Work from home move sparks IT boom

IT service providers and retailers are booming as companies scramble to set up staff to work from home. But Australia-wide shortages of supplies such as monitors, hard drives and laptops are hampering efforts and making computer hardware “like toilet paper”.

Mac Centre Norwood is experiencing a 30 per cent surge in business this month both in sales at its retail shop on The Parade and also in service calls to its business clients.

Director Dave Hefford said his retail shop had benefitted from the temporary closure of the Rundle Mall Apple Store in recent weeks coupled with an increase in demand for products such as laptops.

“The last year in retail has been pretty tough so we were in the process of trimming everything right back in terms of our casual workers but what’s happening now is the casual hours are increasing and we are trying to stagger our workers on separate shifts to keep them apart in case one of them falls ill,” he said.

“The boom in support has been about prepping businesses as much as possible in their office because that’s traditionally where we support them and putting the right tools on all their machines so when they pop up in their homes we can get to their machines easily and help them out – every home’s different and networks are different.

“I don’t know how quiet I’m going to go but I suspect we’ve had our spike – it’s in the third week now and it’s starting to wind up because if you’re a reasonable sized business and you haven’t even thought about working from home yet then you are in trouble already.”

Hefford said he had been working up to 18 hours on his busiest days setting up clients but had concerns with how the NBN system would cope with the extra traffic generated by so many people working from home.

He said industry colleagues working on in-house teams with larger companies had also been extremely busy.

“Some are really well prepared because they are already heavily cloud based.

“I know a guy with a couple of offsiders and they look after 180 engineers in a big firm and he pretty much got them up and running in a couple of days whereas I’ve heard of other companies and government departments where systems are struggling to cope with everyone going remote.

“I can definitely see speed issues at some houses in some suburbs so it’s definitely buckling under the load.”

Hefford said while the Apple supply chain was fairly “bullet proof” there was an Australia-wide shortage of screens, hard drives and generic PCs and laptops because of increased demand here and supply problems from China.

He said business had boomed in March but he was concerned about the coming months.

“I’ve got clients who have run around and bought 10 or 15 monitors in the past week when normally they would buy one screen per year and clients running down to Officeworks trying to buy 10 hard drives so 10 staff can go home with everything that’s on the server and that stuff has run out now.

“On the PC side of things there no real indication of when that supply chain is going to improve – it’s a bit like toilet paper at the moment.

“Retail is probably up 30 per cent this month for us and our billable support time would be up around 20-30 per cent as well. But what I’m worried about is May, June and the dead heart of winter when everyone is buckled in at home working and businesses go quiet and don’t not need support – then we might be 20 or 30 per cent down.”

Pulteney St business Livewire IT, which services about 30 Adelaide companies, is also experiencing a spike in business.