Flexible working is touted to be the way of the future, with managers who were once unsure of the positives of working from home now experiencing for the first time just how well they and their teams are managing to get by.
This has given many businesses reason to consider allowing staff to work flexibly (mixing up their work week with time at home and in the office), while others plan on doing away with offices altogether, given the increased productivity they’ve experienced since early March, paired with the cost savings and improved wellbeing of their staff.
However, in the rush to get everyone WFH ready when Covid-19 hit, some businesses didn’t look at their current and future networking needs.
Many businesses had to improvise with their networking at the beginning on Covid-19 in Australia, so if you felt the strain in the early days of full-time WFH, you’re not alone.
And with a considerable proportion of the workforce expecting to work from home some (or all) of the time in the future, it makes sense to check in and ensure your network is suited to the increase in remotely located staff while still serving the business’ needs at any physical locations.
Optimising bandwidth, performance and application usage in all locations will be key, and while stopgap solutions may have done the job during the worst of the pandemic, scalability and security are also important considerations for the long term.
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Monitoring is key in determining your networking needs to begin with, and once the architecture has been built out, ensuring it’s working optimally.
The vast number of people working outside of the office has tested IT teams, especially those who have traditionally focussed on on-premise networks and have been in control of all aspects of the technology. Troubleshooting issues with an employee’s WiFi and personal devices is a new challenge, so being able to view entire networks, including employee endpoints, allows IT teams to troubleshoot issues before they become larger problems.
For example, to do this, endpoint agents can be added to devices – be it company provided or BYOD – to monitor how the device performs and how the network it is connected to is working.
Security-conscious users will be pleased to know that this form of monitoring looks only at things like WiFi speed and application connections, not the actual data contained within programs. But this does raise an interesting point about how privacy may be traded (in some cases) in return for more flexible working arrangements.
For employees who are able to work within the business’ physical location, their access to wired networks won’t need to change. But those who choose to work from other locations will need to access company networks another way.
Users on internal networks will be able to use company intranets and shared drives as usual, while VPNs (virtual private networks) are recommended to be used by remote workers to connect to company networks as they allow the user's device to behave as it would if they were in the office.
VPNs allow only trusted users to communicate through them, increasing your security even when some elements are out of your control, and allow for remote access from your IT team, which helps with solving technical issues from a distance.
If you’ve never set a VPN up before and need some advice, we’re here to help .
If you’re looking for a solution beyond VPNs, there are options such as VDI (virtual desktop) that may suit your business. Users see a virtual desktop (which sits within a centralised server) with an array of applications they can use. The benefits include allowing users to customise their desktop, and as each machine still acts separately, this allows additional security benefits for businesses or individuals who deal with confidential information on a regular basis.
And of course, the prevalence of SaaS products such as Office 365, Salesforce and many others means that users can login via a browser, so if you can ensure users have access to stable internet at home, they can work in much the same way as they would in the office.
Need a network strategy? Contact us today to discuss your individual needs.