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THWACK Community Reaction to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Community Manager

Situation Report

With the emergence of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), companies are encouraging employees to work remotely and cancel non-essential travel – many of you have shared your companies are among those who are taking these steps. Many organizations are still in the process of determining the best course of action for the business, their partners, and their employees.

Employees who have never worked remote are now being authorized with VPN or other remote access. Groups who previously met in conference rooms now must dial into conference bridges. Discussions that would have occurred in a hallway are being missed entirely. With an uptick in the size of the remote workforce and number of changes to the way we interact with our coworkers, new changes understandably are causing strain—both on your organization’s infrastructure and on your daily job.

Like many of you, this strain isn’t a new situation for me. IT pros have always needed to embrace the unexpected, learn new techniques and tools, and reprioritize needs on the fly. In a way, it feels like a weather emergency, but with a larger scope and scale. If we’re honest with ourselves, the technology needs are just another day in the life within IT operations management.

So, how can the THWACK community help? For me, it’s easy. THWACK has always been about sharing our skills, expertise, and knowledge. Here are some resources available to IT professionals and how to get started:

Technology Resources

Technology companies are rallying to make sure employees who’ve been asked to work remote can do so with minimal problems. Here’s a short list of resources to help enable your new remote staff.

Technology Events

  • The in-person SolarWinds User Groups (SWUG) for Berlin, Munich, and London have been cancelled.  We're currently working on converting those to an all-digital, virtual event (vSWUG) on similar dates. Updates (when available) will be found on the SolarWInds User Group Page.
  • Cisco Live! US has been converted to a digital event on June 2-3, 2020. You can get more details from their website and add a calendar reminder.
  • Google I/O which was previous converting from a physical event to a digital one is now cancelled.
  • Microsoft Ignite which was set for later this year is being scheduled for September as a virtual event.

SolarWinds Informational Resources

For existing customers of SolarWinds solutions we have released step-by-step instructions, how-to articles, and best practices to help you monitor your remote users.

THWACK Community Resources

We are now offering 5,000 THWACK points for articles describing how you are helping your organization during this difficult time.  We've had several people already post in discussion threads for various products about how they are helping.  If you have a story to tell, please go to the forum in question (NPM, SAM, SEM, AppOptics, etc.) and click "Start a Discussion" and share your story. Use Importance of Dashboards for Remote Workers and The Importance of Baselining During Times of Crisis as good examples.

If you want to help in futhering medical research around COVID-19 and other diseases, then consider joining the SolarWinds Folding@Home group and share your extra CPU cycles in looking for cures.

What good are THWACK points without the store in which to spend them, right?  Well, I'm pleased to announce that the THWACK store has officially been reopened.  Thank you all for bearing with us as we've been tidying up THWACK since the migration.

Getting Help/Being Helpful

Help Yourself
  • Kaplan is offering classes for personal and professional growth.
  • Udacity is offering help to US citizens who are out of work due to the virus.
Helping your Family
  • If you are struggling with teenage kids at home, YourTeen magazine is offering a free digital issue specific to quarantine.
Helping Others
  • Umbrella is a service-first helping adults 60+ get the essentials they need. If you have time, consider volunteering some of that time.  This is a great way to avoid cabin fever while providing a valuable service.

Update Log:

  • 16MAR2020 07:00 CST - Initial Posting
  • 16MAR2020 11:30 CST - Updated with SolarWinds Informational Resources
  • 16MAR2020 14:00 CST - Included process for Bookmark and Subscribe.
  • 16MAR2020 15:05 CST - New section "Technology Events" added.
  • 17MAR2020 10:20 CST - Added "Crisis Dashboard" discussion.
  • 17MAR2020 16:00 CST - Added Importance of Dashboards link.
  • 18MAR2020 16:15 CST - Added Baseline Blog link
  • 19MAR2020 12:00 CST - Added links for DRE, Zoom in NTA, and SolarWinds statement
  • 20MAR2020 16:00 CST - Added updated MS Teams info and "Community Resources" section
  • 24MAR2020 12:00 CST - Added website topic.
  • 25MAR2020 14:30 CST - Added Service Desk for Remote Employees
  • 25MAR2020 21:00 CST - Added Folding@Home link
  • 26MAR2020 15:30 CST - Added WFH guide and NMS to respond links
  • 01APR2020 00:00 CST - No posts for April Fools
  • 02APR2020 09:30 CST - Added PluralSight training link
  • 02APR2020 17:00 CST - Added MS Ignite notice
  • 27APR2020 08:00 CST - Added Helping yourself and others links
  • 28APR2020 13:00 CST - Added ARM/Remote Work link

I’ll update this post as new opportunities appear, but I know I won’t find everything on my own, so I’m asking you all for your help. If you run into something you think should be included on this list, please let me know by responding to this post.

