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Highland Council computer systems under pressure due to coronavirus home working

By Scott Maclennan

Extra pressure on Highland Council computer systems has led to many staff being ordered to log off to allow others to complete essential work.

According to internal emails, the issues arose on Tuesday and among those instructed to log off were teachers working from home to provide education remotely for their pupils.

The problems were traced to a surge in those working from home, with six times the amount of staff as normal connecting to council systems remotely.

Some staff have been encouraged to ditch work-issued computers and use their own devices instead while others have been told simply to stay off council systems.

A council spokesman said: “The council has never had this number of people working from home at one time. Last week we had capacity for up to 500 people to connect from home.

“Over the last week we have been working to increase the capacity and yesterday we reached 3000 connecting from home. Work continues to increase that capacity further, but we are also following other approaches to allow critical operations to continue.

“For teaching purposes, most of the resources being used are in the Google cloud and this means they can be accessed from any computer connected to the internet, and so we are encouraging teachers to use their own devices where possible to reduce demand on our infrastructure.

“We have also put in place extra security to allow staff to access some other services from their own devices and have provided timeslots in the day for different teams to connect.

“The council’s systems did not 'go down' on Tuesday but there was unprecedented demand on the infrastructure. That did mean that some people had difficulties accessing systems.

“The measures being taken will reduce those issues going forward, but we still are in a situation which we have never experienced before and could not fully prepare for. The council’s own ICT team and contractor Wipro are working very hard to ensure critical systems continue to operate.”

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