Denys Krestov

Information Technology Director

Apr 23, 2020

Keep your distance: how to organize IT support for remote work at a large enterprise

Farmak is a technologically complex enterprise. More than 1,000 units of equipment, hundreds of office, laboratory and production systems ensure the work of 2,700 employees. And that’s just the IT component.

Although all processes are set up and automated, an immediate transfer to remote control is impossible.

Our IT department faced a serious challenge when the quarantine regime was declared nationwide on March 12, and the Ministry of Health recommended for employees to work remotely wherever possible. We needed to organize remote access for about 800 employees in a very short time. I believe that we handled this challenge with dignity.

However, the company’s remote access capabilities were designed long ago. The level of process automation at Farmak is very high: we have had a transparent system of reporting, budgeting, production planning, sales, document management, evaluation and personnel training over the years.

The employees had an experience of remote work in “peaceful” times, during travels and business trips. Although initially no more than a quarter of devices were equipped with these technologies. Our main work at the initial stage concerned the distribution of the necessary software for remote access to employees’ personal computers. The massive user transfer required IT to urgently test the current solution for increased workload.

We evaluated the availability of access gateways and their capacity to accommodate the possible increase in load. We prepared a solution for using home PCs as access devices to corporate resources. The tests showed that there was no need for additional investments.

The preparation took about a week and the process of relocating employees to a remote format took about a week to complete.

For remote work, we use our usual terrestrial services, as well as cloud-based communications and video conferencing solutions. For example, we use Microsoft Teams for video conferences. The Workplace has become an effective internal communication channel for us. About a hundred video conferences are held in the company every day.

The main problem that we faced during this period was the lack of IT personnel, as the number of requests for technical support has significantly increased and reached several hundred per day. The main stream of requests came from users who had not previously worked remotely. To address these issues, we engaged related IT personnel, so that the peak of requests quickly decreased to a normal level. Now we process 20-30 requests per day, and these are standard requests.

At the time of transfer, programmers, system administrators and security engineers took over some of the technical support functions. The personnel worked in the normal mode at the plant; the engineering unit worked round the clock in a conference mode.

Currently, 400-600 employees of Farmak work remotely.

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