If you want to be kept up-to-date on changes, comments, and posts, then you should subscribe and bookmark this post from the Actions menu at the top of the post.

KMSigma_0-1584384833264.png

 

42 Comments
MVP
MVP

Good list there @KMSigma !

We (IT) are working from home so that those that can't are able to redistrubute into our building to provide every other cube social spacing.

It would be nice to have a seperate thread on what members of Thwack are having to do in relation to this hype-train event.

Level 14

I've been virtual office for about the last 2 1/2 years, so I'm used to working from home.  I feel like we (people who can do their job from virtually anywhere) are extremely blessed to have such flexibility on physical location.  With that being said, I'm trying to find the "practical" area of perspective in this mess.  I may be less likely to be impacted because of my work situation but I have a wife and kids that don't have this luxury.  So, I'm trying to not get paranoid, from a personal view.  

I have always appreciated THWACK's willingness to share information regardless of the situation, and now with the COVID-19 virus impacting us as a world, I thank you for continuing that tradition of excellence. 

I was aware that WebEx was offering a 90-day use period on their product, but I'm also glad to hear that Microsoft, Google, and Zoom are following suit.  My company is talking about alternating weeks (one week home, one in the office) and has already performed "stress tests" on the new VPN system.  Last year, our department began allowing folks to work from home one day per week, so working remotely is now familiar, but it definitely affects my ability to do my job to its fullest.

I just hope that all the brouhaha dies down soon so we can all get back to some semblance of normalcy - like the availability of toilet paper and hand sanitizer! (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/technology/coronavirus-purell-wipes-amazon-sellers.html)

Level 13

Our WAN team is scrambling to ramp up VPN licensing and capacity as well as reworking dozens of old SOHO routers that were scheduled for recycling.  There is concern about the capacity of the SOHO router and VPN head ends and whether they can take the loads. 

Although there has been talk of letting everyone who could work remotely do so, we (my team) that only does SolarWinds, was told "Business as usual".  So no special new remote working for us.  This is odd since our group is easily the biggest candidate for remote work since we don't physically touch any equipment.  SolarWinds is fully virtualized.  Access is web base with occasional RDP for direct maintenance of the virtual server. 

The process for remote workers here involves special remote worker agreements with metrics for proof or work, and I am not sure all the supervisors are on board with this due to not trusting the employees.  Sad state, but there you have it.

Level 12

thanks for the post

Level 11

Remember dont panic and always bring a towel! 

That's it time to watch Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy!

Level 20

Some of us can't work from home because there's no connection to our networks from outside world.  It's a little quieter though now! :^}

Level 20

In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, all TCP connections are being converted to UDP to eliminate handshakes.

Level 14

We are enhancing our remote access capabilities. Doing the usual precautions on in office human interactions, particularly as we are a financial institution.

On the personal side.... My wife works in before/aftercare for a school district.... she's off for the next two weeks (at least)

 

Update 3/18 :   My wife has taken to painting our bedroom and has her sights on the bathroom next..  Me - Preparing the expansion of our remote access capabilities and user documentation of the same. 

Level 10

Always stay healthy guys! Let's cooperate and help each other for a better tomorrow. 

MVP
MVP

I really appreciate all the resources available!  This has been an unbelievable time - our plan - 911 - we now have a DR site - we scrub one site then roll - ping pong .. I could have distributed the application remotely but without phones the application is meaningless!!

Bumping up vitamin C .. and clean clean clean!

MVP
MVP

As of today, we've been told to work from home until they tell us to come back. We can still go into the office if we need to though. But they prefer everyone to stay away to slowdown the spread of the virus. I can do my role from home but I miss my office view and dual monitors 😄

I've worked from home in the past but it's always been a day here and there. To do this fulltime for the next month or so, is going to be a bit weird. 

 

Level 12

THanks for the info - good to see some of the big name tech companies stepping up.

Like a few others above, I have been working from home one day a week anyway. Stepping this up to a permananet thing until the situation changes is a no brainer, and I find I get far more done as I get less distractions.

