As COVID-19 Spreads, MSPs Equip Customers With Work-From-Home Solutions

‘I am using common sense conversations with employees about social distancing and taking frequent advantage of our hand sanitizers that are mounted in the office,’ says Richard Delaney, chief technology officer at Delaney Computer Services in New York City.

MSP customers are demanding business continuity plans to make sure that employees can work from home as seamlessly as they do at the office, but inside their own shops solution providers are taking a wait and see approach in terms of what to do next.

“The email before I opened this one was from a client creating a business continuity plan to ensure that their workers could work from home,” said Richard Delaney, chief technology officer at Delaney Computer Services in New York City and northern New Jersey. “For us it’s easy as all of our Managed IT Services clients have the ability to work from home with our standard service configurations.”

New York state has been on the front lines of the spread of the illness with 173 cases as of Tuesday, ranking it among the top three states nationwide.

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Zac Paulson, CEO of TrueIT in West Fargo, N.D. -- one of the few U.S. states with zero cases -- said the novel coronavirus has not factored into his business decisions yet, though he is watching the market.

“Overall, it has been a non-issue so far, but I anticipate it will be a bigger problem if it impacts our customers financially, or impacts supply chain for our hardware business,” he said.

The stock market saw its biggest one day point loss ever on Monday as the Dow plummeted 2,300 points on fears of the spread of the virus, coupled with a supply war on crude oil prices. The markets halted selling for 15 minutes, just moments into the trading day when the S&P 500 tumbled more than 7-percent.

But those same forces are not at play in the trenches where MSPs and their workers are focused on keeping their customers’ networks up and running.

“I am using common sense conversations with employees about social distancing and taking frequent advantage of our hand sanitizers that are mounted in the office,” Delaney said. “I don’t see it impacting our business and this will blow over very quickly as the hype from the media dies down. Most of our clients are small businesses and will work from home if the issue persists.”

Todd Gates, founder and CEO of HCS Technical Services, San Marcos, Texas, said HCS does not want to fan the coronavirus fears, but has actively prepared work-from-home solutions for its MSP customers.

“I don’t want to fuel the Covid 19 fire, but we are softly talking about the deployment of a full telecommuter package,” said Gates, whose state has 24 cases of Coronavirus thus far. “The message to our customers is you can operate effectively without your office. An at home workplace is perfectly viable through technology. You can easily maintain a tech business without a physical location.”

Among the potential products for work at home customers is Windows Virtual Desktop – the Azure cloud workspace platform- and the GreenLink Networks VoIP platform, said Gates.

HCS is also reaching out to vendor partners to see if the company can “temporarily” expand licenses for work at home if the Coronavirus becomes more widespread.

Keith Nelson, vice president of technology for Vistem Solutions Inc., an Irvine, Calif. solution provider, said the coronavirus is an opportunity for companies to look at “their cloud strategy and how they can deliver a complete replicated work environment” in the cloud. California is second only to Washington in terms of the number of recorded cases of coronavirus, with 167, including two deaths.

Vistem Solutions has been leveraging Intermedia’s hosted VoIP systems for customers, said Nelson.

“With hosted VoIP you can make it look like you are in your office with your cell phone,” he said. “The great thing about Intermedia is they have everything: virtual phone systems, hosted Exchange, and secure file share. Companies normally don’t want a VPN back to the corporate network because of security concerns. With Intermedia they have their email, phone and files for work at home.”

In the Sunshine State which has recorded two deaths as of Tuesday, Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based LAN Infotech, said that "obviously being in South Florida we're always preparing our disaster recovery plans. But I think that now our customers are actually asking more questions about remote access."

"Our clients have asked some questions as part of their business continuity plan," Goldstein said. "I think it's another reason that everybody needs to have that business continuity plan--whether it's for something as terrible as what we're seeing with coronavirus, or if it's weather-related."

Paulson said while they have heard from a few customer, and vendors, he plans to keep his workers up to date on the latest guidelines from experts.

“We plan on sending out an email similar to CDC’s recommendations to our employees, but that’s about all at this point,” Paulson said.