back to article Pandemic impact: Two-thirds of polled Reg readers say it's business as usual in the IT dept, one in ten panicking

Two-thirds of polled Register readers, on average worldwide, said it was business as usual in their IT departments amid the ongoing global coronavirus crisis. And fewer than one in ten said they were paralyzed by the pandemic. For 24 hours on Thursday, we ran a small and simple poll for some site visitors: it would have …

  1. src

    Remote Japan

    In the small Japanese export company I work for we have always reject requests for home working. Now we have set up VPN access for IT development to continue *if* the call goes out to halt commuting.

  2. macjules
    Paris Hilton

    Struggling to keep up ..

    One of the problems inherent with idle project owners is that they tend to invent lots and lots of new ideas that they want done to their Apps or websites or or APIs. My book is now full until at least end July 2020 with clients who realise that this is the perfect time to make their digital staff work extra hours ("its not as if you can get out much you know"). To illustrate, in the past week I have been asked to architect the redesign of the app and web app for a well-known London football club, formerly built very clumsily using a now out of date version of Drupal. In addition my other clients want to take this opportunity, while page visits are reduced, to increase maximum effectiveness using those out of date WebTrends reports - this usually requires a major page template redesign.

  3. Korev Silver badge
    1. BrownishMonstr

      Re: 3D Pie Charts

      Sphere charts are obviously the way to go. 3D!! VR!!

  4. Alister

    Got away with it!

    We completed a migration to a new fibre leased-line into our office a week before the lockdown. This also entailed switching from using Cisco ASA as the boundary firewalls and VPN endpoint, to using pfSense appliances by NetGate.

    We've been pleasantly surprised at how easy the pfSense firewalls are to configure, and the migration to OpenVPN clients, instead of Cisco AnyConnect, for all our workers has been almost painless.

    I shudder to think what fun we would have had if we'd left it a week later!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Got away with it!

      I've used pfSense in the past, it is a great solution for a "traditional" firewall solution. I really like them and, even though the pfSense itself is free, it puts many paid for solutions to shame. Glad to see you are supporting it through NetGate.

      OpenVPN with certificates is excellent, lose a device, block the certificate(s) on the device, you don't need to get the user to change their password or block the account.

      I've also used Cisco in the past, among others. I really hate the ASA series and AnyConnect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Got away with it!

        I've only used ASA so I'ver nothing tocompare it against. What is it about them that irks you?

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Got away with it!

          It is needlessly complicated and needlessly expensive, for what it is. The basic functionality doesn't do enough and everything is additional modules with additional costs, like VPN, threat protection, host stand-by etc. and if you take hot stand-by, you used to need to buy all the licenses twice!

          pfSense includes everything it has in the basic install, no hidden costs. Setting up hot-stand-by was a doddle. 50 VPN users? 100? 200? Costs the same as 1 VPN user and the client software is free for all platforms.

          The actual ASA configuration is a pain, for a real threat protection system, Palo Alto is much better and is much more friendly and modern to configure, although the low-end units are slow to apply the configuration - their UI and configuration processor is a little under powered, but the high-end provider kit screams (but costs well into 5 figures).

          I currently use a mixture of Zyxel Zywall USGs and Unifi USGs. The Zyxel suffers from similar problems to the ASA series, overly complicated and every feature seems to require additional licenses.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Got away with it!

      I wonder if any SonicWALL boxes* I installed in the early noughties are still out there? I bet they are :-)

      *downloaded and installed onto used IBM PCs bought on eBay

  5. Oh Matron!

    Surely this is the time....

    To realise that work is a thing that you do, not a place that you go to.

    However, not for one second am I suggesting that we all abandon the concept of the workplace: Many of my colleagues really don't live in the biggest of places (This is london, after all), and it really wouldn't be good for one's mental health.

    However, I work longer hours when I'm at home, am not interrupted as much and work for a company that's embraced home working as long as I can remember.

    I do miss the free coffee, though. Costing me a fortune in Mail Order Monmouth Coffee!

