With millions more people now working from home (WFH), Covid-19 has changed the way businesses operate and manage their networks. An increasingly dispersed network has provided new challenges in securely and efficiently connecting all managed devices. But many companies are now considering their return-to-work plan, and so it is important to consider what form the ‘new normal’ of work will take. Businesses will need to quickly address the ways in which network management will continue to change, and what additional difficulties they and their IT teams will face.
It’s important to understand that the ‘old normal’ (pre-Covid-19) may be gone for good. Which employees will return to the office, how they will return, and when they will return are all topics of debate for most, if not all, companies. There is little chance that this will happen soon - companies are likely to implement a phased approach where workforces are split between working in the office or from home.
Indeed, some major tech companies, such as Twitter, have said that they are open to allowing their staff to permanently work from home. Facebook predicts that over half its employees will be working remotely within the next 5 to 10 years. The CEO of Barclays suggests that putting 7,000 people in an office might be a thing of the past. All these questions and solutions will have considerable repercussions for IT teams and network management.
The challenge for many companies, both during lockdown and once workers start coming back to the office, is how to efficiently manage and monitor a highly distributed workforce.
A shift in the way we monitor and manage networks
At the beginning of the lockdown, some companies transitioned seamlessly to WFH as they already had some kind of WFH policy and the digital infrastructure to support it. However, there were many other businesses who did not, and have had to scramble to facilitate the infrastructure and the knowledge to support remote working.
IT teams have been under great pressure since the start of Covid-19. They have been putting out fires, responding to more help requests from employees than usual, all while trying to ensure that the services and applications that employees/customers rely on are functioning optimally.
VPNs have become a much more prominent actor in the network, providing secure access to company networks for millions of home workers. At Park Place, we've seen IT teams pivot quickly to re-focus their attention on monitoring VPN traffic. We've seen them set up business continuity dashboards, monitoring bandwidth, internet, while ensuring their workers have access to businesses-critical applications. We've seen a huge rise in the use of remote messaging and video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Skype and Google Hangouts.
IT teams will need tools to help them monitor a distributed workforce
As companies formulate and initiate their return-to-work plans, IT teams will be responsible for ensuring workers in the office can still connect and communicate effectively with home workers. Further, those home workers will also still require remote access to their applications. Support will need to support both local and remote work, and cater for increasingly staggered working hours.
While the strain on the VPN may be eased somewhat, a highly distributed workforce adds pressure to IT Teams in different ways:
- How can we ensure application and service performance is as good for home workers as it is for office workers?
- For both home and office workers, how can we proactively prevent infrastructure problems and remediate quickly when problems do arise?
- How do we ensure our workforce is as productive as possible so it can deliver business objectives?
- How do we efficiently monitor such a varied, distributed workforce?
Now, more than ever, IT teams are reliant on network management tools that can help them answer these questions.