COVID-19 Question of the Day 1 - How are you handling equipping home offices?

By ILTA Membership posted 12 days ago

  
Dear ILTAns!
Last week, we introduced an initiative called the COVID-19 Question of the Day (QoD). These questions were developed based on content covered in our COVID-19 Global Roundtable and harvested from our eGroups. To provide you with quick access to all of the answers received on our QoD postings, we have aggregated the answers to each question into a blog post. We will also post summary documents in the Resource Library for the Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity and Open Public Forum Communities of Interest. Also, be on the lookout for a virtual roundtable coming soon where we explore each of the QoDs in more detail!


Summary
 

  • Most respondents did not have many users without steady Internet connections. Most firms are not dealing with many users who do not have any (or robust) Internet connections.  For the minority who face either of those challenges, the majority of firms are either using hotspots (personal or firm-provided) or not permitting those individuals work from home. 

  • A majority of respondent firms have issued some equipment to their users.  It seems that a majority of firms have issued (or at least offered) some equipment to their users.  Computers and monitors were the most common equipment mentioned. 

  • If respondent firms allow personal devices to be used, the users must go through a controlled environment for the most part.  Whether access from personal devices is allowed seems to be a bit of a mixed bag.  It is clear, though, that most firms who allow users to access their resources from a personal device do so through a very controlled environment (Citrix, RDP to desktop, or VPN, for example). 

  • Respondent firms who are providing equipment will be asking for a majority of it back when attorneys and staff return to the office. There are some minor pieces of equipment that do not need to be returned in some cases. 
In our Global Roundtable, our colleagues in Europe tended to report that employees will keep equipment. 
 

  • Most respondent firms had little trouble procuring equipment because they acted early; supply is currently low according to the responses. With the firms that replied, most of them were able to procure the extra equipment (if needed) with minimal hassle.  It seems the supply is currently low, though, so that might not be the case for those ordering now. 
Several members indicated that they had a surplus of older equipment on hand due to recent equipment refreshes. 


How are you handling providing connectivity for Work from Home (WFH) for people who don't have any or robust Internet connections?
 

  • For those that don't have connectivity, we are recommending they add hotspot service to their mobile phone plan. We have only had less than 5 without connectivity. 

  • We are dealing with those on a case-by-case basis. 

  • For those people we have issued a firm Aircard or MiFi device.  We had the carrier increase the package plan for the devices to ensure we don't incur overage charges. 

  • Our survey only found two people who did not have WiFi and we're providing them with a mobile hotspot.    Since we're using RDP the bandwidth requirements are very low. 
 
  • No working from home if they don't have internet. 
     
  • For people who do not have an Internet connection or a very slow Internet connection, we provided cellular Hot Spots for them to take home. 

  • That issue hasn't come up here. 
 
  • We have only had a couple of people with this issue and our firm’s MiFi units with unlimited data plans have addressed it. 
 
  • We have sent out a couple of hotspots; some elected to use their personal hotspots. 
 
  • Has not been an issue. 
 
  • These users call help desk and receive tech tips on how to improve network connection quality. The firm does not pay for home internet. 
 
  • Staff: Work from home is not an option unless they have at least 10MBps up. Case by case basis we consider hotpots. We have staff in very rural settings so a blanket policy is not an option. 
 
  • We see several people working with Verizon, AT&T, etc. on either bumping up the tethering capabilities on people's cell phones or sending out MiFi devices to those individuals that do not have good internet available. In many cases though, the "issue" is less about the internet service and more than likely the WiFi component of their home internet. To ensure the best possible connection, one might consider a WiFi extender device from their provider like Comcast or Fios (generic hardware solutions also available). For people who have sent home Firm-owned desktops to people's homes, while a USB WiFi adapter is one way to connect, Ethernet-over-Power (EoP) powerline adapters can create a wired connection that will likely perform a little better if you have a physical NIC in the machine. Lastly, most provider solutions allow you to prioritize devices, so with a little guidance from IT the home workers can ensure their work traffic gets prioritized over the Frozen 2 streaming in the other room. In the end, you want to maximize the internet bandwidth you are paying for - I personally just hardwired all of my Google WiFi routers to ensure that I was getting the full bandwidth available from all 3 devices and prioritized my Firm laptop as the most important device on the network. 

  • We have not run into this as an issue.

  • For users without Internet connections we are providing MiFi Hotspots. 
Are you providing office equipment? If so, what? 