    1. My-Handle

      Re: Surely this is the time....

      On the upside, either your car isn't drinking petrol or you're not paying for public transport.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: Surely this is the time....

        On the other hand, the money I am saving on take away coffees is more than balance by the money I'm spending on upgrading home network kit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely this is the time....

        There is no upside. Very soon you'll either be forced to take a pay cut, furloughed or made redundant.

        Shutting down the entire world's economy has consequences, and we will be coming out of lockdown to the largest economic depression in history.

        Down vote all you like, it's happening.

        1. ibmalone

          Re: Surely this is the time....

          I'll be surprised if you get many downvotes you for this, all that borrowing or printing money is going to have to be repaid eventually and I think people realise this. Whether it will be the largest depression in history maybe I'm not so sure about, the underlying reasons have no precedent in modern times. A lot will depend on the steps taken now, how long it lasts, and how governments manage the exit.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is the time....

      Work is also a place for many people.

      I work in manufacturing now, doing IT, but a majority of our workers have no choice where they work. That goes for a lot of jobs. Administration and office workers are another matter.

      That said, I'm the IT bod left working on site, while the rest do home-office. Somebody needs to be here, in case the VPN, firewall, switch, server etc. goes down.

      1. Nunyabiznes

        Re: Surely this is the time....


        Exactly right. There are many jobs that require you to put hands on stuff. It is hard to vaccinate a cow from your couch, arrest a murderer from the confines of your mancave, etc.

        I'm the lone crusader (most of the time anyway) for our unit also.

    3. macjules

      Re: Surely this is the time....

      I really do hope that this opens eyes to the idea that you do not need to secure £30m in funding for your new swanky digital agency and have plush offices in Soho Square. Now you will be able to employ just about all your key staff in a small office and manage all projects often without ever even having to meet project management or developers.

      1. K Cartlidge

        Re: Surely this is the time....

        The problem here is that every job that has been switched to home-working is a job that manglement is more likely than before to see as an offshoring opportunity.

        If a worker is not needed in the office, why pay relatively expensive first world salaries?

        (I'm aware there are good reasons, I just don't expect upper bods to share that knowledge)

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is the time....

      "Many of my colleagues really don't live in the biggest of places (This is london, after all), and it really wouldn't be good for one's mental health."

      If working from becomes the norm, those pokey little flats in London won't be needed, they can move somewhere nicer and bigger. Or the rental market will collapse/ Or, Or Or....

      Depending on how things work out, there may be many people finding they no longer need to live in the big cities, least of all in the city centres. This could have unintended consequence of making city centre accommodation cheaper for those who still need to live there, eg nurses, teachers, cleaners and binmen.

  6. djvrs

    Pie chart missing

    Pie chart missing the piece that highlights mad panic in early days to get everyone setup for remote working and then business as usual.....

  7. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    After the initial mad rush to get our client base working remotely, I'm not a little concerned out how our client base will cope. They're varied (we have clients in construction (disabled adaptations, maintenance, flooring, commercial construction, roofing, cladding, new build homes etc.), data cabling, plumbers, carers, exhibitions, spas, financial advisors, accountants, golf courses and a funeral director). However, a large proportion are in construction. I'm concerned that as things start to dry up, our customers are going to sit down at their nicely set up home working installations and think 'oh fuck we've got no work!'. We've already had one client ask to for their support and maintenance services to be put on hold, and I'm just waiting for clients to ask to reduce their services. Like accountants, all businesses need IT support, but when a business has nothing to do, it needs little or no support.

    So yes, I'm concerned.

  8. big_D Silver badge

    Does it have a camera?

    Which video conferencing software to use is the least of our problems.

    A user just had an invite to a Teams meeting. He wanted to know if his laptop had a microphone and camera. Why, yes, yes it does... Only the image was black. I asked him if there was a lens cap over the camera, he said he couldn't find a camera.

    I did a quick google and found a photo of the laptop. There, dead centre above the screen is a camera... Back to the user, no, nothing. Slight pause. "Do you want me to give you the model of the monitor as well?"

