With the recent developments associated with the COVID-19 virus, many companies are directing their employees to work from home for the next several weeks. As usual, most large companies (500+ employees) have developed this capability for their workforce to a greater or lesser extent. But for small businesses, this may be a bigger challenge.
Many small (50 or fewer employees) and medium (50 – 250 employees) sized businesses (SMBs) are scrambling to figure out how to shift the majority of their employees to a work from home model. This may involve relocating personal computers and peripheral devices, buying and/or distributing laptops, installing remote access applications or VPN clients, and/or forwarding office phone extensions to personal cell phones. But these steps are only part of the process for enabling a workforce to work remotely at full efficiency and productivity. Accessing company data and mission critical applications, sharing files, local printing and even access to company email may be difficult or impossible when normal business operations are rapidly shifted from a central business location architecture to a work from home paradigm.
The ability to rapidly shift business operations from one location to another (or to many locations like work from home) is predicated on having a Business Continuity Plan. Business Continuity Plans require careful planning, preparation and testing to ensure that a company can continue to operate at a high level of efficiency and productivity even if a critical operations center is compromised. But in order to make a Business Continuity Plan viable, the underlying IT infrastructure must be compatible with a rapid shift in the operational model.
In recent years, many business applications have shifted to a Cloud-based model. Companies no longer have to maintain application servers on premise or in co-location centers in order to run their business. While this is a welcome and needed development, the rest of the IT infrastructure is still physical in the form of personal computer workstations (PCs) and file servers. It is this physical infrastructure that creates the greatest vulnerability to a major disruptive event and the biggest impediment to business continuity. In order to overcome this obstacle, the natural step is to virtualize the workstation and file server environments in the same manner as the business applications.
Thin Client/Cloud Computing architecture solves this problem. It not only gives SMBs the ability to survive a business disrupting event, it offers the flexibility to locate employees wherever they are needed during normal business conditions. In a Thin Client/Cloud Computing architecture, all Desktops and File Servers are maintained in the Cloud. Users can access their desktops via an easily replaceable or relocatable Thin Client or they can connect from almost any computing device without specialized software. Setting up or replacing a Thin Client takes less than 10 minutes and users can immediately connect to their desktop environment without any additional disruptions.
Despite the advantages that a Thin Client/Cloud Computing solution provides, the total cost of ownership over a four year period is typically less than a traditional PC/File Server architecture (sometimes significantly less). A typical solution includes daily backups (all file and database servers and every user desktop) and the ability to completely restore most environments in less than 2 hours. When combined with the resilience and reliability of Amazon Web Services (AWS), a Thin Client/Cloud Computing solution offers SMBs the same level of performance and survivability that Fortune 500 companies have traditionally enjoyed but at a fraction of the cost.
SMBs need every advantage they can find in a competitive marketplace. A Thin Client/Cloud Computing solution gives SMBs the edge they need in all business environments, including the ability to quickly react and respond when misfortune strikes. In the current COVID-19 environment, that could mean the difference between making it to the other side or becoming an economic footnote.