  • Our attorneys, admin managers, and most paralegals have firm laptops with Microsoft Direct Access.  So that was easy.  Staff generally have desktops.  A few weeks ago, we sent out a survey to staff asking if they have a computer in their home which they could use and if they have wifi.   We purchased very low-end ACER laptops which for people without a computer in their home and set up a special Microsoft RD Gateway so they could RDP into their desktops. 
 
  • Multiple parts here. For those with laptops, we are issuing a WFH kit that contains a monitor, HDMI cable, mouse and keyboard. For those without laptops, we are issuing a "Citrix only" device (non-domain laptop or Chromebook) and the WFH kit. 
 
  • To expedite the process and keep costs under control, we decided to use existing equipment across the board.  Our desktop computers are Lenovo mini's with an all-in-one monitor, so the CPU slips into a slot on the back of the 24" monitor. The desktops have WIFI built-in, we just had to attach the antennas.  So we added our SSL VPN software to all desktop computers and created an instruction sheet for users to get connected and setup at home.  That way each person has everything they need to do their job.  Attorneys, paralegals, IT and Management team all have laptops with VPN access, so no need to do anything there. 
 
  • All attorneys and managers have laptops and many already have monitors, docking station, and keyboard, etc. at home. 
 
  • We quickly deployed our Cisco VPN to all desktops, and staff were instructed to take home their mini-desktop computer, monitor(s), etc.  It's working very well. 
 
  • We've given people the option to take home a monitor. 
 
  • No, with very few exceptions. A few have been given a loaner laptop or monitor. 
 
  • Yes, we have provided a wide range of equipment sets to people. Most of our attorneys have laptops, so we didn't need to provide a computer. However, most of the attorneys did not have second monitors at home. We provided monitors to the attorneys who needed them. Some of our attorneys wanted to take home their entire setup (docking station, monitor(s), keyboards, and mice), which we allowed. For our non-attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and other staff, we provided laptops, monitors, keyboards, and mice if they needed them. 

  • We had already started replacing laptops for the year so we're able to use these. 
 
  • Yes, some attorneys already had firm laptops; we ordered some for those who did not. We also gave monitors to those who wanted dual screens at home.  Non-attorneys could use home equipment if they had Windows 10; if they did not have equipment, we provided them with mini-desktops, keyboards and mice. 
 
  • Attorneys and senior admin have tablets which connect via DirectAccess so no issue there.  Due to the length of expected WFH time, we have offered and provided a full docking station, two monitors, keyboard, mouse, speakers.  For specific secretarial staff, and specific accounting staff, we are taking their desktop computers (Dell 7040) bricks, adding them to the DirectAccess pool, and encrypting them with BitLocker (we never expected they would leave the building).  They too get a full setup with two monitors, mouse, keyboard, speakers. The specific secretarial staff will also get a printer/scanner.  The remaining secretarial staff we do not expect to bneeded full time so they will connect via Citrix XenDesktop (VDI). 
 
  • Firm offers discounted home office package for purchase. It replicates office set up (dual monitors and docking station). All attorneys and support staff use laptops and can take those home. 
 
  • We aren't providing equipment. 
 
  • We accelerated the 2020 life-cycle procurement plan which will provide enough devices to support our need with minimal additional procurement not in the budget. Desktop users are bringing home the new device upon which we are configure using AAD and allow only the resources they need to connect to our domain securely and run communication apps from their device. 
 
  • All of our attorneys, paralegals, exempt staff and some non-exempt who are mobile like marketing or those who were already on our emergency response team all had laptops already which they brought home. We had to provide roughly 50-60 laptops to other staff who didn't have computers at home.  We also provided about 10 small MFPs to essential positions like proofers or billers in accounting. 
 
  • Many attorneys have laptops that are issued to them, many do not as they have preferred to use a desktop computer and either take a loaner laptop or simply use their home computer. For anyone that we needed to have work remotely that typically does not and if they needed equipment, we loaned laptops (until we depleted our loaner pool) and then deployed the Computing Raspberry Pi and displays to everyone else.  We told anyone that needed to work remotely and needed a display or a second display to take the display from their desk. We have also provided MRA phones to a number of attorneys and professional staff. 

  • Most of our employees have their own desktop machines,; although, we supply one to a worker who had only a laptop.at home. We've provided a number of peripherals to make sure everyone is able to work as efficiently as if they were in the office - keyboards and external mouses, and even a couple desk chairs.

