When undertaking disaster recovery tests, I would sometimes shock clients by suggesting that we would like to respond to a real-life disaster in order to really demonstrate our team’s ability to quickly and efficiently overcome this type of situation. In reality, I didn’t expect that such an opportunity would arise and when the global pandemic struck, it wasn’t quite what I had expected…
It is a truism to say that Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. It is something that none of us could have predicted and many are still trying to adapt and get to grips with reality. Rather than just dealing with one organisation that needed IT support, we had many organisations requiring help with capacity and availability issues, all with varying degrees of severity, all at the same time.
Central had a business continuity plan that would accommodate remote working and enable the team to continue operations. Before the official government lockdown, we had two technical teams that had spent the previous weeks taking it in turns to work from home; this allowed us to see if any technical issues might cause problems.
However, most issues in the testing period were not technology-related, but rather adjusting to family life and working from home. This included learning how to prevent our young children from disturbing us during the day, as well as ensuring that we took breaks in order to avoid getting too jaded with our home-working routines.
When the lockdown hit the UK, the housing providers that Central supports were in many different states of preparedness. Some were 100 per cent prepared and immediately ready for home working, others were not. We noticed that many customers had the capacity for only a fixed number of remote users working from home at once.
The days that immediately followed the lockdown were dominated by capacity issues. We had to increase VPN and two-factor authentication licences, enhance our Citrix and Horizon server farms and flex up internet bandwidth.
In all my years working at Central, I’ve never experienced such a frenetic few days. However, it was great to see our team, customers and suppliers all pulling together and being understanding of one another. Some of the main IT suppliers were temporarily giving away licensing and allowing previously disallowed configurations to run in production. Many engineers were working evenings and weekends – all hours possible to address capacity issues. The most important thing was that everyone was able to work through these unprecedented circumstances.
Dealing with a disaster of this kind wasn’t what I had expected. It has been tough and I’m very much looking forward to returning to ‘normal work’. However, I am proud of our response and also really pleased at the ‘can do’ positivity from everyone involved to get through this crisis together and see ourselves out at the other side – stronger and more prepared. Definitely Britain at its best!
John Blackburn is the operations director at Central Network and Technologies.