technology required for employees to work from home.
“A lot of our clients have disaster recovery plans, but not too many had a plan in place for something like this that would last multiple weeks,” said Nick Bernfeld, co-CEO of IT Support RI. “It’s a lot different than what people were planning for.”
Escalating concerns over the coronavirus directly corresponded to an increase in calls to the North Smithfield company from clients seeking to enhance or begin services that will allow virtual work, Bernfeld said.
Requests include tech-based services such as voice-over-internet-protocol phone systems, or VoIP, and software packages, as well as security measures such as secure email encryption connections between homes and offices, multifactor authentication and virtual private networks.
Anti-virus protection has also become a bigger concern, as the push for remote work has brought a new onslaught of phishing scams and ransomware from “bad actors” trying to take advantage of system vulnerabilities, said Jason Albuquerque, chief information and security officer for Exeter-based Carousel Industries of North America Inc.
‘Not too many had a plan in place for something like this.’
Nick Bernfeld, IT Support RI co-CEO
Like Bernfeld, Albuquerque reported a significant increase in demand from existing customers, which he attributed in part to the expansion of free licensing offered through company partners such as Zoom, Microsoft and Cisco.
Christine Cunneen, CEO and co-founder of Hire Image LLC, was among IT Support RI’s existing clients who opted to beef up services. The Johnston-based background screening company already had some security measures in place but needed security software for new laptops purchased for lower-level staff, Cunneen said.
She wasn’t worried about the technology requirements for virtual work so much as employee productivity and lack of new business.
As an international company already set up for 100% remote work, Carousel is marketing both its tech support and general advice for best practices, Albuquerque said.
“[Remote work] doesn’t have to hurt productivity,” Albuquerque said. “Our role is, how can we educate customers to mimic what we have been doing already.”
The rush by companies to allow for work at home is causing some problems.
While major software companies such as Zoom and Microsoft should be prepared to take on the onslaught of new customers, certain hardware is quickly becoming increasingly hard to come by.
Brad Mirza, executive vice president and partner for Secured Network Services Inc., an IT service firm with offices in Providence, said the laptops the company resells from major manufacturers are selling at lightning speed. In the interest of observing social distancing and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, the company is working to automate its setup process for laptops rather than having technicians offer in-person services, he said.
And though the recent demand for remote, work-friendly technology has created some short-term chaos for companies, the investment will continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic calms down, Mirza said.
“As this goes on, businesses are going to make new investments in technology solutions that will make it a lot easier for people to be mobile,” he said.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Lavin@PBN.com.
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