I do wonder when my wife (works in local schools supporting deaf children) and my youngest (17) may get sent home. My daughter's Uni has told her they are moving to digital teaching as of next week - so a little jolly to London to fetch her home at the weekend is now planned!

Stay safe folks and help those you can.

Level 14

We are operating a skeleton staff at work and the rest from home.  The users are mostly working from home.  We had just put in Zoom for everyone so that will help and we have tested our business continuity plan just last week (wonder what prompted that).  I'm at home today and just waiting for a zoom conference with my IT colleagues to see what the plan will be.  I expect a rotation of the team with a few in the office every day until we see how it all works.  I have to travel on the London Tube half an hour each way for work so will really look forward to that.

On the bright side I get a two hour lie in every day I'm working from home.

Level 14

@superfly   Yep, going from two large monitors and the laptop screen to just the laptop screen really sucks but I guess the reason is somewhat justified.  Pity I now have to pay for my own coffee.

@superfly and @petergwilson I was thinking about buying a larger monitor...maybe a 21x9 aspect ratio.  

 

Level 12

I had an old smart tv that I was going to recycle but guess what - It has a vga input it is now my monitor of my laptop. 

Also thanks for the dashboard ideas.  I will be staring those today.

I am using SolarWinds to help us troubleshoot issues with our new VPN system.  Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I used NetPath to help find a broken link to an external website that folks could get to from the web and from the old VPN, but not the new one. 

With NetPath's ability to peer inside the routes (kind of reminds me of a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode when this alien captain was astounded that the Enterprise could read and interpret his ship's transponder signals), we were able to put together a troubleshooting plan.  Turns out that there were two issues: 1) the TLD was being blocked by security and 2) BGP was not advertising the route externally, which NetPath was able to discern.

Since I am working from home for the foreseeable future, it's nice to have the power of Orion to help me help folks stay productive in this "new normal" of a world. 

Death to COVID-19!

Community Manager
Community Manager

@asheppard970 Thanks for sharing! We would love to document this use case in a dedicated thread in the NPM forum. Reach out to myself and @KMSigma if you're game. 

Anyone else using SolarWinds in unique ways you haven't before? Let us know in the comments!

Level 20

Get this we have “13000 employees” IT Operations is supporting 43% of the company’s employees externally connected:

1105 connected via our web solution
4463 connected on VPN
5568 total external employees connected

You gotta think RSA, Cisco and MS must be loving the licensing going on right now with some products.

Bill

Level 20

Oh and we monitor just about everything with NPM, NTA, SAM, SRM, VMAN, and now SEM is going into many areas to cover all the new audit requirements for CUI.

Level 14

@ecklerwr1 Nice one.

We've only got 3000 worldwide but almost everyone is working from home via VPN with full access to everything and everyone has video conferencing from their laptop / mac.  Even the IT team is working remotely.  Video conferencing seems to be working very well with no glitches.  I was on a call yesterday with 19 other people.  We only just completed rolling out Zoom and Okta for secure SSO connection.  Timing couldn't have been better.  Now things are a bit slower on the project side I have time to install and configure SAM, NPM, Patch Manager and IPAM.  Hardware is in place so I can do it all from home.  

Stay safe everyone.

Level 8

Hello guys,

i'm trying to monitor Citrix Sessions, (XenApp 7.6), but i couldn't find the right OID.

My "COVID-19 Dashboard" contains VPN sessions, links utilization, but i want to see how many citrix user we have logged in.

Could someone help me with that?

Community Manager
Community Manager

It's been almost 10 years since I personally worked with Citrix in that way.  But you can probably monitor it with one of the SAM templates we have shared on here.  There are more people who could probably give more information in the SAM Discussions.  I'd recommend asking the question there.

Those template are good, I think Kevin right, and I don't know that Citrix puts what you want into OID format, those use performance counters. I think you want the brokered sessions counter.

Other via Powershell , start with:

Add-PSSnapin Citrix*
Get-BrokerSession 

 

Level 8

I'm Manager of Information systems for a nursing home with 3 locations, it is nice to see that the Tech business are stepping up and giving us the tools to assist with the many issues we have has to ordeal. I am using zoom, google hangouts, facebook messages video chat, and FaceTime to allow our residents to have a video chat session with their families. Our families have liked the idea of seeing their loved ones rather than just talking on the phone. 

