Apr 16 2021

Networking Infrastructure That Can Power Hybrid Work Environments

As businesses reopen to limited numbers of workers, they’ll need to rethink network tech to support inclusion, productivity.

Workers are going back to the office. At least some of them are, some of the time. That’s the conclusion of the PwC Remote Work Survey, which found that both employers and employees believed that being in the office was important for collaborating and building relationships.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of employers thought that staff members should be in the office at least three days per week, and 61 percent of employees predicted they would be spending at least half their time in the office by midsummer.

Many businesses are responding to this dynamic by planning hybrid approaches, with employees working both remotely and onsite. While no ideal mix for who will work onsite versus remote — or how often — has emerged so far, leaders are exploring how to structure an environment that is as inclusive and productive as possible.

Click the banner below to explore the different technologies that power hybrid work.

Tools to Optimize Bandwidth

At the beginning of the pandemic, CompTIA, an association of IT professionals, published a list of networking considerations for remote work, including the need for increased bandwidth based on workload expectations. As companies move toward hybrid work environments, other tools may also help them evaluate their bandwidth needs.

For example, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor allows network professionals to analyze bandwidth utilization and performance by providing visibility into internet use by application, protocol and IP address group. Cisco’s ThousandEyes Internet Insights combines data within users’ companies with external data, like provider outages, to provide network professionals with a big-picture view so they can make more informed decisions.

Eric Hanselman, principal analyst with 451 Research, says that these types of “endpoint agents” provide valuable visibility to help IT professionals quickly identify issues.

“Historically, we threw bandwidth at problems,” says Hanselman. “Now, we’re starting to see more performance management tools that are integrating with end-user systems. Sometimes bandwidth is beyond your control, but these tools help IT teams understand where the problem is.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How to build company culture in a hybrid work environment.

Adding SASE Capabilities to VPNs

When entire workforces moved to remote locations in March 2020, many companies expanded their virtual private network capabilities by purchasing more licenses for products like Cisco’s AnyConnect, allowing at-home workers to virtually plug into the network through a secure connection.

However, VPNs can have scaling issues in large deployments, and connection constraints often led to suboptimal performance. In addition, many employees were bypassing their VPNs to log in to Software as a Service and cloud-based applications directly, exposing themselves and their companies to cyberattacks.

Secure Access Service Edge addresses many of those issues. According to Gartner, SASE helps solve problems created by “the patchwork of vendors, policies, and consoles creating complexity for security administrators and users.” SASE solutions, such as those offered by Akamai and Zscaler, among others, are tools that simplify management and add security to the increasing sprawl of both workers and applications.

Hanselman says that SASE is an excellent solution that can work alongside a VPN.

“The promise of SASE is that it has the ability to deliver scalable, granular control to technology professionals no matter where employees are located,” says Hanselman. “SASE isn’t necessarily exclusive of VPNs, but the concept includes an overarching set of protocols that are needed for remote access management.”