  • We have taken the same step with regards to employees without home PCs.  The Chromebooks do work well and we have worked out dual monitor capability on them using a portable monitor with the Chromebook.  As a shoot from the hip solution they work pretty well.
  • Yes, we are providing office equipment if necessary.  Laptops if we have them available and if not, repurposed desktop computers from our upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. We did a clean install of the Windows 10 upgrade from Microsoft, which surprisingly still works from their download site. We install antivirus and the Citrix Workspace App to connect remotely. Windows 10 activates using the embedded digital license and we cover the AV license.  We throw in an inexpensive USB Wi-Fi adapter for connectivity at home.   
Is personal equipment OK to use?  Why or why not? 

  • Only to access O365 or Citrix. No exceptions. 
 
  • The gateway limits who can connect (only people we identified who would be RDP'ing into their desktops) and what they can connect to (only their desktop computers). 
 
  • Yes, but they must use Citrix. 
 
  • No, we do not allow personal devices to be used.   We have no control over who uses those devices and what is installed on them.  Increase risk for the firm. 
 
  • Yes - those people will only be RDP'ing into their desktop, so we determined the risk to be low.   They are working within their secure firm desktop. 
 
  • Absolutely, yes.  Almost everyone has a computer at home anyway.  We did a survey and very few did not and those were not people likely to work from home, so we were lucky. 
 
  • Yes, we are permitting the use of personal computing equipment. The remote access to internal resources is via Outlook, iManage, or Citrix. All of the access points are virtually air gapped, so we don't face the same potential issues as if we were using VPNs. I know it is not the safest or best approach for allowing remote access, but given the timeframe, we didn't have another choice for providing remote access for all our people. 
 
  • People can use their personal equipment to log in via Citrix. 
 
  • We have allowed this for Citrix access only. 
 
  • Yes, if it met security standards. 
 
  • Only for connection via VDI where no data is transported to/from the personal equipment. 
 
  • Yes. Personal monitors, printers are ok to use. 
 
  • Personal equipment is ok 
 
  • No for two reasons. 1) We are not willing to troubleshoot BYOD not meeting our minimum standards for performance and security. 2) Because the firm has not migrated yet to a case management platform that enables infosec via a remote setting to our standard (Vendors do not call me, we have screen 38 software platforms and made our selection and have a GoLive Date). 
 
  • If they have a computer at home, they will use that to access Citrix. 
 
  • We rely heavily on Citrix / VDI. 
 
  • This seems like a loaded question with several "as long as" statements to follow. The key tenant is that the Firm cannot trust a home device as-is. If you have a physical layer of isolation, like using Citrix or VMware virtual sessions/desktops, then that machine is safe. If you have the ability to extend Intune or AirWatch (or whatever is in use for device management) and enroll these home machines (at the request of the person), then you can run attestation and supply security to "trust" it a little more and allow a little more accessibility. We have even had some people inquire about deploying a Firm image to home machines which can be done with tools like Microsoft AutoPilot. Ensuring an appropriate level of trust and basing access on that level of trust is paramount. Do not allow a home machine to connect to the network via a VPN if you cannot establish some level of trust - that will typically end in a security incident.  

  • Yes. We've been relying on Citrix for years, so no (major) security concerns from personal equipment usage.

  • Yes personal equipment is allowed and encouraged if they have it.   
     
  • We purchased desktop scanners for a handful of people due to high volume scanning not being conducive to using an app on a mobile device.  

  • Scanning apps for mobile devices (lower volume scanning jobs) include:  Scanner Pro, Genius Scan, and Office Lens. 
If you are providing firm equipment, will you be asking for it back? 

  • Laptops and Monitors, yes. Don't really want the cable, mouse or keyboard back. 
 
  • Laptop users can take their external keyboard, mice & monitor from their desk if they choose. Desktop users take their Monitor, keyboard, mouse and dictation pedal. 
 
  • All equipment remains firm property and have to be returned to the office. 
 
  • Probably - the loaned laptops were very cheap, but it would be good to have them on hand for future scenarios. 
 
  • Yes, we will ask for the firm equipment back. (Answer replicated six times.) 
 
  • Fortunately, most of our attorneys have firm provided laptops that they access iManage cloud, Office 365 as well as a few other cloud-based apps. We had spare loaner and training laptops that we provided to paralegals, legal assistants and essential admin staff. 
 
  • It's a loan, the expectation is that it's firm equipment to be used during this crisis and we want it back when we're back to normal operations. 
 
  • Yes.  Attorneys will be able to purchase it at 50% of cost. 
 
  • Yes. It will go into our life-cycle pool. 
 
  • Yes, we will ask for the equipment to be returned (and we will sanitize it) 

  • Absolutely. I'm sure one of my coworkers will insist on sanitizing it. [Not to be a fatalist, but it looks like we've missed the window for containment, which means even after we've flattened the curve, everyone is going to get this eventually, so I'm not worried about the loaner equipment that's being returned 3 months from now.]