Level 20

0.jfif

 

My eight Network Analyst moved to work from home last week, as did many of our Apps Analysts, DBA's and System Admins.  We brought our laptops and desk cameras and multiple monitors and set up home office areas as best we could.  But the Response to COVID-19 requires being fast and flexible to meet rapidly changing needs.  In only a few days we were asked to bring all our monitors and cameras back into work so they could be redistributed to medical staff for Tele-Health visits.

Then we were asked to bring all our Meraki's back into work for redistribution to medical and transcription staff who needed their larger deskphones that have sidecars for many incoming lines.

That ability to sacrifice our personal work environment desires immediately saw results.

 

* Over the last weekend we heard from one of our nurse practitioners who started using virtual visits with patients in assisted living facilities. She shared this with her team members:

“I was surprised at the positive response from my dementia patients. I wasn’t sure how they would respond to telehealth. They were super intrigued with seeing my face talking with them on the screen. They laughed and loved it. Some of them talked to me more via telehealth than they have ever talked to me in person. I was shocked! It was great.”

 

* And one of our Pediatrics doctors told this story during our daily COVID-19 live/Teams meeting.  Although I don't have the exact transcript, it went something like this:

A mother with a sick little girl called in for help, and she was quickly transferred to this Pediatrian.  The doctor could hear the worry in her voice, and more concerning,  could hear the labored breathing of her daughter.  The doctor immediately asked that scared mother to connect her smartphone to our Tele-Visit web page.  She did and pointed her phone's camera at her daughter.  What the Pediatrician saw made them very concerned; the doctor told her an ambulance and EMTs were on the way for her daughter immediately.  If she'd waited and then gone to a clinic, then been screened to be seen by an Urgent Care nurse, then waited to be transferred to a hospital . . . well, instead of that, the right people went to the little girl and saved her life.

 

And we're not only hearing about employee's sacrifices.  We're seeing the public sacrificing for our careworkers to be able to provide better care for our community:

The administrator at our hospital in Virginia, Minnesota, shared a note about a gentleman from the community who gave a triage nurse five full boxes of brand new N95 masks, which is about 100 masks. He said that he used them while sanding his woodworking projects and commented, “You all need them more than I do.” It’s a heartwarming example of the support in our communities for our caregivers.

 

My team has moved to Always On VPN, as did many of our other 400+ I.T. staff members across three states.   We're also leveraging AnyConnect VPN and our Citrix Remote Desktop Portal and they're working pretty well for us.  By sharing our computer monitors and Merakis back to this organization of 17,000 health care providers & support staff, we're helping to fight back against COVID-19.

 

We're deploying "toy hauler" trailers that have been customized & converted to mobile screening offices attached to drive-through tents in business parking lots, to quickly test people and ensure our health care providers don't bring COVID-19 into our clinics & hospitals.  These trailers are networked with point-to-point wireless solutions that give them 100 Mb/s throughput from the adjacent clinic/hospital/support building's internal LAN, connected back to the main organization via multiple gig or 10G links.

 

Although the temperature still dips into the single digits here at night, we're getting the job done, hoping for an optimistic and beautiful spring, here on the western tip of Lake Superior.

 

There's more good news from the Mayo Clinic, which impacts people in states around Rochester, MN.  Yesterday (Sunday, March 22, 2020) we learned they've done a major expansion of their COVID-19 test analysis facilities, which is enabling them to make rapid progress on backlogs of Department of Health COVID-19 test kits.  This will likely result in an artificially steep increase in the curve of newly-reported COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and surrounds, so take that with a grain of salt.  The cases were there, they were tested, but the tests hadn't been read or analyzed because the analysis facilities weren't there.  Now that Mayo's expanded that capacity we'll get more good data, and people will be better able to isolate.

 

It's not "business as usual", but we're still in business, still receiving patients, still saving lives.  Our previous schedule of elective surgeries has been put on hold to enable providers to focus on issues of life & death, but we'll get back to those electives.  Hopefully as early as the summer!  It'll depend on people isolating themselves now so we can control the spread of the virus.

 

Staying isolated = staying healthy, and serves a more important purpose of preventing spreading it to vulnerable people, or spreading it to young healthy people who'll accidentally spread it to vulnerable folks.

 

Remember that although you may look & feel healthy, anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19 should act as if they know they're carrying and may be spreading a highly contagious disease.  The insidious thing is that you won't feel any symptoms for the first five days after you caught it.  It's those first few days, when you think you're healthy, that you're doing some of the worst damage because you're spreading it to others without being aware you have it.

 

Stay in, stay isolated, practice great sanitary acts, don't touch your face (thereby spreading it from your hands to your mucous membranes and infecting yourself from something/someone you touched), and you're saving your own future.

