This week, we crossed the halfway point of the three-week lockdown in India. As we have embraced the new world of remote work and focused on keeping our families safe, lines between work and working from home have blurred like never before. At Microsoft, we moved thousands of employees to remote work overnight. At the same time, helping our customers and partners cope with the impact of COVID-19 outbreak and keeping their businesses running are top priorities for us.
Enabling organizations of different sizes across sectors ease into the new reality, rapidly
We understand the difficulties that organizations of different sizes and complexities are facing, as they grapple with the situation. This includes transitioning employees to work from home in the initial days. To support the move, we made Microsoft Teams available free of cost for everyone in early March, including organizations that don’t have Office 365. Leading Indian companies, such as Mahindra & Mahindra, HCL and Zee Group have placed their trust in Teams. They are now using it for daily calls, meetings and virtual collaboration. We are also working with them to integrate their internal apps to Teams, to make administrative processes absolutely seamless. With its native, built-in security and management capabilities of Office 365, Teams has also helped deliver the advanced security and compliance capabilities our customers need.
Businesses also need access to their applications to stay operational. Traditionally, sectors such as ITeS and manufacturing have not equipped their employees to access work-related content or systems remotely. In the current environment, companies offering offshore services, for example, are struggling to deliver contracts and projects within agreed deadlines. Our team has worked round the clock to help ITeS giants deploy Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). This has allowed massive workforces to access internal apps, develop and even publish solutions through a desktop hosted on Azure. And they are doing so using different browsers from home PCs, laptops and personal mobile devices, in an absolutely secure manner. Moving to Azure WVD also did away with the need to scramble for new devices – a relief at a time when supply chains are broken and retailers are shut.
We are also focusing on helping pharmaceutical companies and their partners stay productive and keep medicines and critical supplies available. Intas Pharmaceuticals, a leading Ahmedabad-based drug manufacturer, uses Office 365, our collaboration platform, and was helped in rapid and successful adoption by our team. Intas was also able to rapidly deploy WVD, which has allowed its critical workforce to access internal content from home using different browsers from PCs, laptops, and personal mobile devices in an absolutely secure manner and support the company’s operations. To simplify deployment further, Nerdio, a Microsoft partner, offers the Manager for WVD (NMW) solution, which allows IT professionals and System Integrators (SIs) to deploy, manage, and auto-scale large WVD desktop environments in enterprises with ease.
New-age companies have been equally affected by the outbreak and they are putting the cloud to work for them, as the world adjusts to a new normal. One such organization is Icertis, which moved its entire workforce from a complete work from office scenario to work from home. Icertis moved on-premise systems to Azure within a few hours, without additional hardware investment. Udaan, a born-on-Azure startup, has used multiple solutions to keep supply chains and its online B2B marketplace operational. Udaan has found the elasticity and agility of Azure particularly useful, as they balance fluctuating geographical demands, something largely dependent on local market situations and varying regulations across states.
But it isn’t about productivity alone. With Teams, we are helping customers stay secure and compliant. Enabling employees to work from home is just one aspect. Ensuring enterprise-grade security is even more important. An unprecedented number of people working from home using multiple devices and apps also means an increased cybersecurity risk. New challenges could include expanding the deployment to additional devices, adjusting security policies to enable productivity from home, enabling BYOD, supporting broader SaaS application usage, securing sensitive data, and more. At Microsoft, we put trust and security at the core of our technology – it is not bolted on. We are focused on ensuring that our customers and partners are working as securely as possible. We are offering regular guidance and recommendations so that they can stay protected and unlock additional tools that are available for them.
For example, connecting all applications and cloud resources to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) helps ensure that employees have secure, seamless access to the tools and resources they need, from wherever they are. At the same time, it protects these resources from unauthorized access. The single best thing companies can do to improve security for remote working is to turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA). In the long run, security admins can also consider programs to find and label the most critical data, like Azure Information Protection, so that they can track and audit usage when employees work from home. It is also important to continuously track how remote working is affecting compliance and risk surface, and Microsoft Secure Score helps do exactly that. Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), on the other hand, can help identify attackers masquerading as employees working from home. For more information, you could also read Working remotely, stay secure – guidance for CISOs.
As we enter week three of the lockdown, it is clear that a resolution to the crisis will take time. However, one belief that underlines our values at Microsoft is that we are all in this together. The ‘we’ includes our entire ecosystem and the communities we operate in. Working together, our goal will be to keep our customers’ businesses running smoothly and emerge stronger from this.