I’ve written a lot of articles about viruses – computer viruses that is, but this is the first one to discuss a real-life virus.   Everybody is talking about the outbreak of Coronavirus or Covid-19 and the impact it’s having on our daily lives.

I’m no medical expert, so I don’t have any advice to offer on the virus itself, but I can suggest some ways in which tech can help you during this difficult time.

Many people are being asked to self-quarantine, and business’ around the world are asking their employees to work from home to avoid infection or spreading the virus further.   So, as a business owner, or an employee, how can technology help you with this?   For years now I’ve been working from home – even working globally for US and UK based companies, so I’m going to discuss some different applications which could make remote working easier.

Firstly – remote access.  If you have a computer in the office that you use daily, did you know you can access this computer from home?   It’s almost like you’re sitting there in the office!   There are applications such as “Splashtop” or “TeamViewer” that you install on your office and home computer that securely connects the two together.   When you’re ready to work, you start the connection and straight away you can see your office computer screen at home.   It’s quite spooky for anyone in the office watching the mouse move around and windows open!    The faster the internet connection, the better, but it should still work with a basic connection.

You may need to connect your office computer to your home printer too – as if you print something out, it’s not much help if it appears in the office!   These applications will help you set this up too.

Now if it’s just the files on the office computer that you need access to, you might want to consider a file sharing app such as Dropbox.   Dropbox is designed to share and synchronise files between multiple computers, and it’s a great way of sharing files between teams.   If someone makes a change to a file, that change gets copied to every computer without you having to do anything.   It’s also a good backup, as the files are also synchronised with the Internet.   Even if you’re not working remotely, this is a good option!

Next is communications.  If you work in an office with other people, you’re used to face-to-face discussions and meetings.   Yes, you can pick up the phone and call them, but you might want to consider video calls.   Applications such as Skype (now owned and run by Microsoft) make this simple and are also free!   You’ll need a webcam and microphone, but most laptops, tablets and cell phones have these now.

What if you need to talk to more than one person at a time?  In the office, you’d arrange a meeting and get together.   There are services out there such as Ring Central and Zoom which offer online collaboration and meetings.   Everyone can join with a webcam and see everyone else, just like you would if you were sitting in a meeting.   You’re also able to share screens, so if you have a presentation or demo, you can easily share it with the group.

If your office needs are more complicated, sometimes you’ll need to set up what’s called a VPN or Virtual Private Network.    A VPN connects your home computer to the office network.  Essentially, it’s like you took your home computer and plugged it in at the office.   You can access everything as though you were at the office.   Printers, computers, servers are all accessible.   And it’s secure too – the connection between you and the remote location is encrypted so nobody outside of your business can see what’s going on.

It’s a tough time and everyone will have to adapt to get through it.   Hopefully some of the applications I’ve mentioned above will help make life a little easier.    As the Brit’s used to say – Keep Calm and Carry On!