 

Swift packets my friends!

 

Rick Schroeder

In the Little Red House in the Saginaw Wood

MVP
MVP

Thanks for sharing @rschroeder your story is inspiring! 

Level 20

The Mayo Clinic is one of the only places you can get tested in Arizona in Phoenix... we have less virus for one reason... they aren't testing people.  That's real genius right there!  Our state testing is terrible.  They say they don't have swabs and PPE.  The woman that happens to be running the operation here... I wonder how long she'll have her job to be honest.  Thank God for the private sector (Mayo and Labcorp is getting it done)... they'll once again save the day because Government can't do much very well except fight wars it seems. (I will say... FWIW.  We know how to fight if it comes to that)  We all owe a lot thanks and more respect to all the first responders, police, and the military.  They sacrifice a lot for us and too many take it for granted.  You don't get into active duty or the police to get rich.  I wear a red polo every Friday and have for over a decade.  It's a sign of support for all those deployed.  R. E. D. - Remember Everyone Deployed.

Level 12

There's no place like 127.0.0.1

Anyone can help reduce the strain on hospitals during the surge of new U.S. cases of COVID-19 by donating, or making-and-contributing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), to hospitals.

 

My health care system offers these instructions for building medical face masks for donation:

 

https://www.essentiahealth.org/covid-19/ways-to-get-involved/how-to-create-a-face-mask/?fbclid=IwAR1...

 

Since this is a long term thing, I bought two 27 inch 4K monitors and a Dry Erase board for my new home office.  I had to move out of my old office in the house to my Ham Shack in the back yard. 

The new office has heat and air conditioning, ham gear and solar power.

RT 

MVP
MVP

@Radioteachersounds so very cool!  I am jealous.. totally jealous!  I am still here on-site and available for our Emergency Responders and EOC.  Officially, El Paso just went communal with COVID today.  You know.. this is not a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake, yet it is a natural disaster.   

zennifer_0-1585596535407.png

 

MVP
MVP

Good Job @pete0275 - I know many families appreciate the fact that you are using those tools to assist!   You are an intregral part of the success to keep families in touch during this very difficult time!   THANK YOU MY FRIEND!

Level 9

I always knew there was a reason for being a packrat for extra cables, connectors, monitors, etc....

Amazing what all of us IT people can do if we have some spare parts and a bit of imagination, right? Adaptation always has been part of our lives. Bring on the SolarWinds Academy virtual classes. I'm ready to teach if you're ready to learn. 😉 All the necessary pieces, including a big cup of coffee in my favorite cup and a towel to protect my (soft) wood table.  #WFHLife

IMG_8186.JPG

Level 20

I'm still working at work every day... it's considered "essential" services.  One neat thing though... I've recently added a few atomic clocks to my collection of electronics to count the nanoseconds until this whole ordeal is over!

Cesium Frequency StandardCesium Frequency StandardRubidium Frequency StandardRubidium Frequency Standardanother Rubidium Standardanother Rubidium StandardGPS Disciplined Rubidium StandardGPS Disciplined Rubidium Standards-l1600 (2).jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can't wait until this ordeal is over... we just want the rest of the country to get back to work.  I did finally get the masks I ordered in the mail.  I ordered them early too at the end of January.  One of them is really cool it's Burberry.

41mpv+t0UuL._AC_.jpg

Bill

Level 8

Could we get a down and dirty PerfStack/Report guide? I was in a virtual class today and most questions revolved around building customizing these two things

Community Manager
Community Manager

@sspring what exactly are you looking for?  We have several people who shared how they created their own crisis dashboards and if you are looking for a specific report that doesn't ship out of the box, then you are welcome to search and make a request in the Report Lab.

Level 11

For those customers working through managing your VPN in NPM (on ASA, Palo Alto & other firewalls), we have a knowledge base article in the Customer Success Center that could help. Read here: Monitor VPN on Cisco ASA, Palo Alto, and other firewalls with NPM

Level 12

You won'e be late working from home with an atomic clock 😁

About the Author
After CIS/MIS contracted for DISA in mid 90’s Worked with Toyota for 3 years Worked for GE for 4 years (Here was where I first found SW products) Did a bunch of various network engineering projects Contracted for GE for 4 more years Currently working with General Dynamics Mission Systems   William Eckler IT Business Operations Services .ılılı..ılılı. GENERAL DYNAMICS Mission Systems