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How Chicago Businesses Can Prep for (and Survive) NATO

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As you've no doubt heard by now: NATO is upon us. May 20 and 21 will see Chicago play host to a diplomatic summit hosted by President Obama. Roads will be closed. Protesters will protest. Basically, a lot of the city, especially downtown, will be shut down.

    No one knows his better than the Oak Brook-based SWC Technology Partners, a full-service IT company that provides a gaggle of, well, services like infrastructure engineering projects to managed services to lots of companies in the Chicagoland area.

    I spoke to Joseph Lee, delivery manager, about what his company is advising other companies do to survive, flourish and still take care of business during NATO.

    How are you helping companies prep for the summit?

    Joseph Lee: So, for the summit itself, we have a lot of customers downtown. What we've done even up to this point now is really reminding our customers and our business partners themselves that they're developing their business continuity plan and assuring that their IT infrastructure meets their business requirements.

    As an example, many of our clients downtown are letting employees work from home during the summit itself. As an IT partner, we help our clients test their infrastructures can handle the additional workloads. For example, on a typical day, most of your staff will be on-site and there will be a few that are working remotely. But with the summit itself we expect that to shift to outside, actually, so there's actually only a little amount of employees on-site and then everyone else will be working remotely. And most of their infrastructures were not designed that way.

    Based on what you're hearing, how many companies in the city are just letting people work from home?

    Joseph Lee: In the immediate vicinity of the summit itself, based on the different police and security bulletins, where they expect a high volume of traffic and protesters -- and a lot of them have sent out messages to their customers or their staff to make sure they just work from home. It's a lot safer that way. The commute itself -- they can't even figure out how it will affect that, right, because a lot of the roads will be closed. There's no access to a lot of parking garages downtown.

    Based on the companies you work with, are there some industries affected more than others by this?

    Joseph Lee: I'm not really sure. [Laughs.]

    For the people whose industries are affected, how exactly are you helping them get set up for it?

    Joseph Lee: There's a couple ways that we actually do this. The simplest ones are through virtual private networks that allow them access to their network downtown. A couple ways is through terminal services. But the most common way now is with the virtual-station push is really to use a virtual-desktop infrastructure, to allow them a user experience as if they are on site but they're working from home. So, in terms of the work that they're doing there really is no difference, whether they're at home or in the office.

    How do you address managers or bosses concerned that employees working from home? Are there ways to monitor that don't alienate workers?

    Joseph Lee: There are certainly ways to monitor that. As a technology company we always typically say that would be an HR decision. There certainly are ways to monitor productivity by checking logs of logins, logouts, time-out periods.

    But that's pretty frowned upon, right?

    Joseph Lee: It's typically frowned upon. It usually doesn't end well. [Laughs.]   

    David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.