Like everyone else, I’ve been following COVID-19/Coronavirus issues. My focus is more on the IT impact of the disease and its status as a pandemic.
Let’s start by saying it isn’t the end of the world. Yes, it’s serious. Yes, it will be disruptive. Yes, those impacted by the worst aspects of the disease will leave a hole. But when it is over, and the tide has swept by, the vast majority of people will still be here, still trying to do what they need to do.
That includes ITOps/DevOps maintaining whatever you put in during the rush to work remotely. Some organizations will be happy to throw something up and then rip it back down, but most will not. Once they’ve worked out how to work remotely, they’ll want to keep that as an option. Some to offer more work/life balance to employees, others to have a backup plan in case of emergency. Ask any company in Katrina’s path, remote work plans born in emergencies tend to hang around.
It is the nature of DevOps to be nimble and reactive, planning on improving things as time goes on. That’s a good feature of both DevOps and modern IT teams. But some things are less nimble than others, and the rush to remote work is going to show that in a hard way.
The VPN chosen or expanded to enable remote workers is not likely to be swapped out easily or quickly. While there is a sense of urgency—if you follow /r/sysadmin or to a lesser extent, /r/DevOps on Reddit, you know that urgency may even be too gentle a word. Some management teams seem to be in panic mode—you are going to have to live with some of these choices for a while, don’t make them knee-jerk.
Normally, an MSP is your friend when moving like this, offering expertise and knowledge your organization doesn’t have internally, and shortening both deployment and the learning curve. But consensus is that MSPs, laptop manufacturers and VPN vendors are going to be booked solid for the near term.
So, choose software when you can. Not because software is better (truly for some functions it is worse), but because it is generally easier to replace. A software VPN can be expensive, but you’re not buying hardware that is a sunk cost. Consider short-term solutions such as Amazon Workspaces or possibly Chrome Remote Desktop, old standbys like VNC or RDP (likely with VPN in both cases), file sharing with things such as Sharepoint or OneDrive. Later on, you can look at a Cloud NAS such as Nasuni, or a more solid remote access plan.
Yes, all the suggestions above have things you need to worry about. No, not everything will be within your control. However, these things are easier to rectify on iteration than “We bought big solution X, and it doesn’t do Y, so we need to replace it.” Start with short-term solutions and improve them as you go–this is truly the DevOps way, but it is easy to lose as you’re looking for high-volume, perfect and urgent.
IT workloads (particularly operations workloads) are going to increase for any organization that wasn’t already set up for broad remote work. There is no way around this fact. As someone suggested online, “Kiss your family, tell them you’ll see them in a couple months and get to it.”
You’ve got this. The internet is loaded with information to help, places such as Spiceworks and Reddit have people willing to offer advice all day. Smaller MSPs are likely happy to talk with you as they attempt to grow their business. Determine what you need, how fast you need it and implement the best solution you can in the time available, aiming to improve it on the next iteration. And keep the wheels of business running.
It’s a flu variant, not the black plague. Businesses that deal with this well will come out well. Right now, “Deal with it well” includes a lot of IT work: from continuity planning, to fast DevOps iterations, to getting people at home productive and supporting them through this.