  • Yes, we will ask for the return of the firm equipment.    

Have you encountered any issues procuring equipment? 

  • No, I saw this coming early and had equipment moving three weeks ago. For those that don't use someone like CDW, this is good reason to build and maintain that partner relationship. Also, important to note. We have three offices deemed in the hurricane belt, so are prepared for these types of event. If you have not heard of Agility, owned now by Preparis, check them out. We pay a small monthly fee to have a doublewide mobility trailer provided in 48 hours. We didn't engage that service but did engage the equipment portion of the agreement. They had 40 imaged laptops to me in 36 hours. These are free for 60 days. 
 
  • We had already started preparing for a shortage of equipment and had a large enough supply to provide our entire workforce with a device. 
 
  • We checked into some options and lead times had significantly increased on getting anything. 
 
  • Lead times for our standard monitors requested by some attorneys is a little longer, so we've selected similar but different monitors which we can get faster. 
 
  • Yes - we ordered 30 laptops from our reseller with overnight shipping, but they still shipped via ground. As a result, we were scrambling to get them provisioned. Worst part was they all needed Windows updates.  We also went to local retailers and grabbed whatever we could.   
 
  • No new equipment ordered for this. 
 
  • We haven't had to procure more equipment. We had enough spare laptops and monitors to accommodate the people who didn't have equipment at home. 
 
  • Apparently, we had some challenges getting additional laptops. Fortunately, we ordered a few early on in anticipation that the situation would escalate. 
 
  • Headsets have been delayed in shipping but really haven't needed much. 
 
  • No.  We use CDW and were able to purchase 20+ laptops that were delivered the next day. 
 
  • None, really.  Monitors have been delayed, but not for a lengthy time. 
 
  • No. 
 
  • I believe we briefly looked at the idea of Chromebooks for VDI access, but it was going to be on backorder for too long. 
 
  • No. We have dedicated account managers with our vendors and I have been able to get our standard laptops (Surface Book 2) and Dell equipment delivered on site in less than a week. We do procurement through a consultant who charges us his invoice costs. It was a requirement of the consultant to standardize equipment. Slowest part was more VPN licenses, lack of agility which is why we are transitioning away from our current appliance brand this year. (Vendors do not call me, we have made our selection and have a GoLive Date). 
 
  • My vendor has been awesome, but I have had a long-standing relationship with him. He has found all the necessary equipment that I have needed for all of my offices and processed hundreds of orders. 
 
  • We receive frequent updates from our procurement team and hardware is fairly scarce. As China factories come back online, some of this may change, but laptops and thin client devices can be difficult to find. Having a deployment process that makes driver reconciliation easier, such as AutoPilot, allows you to basically use any machine and bring it online as a Firm device (domain-joined) quickly. Flexibility is pretty important right now, especially within IT processes. 

  • Haven't had any procurement issues.  When laptops are all spoken for, we have plenty of older repurposed desktops we will resort to using. 
 
Please feel free to answer the above or provide any other insights you may have. 

  • I would like to note that we are not opening ports or punching holes, keeping to our security commitment for our clients. We did block more sites, like social media and web-based email, but left O365 enabled. Out stance is if they need Facebook or have the sudden need to tweet, use their mobile phone. 

  • We helped everyone shutdown, disconnect and load up.  they were responsible for getting setup at home. A few needed phone support to walk them through a few things, but most managed with the instructions we provided. Critical support staff is currently still coming to the office each day until we no longer can. We've had to make network config changes to allow remote access or everyone, but not much else had to be done. Users either forwarded their office phone to their cell or directly to voicemail with a message for callers. All voicemail goes to email, so attorneys can remain in contact with their clients. 

  • We have two primary objectives; 1. Keep everyone safe and do our best to abide by the local & state requirements.  2. Keep the timekeepers billing as much as possible from wherever they are. By doing so, we can keep everyone employed and receiving a paycheck. 
 
  • We purchased LogMeIn Central for the WFH people who never had access and never used Citrix. Attorneys and others who used Citrix can still use it but we also offered them LogMeIn. The thought was we didn't have time to train everyone on how Citrix is different since it's a shared desktop that doesn't have every program and settings that the desktop PC does. We didn't think our users could grasp that while they are freaking out about having to work from home and, so far, that has proven to be spot-on. The process to install our security certs on Mac machines to allow them to connect to Citrix alone would have seriously overwhelmed our non-technical user base. 
 
