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Coronavirus Lockdown in China Leads to Surge in Web Conferencing Demand

As of Feb. 16, there are an estimated 68,000 people infected by coronavirus in China and 1,600 reported deaths, reports the Singapore Straits Times. With coronavirus having an estimated fatality rate of 2%, many times higher than an average flu, the need to contain the spread of the virus is critical. As a result, many organizations are turning to web conferencing tools to maintain productivity as students, employees, and researchers are staying home.

Immediately after the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations at the beginning of the month, popular workplace collaboration apps DingTalk and WeChat Work crashed when tens of millions of users attempted to kick off their day with virtual morning meetings, reports the South China Morning Post. Both services were restored by early afternoon.

While 24 out of 31 of China’s provinces are under government order to restrict movement, other regions in the country are often voluntarily avoiding large gatherings. In Hong Kong, schools are closed until at least March 2. Teachers are choosing to go beyond just assigning readings and worksheets, with several schools attempting to have a regular lecture experience over Zoom’s video conferencing software or Google Hangouts. A former Hong Kong teacher writes that schools in the region learned to manage remote education during the 2003 SARS outbreak. But now the tools for real-time collaboration are much improved.

Web conferencing is even playing a role in the effort to create a vaccine for coronavirus. State news agency Xinhua reports that researchers will have free access to video conferencing for up to 100 people, provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Researchers are already looking at many different existing medicines that could inhibit the spread of the virus.

Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews, published Feb. 20, 2020.

Our Take

Disrupting events like the spread of a new virus or other natural disasters are a reminder that every business needs to have a business continuity process in place, and web conferencing software is a must-have piece of that puzzle. But the need to provide this software goes beyond the “in case of emergency” variety, and web conferencing should be available to employees every day. Studies show that employees value workplaces that allow them some flexibility in working remotely, and it’s hard to imagine doing that well without access to video chat. IT organizations should look at every workday as a potential remote workday and prepare to service employees accordingly.

It’s also a concern that when hit with major demand, some large cloud service providers weren’t up to the challenge. IT departments may want to consider fail-safe options to continue work procedures if the company finds its cloud service provider isn’t available just when it’s needed most.

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