Coronavirus shows importance of IT

Kim Iversen, director, NEW IT Alliance

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 :: Feature
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Coronavirus. It has upended our world and changed our daily routines completely. Instead of commuting to work, we’re homeschooling our kids while juggling Zoom meetings and figuring out which restaurants deliver. The impact to IT has also been profound — and has made IT organizations more vital and important than ever. As global pandemics become more common, organizations need to be thinking about how to keep the lights on while reducing the spread of disease, and the IT department plays a critical role in ensuring business continuity.

Business continuity and emergency preparedness should cover a broad range of risks, including fires, volcanoes, cyberattacks and more — and yes, even viral outbreaks. Organizations around Northeast Wisconsin are finding the investments they have made in IT infrastructure over the years are paying off while also discovering glitches in their plans.

Some local organizations have taken the changes in stride. Plexus Corp. in Neenah, for example, planned to test its IT capacity for at-home work on March 24 — however, that turned out to be the day Gov. Tony Evers announced the Safer at Home order, so the test became reality. Fortunately, the company saw very few problems as everyone shifted to work from home.

Similarly, the Oshkosh Area School District had been working strategically over the past several years to provide Chromebooks to all students. Each student is issued a Chromebook during the first week of class as part of its 1:1 policy. With only 5 percent of the student body unable to access the internet from home, Oshkosh schools decided the online model would work. Other districts, like Sturgeon Bay, find it much more challenging to leverage an online class model. Due to the lack of broadband or even cellular access in much of the area, roughly 50 percent of its student body cannot access the internet at home. As a result, its 1:1 policy involves providing Chromebooks for students to use while on school grounds but not at home.

As companies and organizations dust off emergency continuity plans, IT will naturally play an integral role. The IT systems need to be protected and up to the task. Strategic investments in resilient IT infrastructure may be the difference between a slowdown in business or going out of business.