Businesses all over the world are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the many changes the UK Government have introduced to assist small businesses during this time is the ability for employers to Furlough staff, where the government pay up to 80% of the wages of the staff to keep them on the books (but not working), rather than see mass lay-offs that would have inevitably ensued.

Net Primates customers cover a wide range of industries, some of whom have already been hit hard by the economic changes, others are operating as normal for the time being (albeit remotely!), and others still are working out what their staff profile needs to look like over the upcoming weeks & months.

We’ve already had a number of conversations with customers needing to review their current services in light of upcoming changes to their business, and here is a summary of our thoughts.

Software Costs – Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 offers great value for money for small businesses, but relies on per-user-per-month licensing that includes Mailboxes, File Storage, Collaboration Functionality, and Software Licenses, across the entire company.

If you have furloughed one or more members of your team, they won’t be working or need access to their computers / software licenses / data.

Mailboxes are still the lifeblood of many businesses, but even if the original staff member isn’t currently using it, an auto-responder can be configured to explain their absence from the business and provide alternative contact details, or a forwarder can be configured to automatically redirect the email to a relevant person. In many cases this can be achieved with a Shared Mailbox, which Microsoft offer for free! When the furloughed employee returns to work and needs full access to the mailbox + software licenses again, we can re-instate the licenses.

Our Recommendation: Review your current Office 365 Licenses and determine if switching to a lower license would provide the functionality you need, or even to a Shared Mailbox with an auto-responder and/or forwarder enabled.

Software Costs – Endpoint Security

If your team has dropped from 15 to 5, you’re probably only using 5 computers, so paying for Security & Support / Monitoring / Update software on the others may seem un-necessary and offer an immediate saving.

While we are strong advocates of retiring legacy equipment in a timely manner to reduce costs and improve security, working on the assumption that the business will be back up to normal capacity within 3-4 months, it’s not worth the labour costs of uninstalling the software, mothballing the computer, then re-deploying the computer, re-installing the same software and applying all the Security Patches + Feature Updates, just to save £6/device/month for a few months.

Our Recommendation: Leave your Endpoint Security protection in place to ensure a speedy return to work that doesn’t leave your business exposed when you switch everything back on.

Connectivity Costs

Although most of our broadband (ADSL + FTTC) services are on a rolling monthly service, the network operators impose hefty connection charges so unless you know you’ll never be coming back to the current premises, it’s unlikely to be worth cancelling current services.

Customers with Leased Lines are likely to be on a 1/2/3 year fixed term anyway, where cancellation isn’t possible (or will incurr significant fees).

Our VoIP services are also on a rolling monthly service, however similar to the endpoint software costs above, you’re likely to spend more money reconfiguring services and decommissioning + recommissioning handsets than you’d save over a 3-4 months period.

Our Recommendation: Leave your telecoms and connectivity functionality in place for when business resumes. It is worth reviewing options if you’re currently forwarding calls to mobiles, as deploying VoIP phones to your remote workers may offer significant savings.

Reducing Support Costs

After you have switched your team to remote working, and furloughed anyone who isn’t operationally required, your ongoing support usage may drop.

We’ve spoken to customers who are planning on using this ‘quiet time’ to push forward with projects that they knew were planned for later in the year, while others are battening down the hatches and tightening their belts, hoping to come out the other side in one piece.

In either event most customers have had an unusually high level of support in March 2020, but it’s worth having a chat to review the current state of your account and decide if it’s worth adjusting your current support costs.

Our Recommendation: Call us to review your banked hours balances at the end of April by which time you’ll have a better idea of your actual needs, and hopefully we’ll all have a timeframe for returning to business as usual.

Please talk to us!

That’s it for our recommendations. The above points are a summary of the conversations we’ve been having, but as each of our customers is in a different situation we’re aware that decisions need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and as always we’re here to help you make the right IT related decision for your business.

The team at Net Primates are here to help all our customers during this challenging time, and if you need anything please get in touch.