    Argh! He had the laptop docked and the screen closed and was using the external monitor!

    The biggest problems are people coming to terms with features they never had to use before, have never interested them.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We should all be working from home.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Disgusting

      i'll work from home..... just modify my house so it support several tons of robotic machine tools.......

      <<<currently furloughed because we dont make the right kind of medical gear :(

      1. ClockworkOwl

        Re: Disgusting

        To be fair, if could, I would. In a heartbeat..)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Disgusting

        "currently furloughed because we dont make the right kind of medical gear :("

        Ditto. If I'd filled out that survey on Thursday, I'd have said it was Business As Usual. Everything changed on Friday.

    2. Cynic_999

      Re: Disgusting


      We should all be working from home.


      Explain how you will eat if all shop staff and delivery drivers were "working" from home? Even if you solve that by growing your own food, various things will break down sooner or later. Your fridge, boiler, TV, computer ... Even if you are capable of fixing them yourself, there will be no spare parts available if everyone is working from home. Then power stations and water pumping stations will fail ...

      But there will be no problem about dying at home.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Disgusting

      Now, yes, we should all [mostly] be working from home if we can. But once things come back? I'm a proponent of people who want to work from home working from home, but I'm not so interested in having a company make everyone work from home, even though it may reduce our productivity because talking to colleagues is not as easy, getting things you need entails ordering things from retail and requesting reimbursement rather than stopping by the supply closet, and getting assistance with something not working means trying to negotiate the remote access software we've been saddled with rather than asking the person whose thing isn't working to come watch what happens when the code isn't running on their machine. Some businesses will be quite into the suggestion because those businesses have realized that, when you don't have to pay for as many offices, you have more profit. Other WFH experiments have found that people also get promoted less often and paid lower salaries when they're working from home, even if everyone's doing it. So in general, I think the decision should be available to the employee if it's feasible for them to work from home, but while I'll fight for your privilege to work from home, I expect you to at least acknowledge my desire and I believe my right to work from the office. When my employer inevitably smashes down my wall and announces that they've turned the floor into open plan, then I'll probably join you.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Disgusting

        "Other WFH experiments have found that people also get promoted less often and paid lower salaries when they're working from home,"

        I've worked from home for years. But I don't work at home. I'm at customer sites every days, often more than one per day. We are often completely forgotten about by the office staff. Special offers in the staff canteen? Employee of the month awards? If no one knows your face, forget about being recognised, no matter how hard you work, how many hours you put in, how many miles you drive to dig a client out of a hole.

    4. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Disgusting

      This looks like the same panicking, cowardly troll who was on the boards the other day, berating people for wanting actual proof that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin works before handing it out willy-nilly, not just on the say-so of Trump and an inadequate trial.

      Probably a troll best left unfed.

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    Just about everybody is working

    remotely, that is... I see about 8 people actually working in the building, me included.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Just about everybody is working

      In my office, most days don't get UP to 8 people! I assume it's been completely empty for the last two weeks. (Most of my meetings involve folks all around the country anyway, so not much of a change.)And when we do come back everyone's going to stay in their own boxes and it will still feel empty aside from disembodied voices...

      Maybe I should just work from home full-time after all, at least once the kids are back in school (which might be August/September).

  11. Any non-mouse Cow turd

    Potential flaw

    Maybe it only looks like business as usual because only those working as usual will be likely browsing El Reg and answering the survey.

    I'm sure if I did a survey at the local pizza takeaway asking what folks were planning to eat for dinner the majority of responses would be pizza.

  12. Captain Scarlet

    Oh i thought that pole was spam

    I completly ignored it due to think it looked like it was from one of your adverts.

    1. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Oh i thought that pole was spam

      Poll not pole, damn the ability to edit mistakes being ten minutes (As I make a lot of them and always realise several hours later)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non stop

    Everything is definitely not carrying on as normal here, it's gone into something approaching hyperdrive.

