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Working from Quarantine: Staying Connected

The first two weeks of March 2020 has taken me completely off guard and I imagine most people are in the same boat.   My personal life has adapted to make sure my loved ones are prepared for what the social distancing may bring, especially my young children.   During this time I also fielded numerous calls and emails from customers asking for suggestions on how to react to, and enable, a mobile workforce.

Unfortunately, most customers have not prepared their business continuity plan for an entirely remote workforce and mid-sized companies are struggling to adapt.    I am confident that the planning gap will be corrected going forward but the question is, what can organizations do TODAY?

I am thankful that most major technology manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and are offering temporary access to their products to get our country through the crisis.    To meet your immediate demand you have to be creative and use solutions that are virtual/software or cloud-based since we don’t have time to order or ship physical hardware.

Before moving on to the technical solutions below, you must first document what is critical for your business and what can be tackled as a secondary phase or lived without until normal operation resumes.

  1. What applications or services are business-critical? Can you prioritize these into critical, important, non-impactful?
    • Examples: Telephones, finance/payroll, manufacturing, physical security, email, CRM, student databases, website, e-commerce, etc
  2. Which of these applications are SaaS and which ones are hosted in a private data center?
  3. What staff is needed to keep these services operational?
  4. What tools do the staff need for internal and external communication?

These are some of the immediate solutions out there that can help your organization:


Your employees are no longer sitting at their desks.   How does this impact your call flows and is there a way to get the calls, even a subset, to your employees at home?

  1. Your system may already have softphone and/or remote phone capabilities. If it is a VoIP capable system there is a high probability you can give remote workers access to their phones.    Most organizations do not have procedures in place to distribute desk phones so my recommendation is to focus on softphone options.
    • Cisco CUCM:
      • If you are running a recent version of CUCM, you may already have Expressway configured. This will allow 7800/8800 phones to work remotely just like they are plugged into the network.    They can also run Cisco Jabber softphones on their laptops or mobile phones.
      • If you are running Cisco CUCM, but don’t have expressway you can still use Cisco Jabber softphones but it will require the user to VPN into the network first.
      • You can use Single-number reach to ring a user’s mobile or home phone when their desk phone rings.
  1. If you are running an older phone system you can utilize a cloud calling platform to enable remote calling and integrate it into your existing phone system.
Video / Collaboration

Your staff is used to working near each other and engaging in face-to-face conversations when needed.    Your organization can maintain a level of that efficiency by giving them video messaging platforms, and also collaboration rooms for team discussion and file-sharing.

  1. You can offer free WebEx to your users, which allows:
    • Video and/or video conferencing. This can be a combination of internal and external users to your company.
    • WebEx Teams for chat, team discussions, and file-sharing
    • https://www.webex.com/go-covid19.html
  2. Microsoft Teams which allows:
Remote Access / VPN

Most organizations have started moving infrastructure to the public cloud (AWS/Azure or SaaS) but there are usually still components on-prem that your users need access to.    Current VPN infrastructure is often sized for a small subset of users and not capable of supporting the new demand.    Here are some potential options to quickly increase your capacity:

  1. Virtual firewalls for end-user VPN termination:

One of my concerns with how companies adapt to this over-night remote workforce is that it will be done without the cyber-security in mind.     Here is a link to some of the Cisco cloud-based security tools which can be spun up very quickly:

  1. Cisco:
  2. Palo Alto:

The good news is that manufacturers are giving you the tools to get through the next few weeks.    The complexity is that a single vendor can usually not fulfill all of your needs and you will need to incorporate a few products to meet your outcome.

The ComSource team, and specifically myself, are available to review your needs and help formulate a path forward.   ComSource has worked with many manufacturers over the years and can help you decide which pieces will fit your puzzle and also help you sign up for offers provided.       

Please don’t hesitate to reach out, even if you have not worked with us in the past.    This is unchartered territory for us all and we will do our part to help each others in a socially responsible way.   You are not alone in this fight.

Mike Hurley, CCIE, CISSP
Account Executive