COVID-19: top three tech tips to navigate remote working
Business Chief takes a look at Nick Offin’s approach to home working from a startup perspective.
With remote working becoming the new norm for companies of all sizes due to the spread of COVID-19 impacting organisations all over the world, Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, dynabook Northern Europe has seen a significant rise in remote workers, with many companies having to make transitions in order to support an almost entirely remote workforce.
“For most start-ups remote working isn’t exactly a new concept. The start-up scene is scattered with examples of innovative new start-up organisations encouraging working remotely as they look to find new ways of building a unique company culture, attracting and retaining top talent and achieving unparalleled mobility,” comments Offin.
However, Offin highlights that the rise in remote working doesn’t come without obstacles, particularly for startups with limited budgets and team members.
Choosing the right technology
“Start-ups are leading the way when it comes to mobile and remote working. While large enterprises have long- formed methods of working, and often have legacy processes, start-ups are much more agile, flexible and open to change. For start-ups, remote workers not only lessens the amount of resources spent on securing fixed office space but also boosts employee engagement and productivity,” comments Offin.
In order to maintain high productivity one of the most important requirements is the right technology. In the last month laptop demand has sharply risen in response to the outbreak. “Start-ups need to ensure they are investing in lightweight and portable, yet powerful devices designed to accommodate the remote workforce. Connectivity and performance are critical, so employees can connect with colleagues through web-enabled collaborative tools, preserving collaboration within teams.”
However purchasing and managing new devices can be complex and expensive, Offin explains that there are multiple purchasing options to overcome this challenge. “PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) refers to an operational expenditure (Opex) subscription-based model that often includes services such as purchasing, configurating, managing, refreshing and retiring devices. This model can help start-ups benefit from new technology, whilst having the ability to scale up and down as needed.”
Utilise new technology
When adding more connected devices and solutions to their networks, businesses are facing the challenge of effective and secure data management, something which Offin states startups are at an advantage compared to larger enterprises, due to being less reliant on legacy infrastructures. However they still need the right technology,
“Completely overhauling networks can be time and resource-intensive, especially for start-ups who have limited budgets. “Ripping and replacing” often isn’t an option so they must find another way of being able to cope with increased network capacity demands,” comments Offin, who believes the answer is Edge computing, which “offers a viable solution and at the same time creates new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence.”
Take security seriously
Possibly the biggest and most important challenge when working remotely is security. “According to Verizon, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at start-ups but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves. With the average cyberattack costing over £160,000, almost 60% of smaller businesses go out of business within six months of being victimised,” comments Offin.
Remote working creates a unique challenge that startups may not have come across before. As more potentially sensitive corporate data is being accessed away from the office, the threat of cybercriminals increases
“With this in mind, security needs to be a continued concern for start-ups, and needs to be reviewed and updated regularly.Start-ups need to ensure employees are equipped with technology that has robust security features to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks,” adds Offin.
“Devices with facial or fingerprint recognition and hardware-based credential storage capabilities provide a secure first defence against cybercriminals, reducing the risk of unsolicited login. Other defences such as zero client solutions ensure these devices never retain sensitive information. Instead, information is stored on a central, cloud-based system so if a device is lost or stolen, this information remains secure,” he concludes.
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Nybl: Saudi Startup to Expand AI Solutions
According to co-founder Nour Alnahhas, nybl was formed for the greater good. A visual data mining and machine learning platform, the platform will help organisations streamline their operations. ‘We wanted to centralise our vision around AI and machine learning’, said Alnahhas. ‘Something not just for profit, but added value. Conscious capitalism’.
Nybl aims to democratise artificial intelligence by making it possible for anyone to build an AI solution. What website builders like Wix and Squarespace did for site design, nybl will do for AI—allowing even non-coders to feel comfortable creating solutions. In fact, Alnahhas calls it a ‘Shopify of AI’, or a third-party platform that helps businesses deliver better service.
With hubs in Kuwait, the UAE, North America, and India, nybl is focused on launching operations in Saudi Arabia, Alnahhas’s home country. When the company first launched, it was difficult to convince Saudi Arabian businesses to work with a startup. Yet now, nybl has proven itself. ‘We had support in the UAE, so now we’re coming back’, said Alnahhas.
Alnahhas has launched a pilot with Saudi Aramco and has slowly built partnerships with paper, heating, HVAC air conditioning, and manufacturing companies. In addition, the Saudi government has started to invest in the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which means that nbyl, as a tech startup, has finally gained credibility.
No War for Talent
One of the most critical parts of nybl’s expansion will be hiring the right individuals. Thankfully, there’s a current surplus of talented researchers, developers, and data scientists within the Kingdom. Like nybl’s Alnahhas—educated at the University of Houston, the Wharton School of Business, and INSEAD— many Saudi Arabians have benefited from government-sponsored education abroad.
Last year, Saudi Arabia signed several partnerships with tech firms to advance the Kingdom’s skills in artificial intelligence. ‘It’s exciting to be in Saudi Arabia where there’s alignment and support’, Alnahhas concluded. ‘You’re getting an increasing talent pool. And even old and big family conglomerates are finally changing to use AI’.