    As of 3wks agho, I've got around 7,000 new remote users all VPNing into our network across north america and europe. The security headache is significant but not crippling, the network management is challenging, the support is astronomical and most of us are currently working 16hr days. But I think we're all rather enjoying the challenge.....for now!

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Does that include the instances where business as usual is panic?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      True - it is difficult to go up from "panic"!

  15. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Good for InfoSec's business!

    The IT industry has consistently shown us that rushed and hurried actions are often taken with an absence of security oversight. Sort of like when you take all the employees who have been office based and overnight enable them to work remote. I guarantee there are breaches going on right now that we won't know about for months/years. InfoSec will be kept busy!

    True story: My wife works for a law firm, so when they sent her to work from home they made her sign off that she would have no client information on her home computer. They then proceeded to tell her the IP address and password for their publicly accessible VNC connection running on the default port. They are worried about a trusted employee when their office computer is wide open to a single factor authentication on the Internet. Totally misplaced security concern, and they won't listen to the dumb husband of their employee!

    Oh, and the VNC password... They tacked a couple random characters on to a common word. A dictionary attack should go through that like butter.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Good for InfoSec's business!

      "they won't listen to the dumb husband of their employee!"

      If/when they get hacked they'll blame you. Shooting the messenger - SOP.

  16. T. F. M. Reader

    A completely non-scientific poll of my own

    I suspect many IT departments could not budget/source/configure a large number of corporate laptops for employees who have never worked remotely before, at short notice. Is anyone concerned about letting the newly remote workforce connect to VPN from their personal computers at home? I mean, who knows who really 0wns those?

  17. DiViDeD

    All good in the Antipodes

    All my colleagues (well, more like people I've met) are now working from home, but in the best traditions of Public Service, all 3,000 or so of them have their staff meetings via Skype or Teams Chat, with full video, at 10am every bloody morning, then spend the rest of the day bitching that their meetings broke up, dropped out or froze on them. I think my department is doing more to singlehandedly destroy Arsetrailer's broadband network than any nefarious gang of hackers.

    Some of them are even complaining that the standard rule that every attendee must be on video means they have to change out of their jim jams just for a 1 hour meeting!

    When my time comes, I intend attending every meeting from a hammock in the garden, wearing a Spiderman outfit and brandishing a bottle of Shiraz.

    1. ClockworkOwl

      Re: All good in the Antipodes

      Sounds like you need a Samoan lawyer, and a broken ciggarette in a holder...

      Who came first Gonzo journalists or Gonzo the muppet...:)

  18. ClockworkOwl

    Homework for the masses...

    I do all our companies out of hours and weekend support from home, so it was a no brainer I'd end up furlowed, a lot of our clients are betting shops...

    Fortunately, the company is currently very solvent, so I won't see a salary drop, even though I offered.

    I suspect that even if things go well, betting shops will be among the later groups to be reopened. As a result, I'll go back to work in Septemberish.

    The schools will almost certainly open then, outbreak allowing.

    For me, this is an inverse busmans holiday, no going out of the grounds at weekends is now no going out of the grounds every day...

    The garden however is reeling from the constant attention! :) (hope the 5Kg of seed early potatoes shows up, and the tiller parts before that...)

    Keep a stiff upper lip, and a hard weather chin, and we'll all be back in blighty for cocoa before you know it!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was a bone-idle layabout in the office...

    ...and I've just transferred those skills home. Much more ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎ the ◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎◼︎ now, it has to be said.

  20. First Light

    APAC difference

    I wonder if the APAC difference in being paralyzed has to do with Asian countries in general being more strict and authoritarian in their approach to the virus.

    For example, most of the tech companies in India operate in metropolitan areas, where infrastructure is better than elsewhere, so I'm not sure that weak infrastructure is the biggest factor.

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    i'm just guessing here, but i'd guess the security would be a mix of people who have things locked down, and ones who have opened things right up, and it'll be some big surprise when they get thoroughly pwned by viruses and whatever else flowing right in from the internet and their home workers dirty dirty systems.

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