  • The key lesson that we learned on Monday was that our VDI environment was built having only contemplated a regional outage or DR scenario. We had not sized the environment for a 400+ workforce working remotely. The team spent many hours Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday moving servers from our co-lo in Arizona to our co-lo in New Jersey and re-tuned the environment to handle the load. 

  • I know a lot of people have plans for loaner laptops, etc. But I think its important to keep in mind we're probably talking months of telework - and possibly a shifted paradigm following this particular pandemic that will see more workers working remotely more often. So besides just making sure they have some level of ability to do work, we need to focus on enabling workers to have the same level ability as they would in the office. This means not relying on a touchpad mouse and a 14" laptop screen as one of the two monitors.

  • Our attorneys all have laptops and will use Citrix. We surveyed our staff to see what their home technology looked like. Many without home computers. We procured around 175 Chromebooks and will finish distributing them on Monday. Google Chrome has a Citrix Workspace plugin which works beautifully. We can provide remote support through the Remote Desktop extension.

  • Regarding “snail mail”, we have a secondary office that will handle mail flow and service center operations if needed.

Related comments from COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable on March 26, 2020

  • Most of our users are issued firm laptops. Some staff are using home computers
  • Had equipment and bought some additional equipment
  • We had a % of laptops, shipped home desktops and people use personal computers.
  • In many circumstances, we are providing a special WFH stipend for things like monitors or Chromebooks (for Citrix use).
  • All of the above. purchased new, loaner pool, existing laptops. we had a significant mix.
  • We have been 100% laptop based (including support staff) since the firm started.
  • Some used home equipment and we shipped out what people didn't have available.
  • Attorneys already had firm laptops. Staff are either using their own personal home computer or a firm purchased "burner" laptop to RDP into their desktop
  • we're using everything we can get hands on
  • Our staff already had Surface Pro devices (+ O365, SfB, MFA for BYOD, etc.) as we expect them to work flexibly. We stocked with spares only
  • People who had laptops already took them home. There is a procedure to appeal for additional equipment. I wish I had my monitors from the office!
  • Firm owned, Personal, Purchased New, Re-purposed retired equipment
  • Had some equipment, bought additional, some using home computers if they met security guidelines
  • We bought additional laptops/had inventory/personal computers to a vdi.
  • Most attorneys had firm laptops; the rest are a combination of loaner laptops and home computers
  • We deployed laptops to our entire staff, no longer have any desktops in our environment which made this very easy to transition
  • Firm had equipment on hand and some are using their own computers and equipment
  • Laptops to all staff and attorneys
  • All LPs already have MS Surface devices. Used OLD PCs we had on hand to give out to some Assistants who did not have one.
  • All except renting.
  • We had very little stock, had to buy laptops for secretaries and other admin staff - but not all, only half, "business critical" staff.
  • State gov. bought extra laptops, there was a shortage and those who had newer computer used personal desktops or laptops. I had to use my own desktop recently bought.
  • We had a combination of existing equipment, purchased, and people used their own home equipment.
  • Combo as well - fee earners had firm equipment already. Non-exempt "essentials" like assistants, billing, etc. are going through personal devices when able through a citrix porta/remote desktop config.
  • We pushed vpn to desktop and they took it with them
  • 70% of our workforce was already equipped with laptops. We augmented with other equipment on hand + Citrix from home computers.  But for the 30%, it was surprising how many staff members either didn't have a home computer, had something ancient, and in some cases - didn't have home Internet service at all.
  • We’ve found some didn't have home internet service
  • Combination of computers we had on hand and home computers
  • I am in a court. We purchased extra laptops, but they haven't arrived   IT is allowing those that still need court-issued computers to bring their desktops/,monitors home in the meantime, and for some, are setting up remote access via their home computers.
  • We did a MS Forms poll to determine lay of land for peoples home tech and that helped determine what we needed to order
  • There are two of us in IT - the last week and a half I took care of the help desk questions, and he went from place to place to home to help set up people with various items (monitors, printers, scanners)
  • Our company is entirely WFH. We've had to purchase monitors and keyboards for everyone.
  • We went full Citrix for all offices ~8 years ago, so shifting to WFH represented no change in the user experience. We have people who prefer to use their iPads for it (mostly admins)!
  • People used to 2 monitors are hating their life with a laptop
  • We provided scanners for some of our office services staff - they scan mail and distribute.
  • Policy change: provided laptops to users who previously did not "qualify" for a laptop
  • Contact your ISP about getting a temporary bandwidth upgrade. Some ISP will have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you don't get charged if you cancel on day 29


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