Coronavirus and Your Business
COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus, is something that just cannot be ignored – especially with the UK now going into the Delay Phase. This will obviously have a massive effect on businesses and the economy. In this article we discuss continuing to operate throughout the pandemic.
For many industries, a number of workers do not have the option of working from home, but for those that do, or at least have departments that do have the opportunity, we offer the following steps to keep your business operating through Coronavirus (CORVID-19):
- Give staff the ability to work from home through external access to your systems
- Utilise cloud access and web clients
- Set up secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
- Utilise Office 365 and Microsoft Teams to keep your staff communicating and collaborating
- Implement the Crisis Communication App
- Continue to operate and work with Dynamics Consultants as per normal
- Stay safe and beware hackers and their hoax emails
Working From Home With Business Central/Dynamics NAV On Premises, Azure Or SaaS
However your Business Central environment is configured, the main question being asked is:
"How will working from home affect my access to my Business Central environment?"
If you are an Azure or Saas Busines Central customer, you are in luck. Due to the fact your Business Central server is located in the ‘cloud’, which offers the on-demand availability of computer system resources, working from home should not affect your ability to access Business Central (Providing your cloud environment is not set up to only allow access from your company's external IP address. If so a VPN will be required or this security setting can be changed). If you currently utilise an On Premise installation of Business Central or Dynamics NAV, do not worry, your employees can still access your Dynamics environment. However, a few extra steps are required to enable external access. There are three routes that you could take:
- Setup a VPN for all employees to use
- Allow access from the RTC over the internet
- Setup the Business Central Web Client for external access
Please note you do not need to implement all of the above for external access, you can choose the steps based on your needs.
Utilising The Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics NAV Web Client For External Access
Business Central and versions of Dynamics NAV after 2013 R2 offer the use of a web client that can be installed alongside your installation of the Business Central service. The most recent versions of the web client provide the same functionality in your browser as seen in the Business Central Windows client but with the added benefit of being able to be set up to allow external access, ensuring that users can reach your Business Central environment providing they possess an Internet connection. Installing the web client can be completed in one of two ways and requires the utilisation of the Windows IIS server:
- Using the Business Central Setup
- Using the Business Central Web Server PowerShell cmdlets.
To enable external access to your web client you will need to ensure the following requirements are met:
- Public DNS entry that resolves to the network address that your Business Central server is hosted
- Network firewall entry allowing in the appropriate port (443 for HTTPS, 80 for HTTP)
- NAT entry that translates the resolved public IP of the DNS name to the IP address of the server that hosts Business Central
- Local firewall entry allowing in the appropriate port (443/80) on the server that hosts Business Central
- Business Central server that has web server functionality and IIS installed.
As always staying secure is vital no matter where the work is taking place, therefore it is highly encouraged to incorporate the use of HTTPS for the web client, as this will ensure all traffic (including your login credentials) is encrypted and safe from any prying eyes. This will require the use of a certificate that can be attached to the site in the IIS Manager, it is recommended to utilise a certificate with a chain of trust that has been signed by a root authority rather than a self-signed certificate. Additionally, Business Central should be configured to use the ‘Lockout Failed Sign-In Attempts Count’, which when configured will lock out any brute force attempts into your Business Central environment.
For further information on how to set this up, please see Microsoft's guide to deploying a Business Central web server:
The use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) plays a critical part in the ability to work from home. Not only does a VPN offer security and privacy to your network traffic through the use of strong traffic encryption, a VPN can be used to connect an external device to the company internal network, allowing services that can only be used when on the internal company network to be available when at home. When combined with the remote desktop application, users can connect to the VPN and then remote desktop connection to any device on the internal company network from home (providing the correct permissions have been set up). This then provides home workers with the same functionality they would get when at work. For Dynamics home users, connecting to a company VPN will enable them to use their Windows Client to connect to Business Central or NAV without any additional setup.
When it comes to setting up a VPN, there are several types to choose from, each varying on the security they provide, the speed, the port they use and a few other factors. Please see the following for a detailed explanation of the different VPN types:
For more information on connecting to a VPN on Windows, please see the following Microsoft support:
One notable mention when working from home is Office 365 for business (O365), this provides an easy and flexible way to work from anywhere so long as you have an internet connection. In addition to providing access to all of your Microsoft office suite applications you have subscribed to, in one location. There is the added bonus of not needing to download and install these applications on your devices. Other benefits include having complete access to the latest versions of programs as they are released and the ability to collaborate easily, as anyone who needs to edit a document (spreadsheet, presentation, etc) can work on the same document at once with real-time changes being shown, as opposed to multiple versions created.
The Microsoft Response
Microsoft have stepped up to help businesses work through the Coronavirus whilst staying as safe as possible. As part of this they have created the Remote Work Checklist.
Office 365 and Teams
Microsoft have a huge global reach and thus understand their responsibility in the marketplace. In response to COVID-19, Microsoft has extended the free trial of Office 365 E1 license to 6 months, so that people can utilise the full capability of Microsoft Teams for free over the coming months. Microsoft Teams allows people to work remotely, providing collaboration, online meetings, phone calls and whole host of other functionality to make it easy for staff to get stuff done.
Power Apps Crisis Communication App
Utilising the capabilities of the Power Platform, Microsoft have built a Power App, which was achieved in only two days, which is available to use to help businesses communicate with their staff during a crisis.
For help with licensing for PowerApps, SharePoint and Flow, as well as help with setting up the app, please contact our team.
The Strain on Broadband
With people working from home, it can add extra strain to your internet connection, especially with increased uploads from out of the office. We would encourage people to take necessary steps to minimise upload requirements (Office 365 would be good for this), to prioritise the bandwidth for access to NAV etc.
When schools are suspended, 10 million kids will be streaming films and playing online games. We would encourage people to configure offline outlook folders and offline files for the critical files they would need, just in case.
Support from Dynamics Consultants
As we run the business on cloud systems, Dynamics Consultants will still be up and running, even if we are confined to working from home. This means that if you have projects running or require support, we will still be operational. Our teams calling means that we can continue to call, collaborate and have meetings.
We have not put a blanket ban on face-to-face meetings with our customers as we understand that these are often very productive. That said, we will minimise these meetings and we will of course be following government guidelines on working practices if restrictions are put in place.
In summary, we will be doing everything possible to make sure that you do not have a drop in service from Dynamics Consultants during this time.
Stay Safe - Security
As with anything that causes fear, there are people who will prey on those fears. Hackers have already started preying on companies and individuals by sending hoax emails. Please see this BBC article about the issues and share the information with your staff.
Speak to Us!
As we have mentioned, we will remain operational so if you need advice or help, please do not hesitate to contact us.
I find their approach to our relationship very professional whilst being refreshingly realistic. We now consider them to be part of our teamTechnical Director, Bainbridge International