Hybrid working practices are a part of the landscape for many organizations, where improved technology and networks provide greater mobility and remote working opportunities for businesses and employees. However, getting the right technology that supports hybrid models well is challenging for many companies.
Remote and hybrid working were identified as a growing business trend long before COVID-19, but the pandemic helped launch it to the top of the business and IT agenda. Today, hybrid work is changing how organizations and workers view their roles and the practicalities of running a business.
Hybrid work enables knowledge and creative workers, sales, and a growing number of technical roles to enjoy remote operations. It also provides a better work/life balance, allowing employees to skip the commute and make more time available for family or personal reasons.
The offer of remote work also makes the business a more appealing organization for hiring and retention, while helping cut down on office costs and other expenses. New businesses increasingly start out all-remote, while many firms are moving in that direction, but the need for the right networking, security and knowledge to handle a remote or hybrid workforce all require preparation and understanding.
Before broadly adopting hybrid working practices, make sure you’ve addressed these 6 key network challenges.
1. Security and networks expand with hybrid working
Moving workers beyond the office firewall requires a rethink of office networks. IT needs to protect an expanding network boundary, and workers need to connect to a secure cloud or system to access vital files. Typical productivity and business application cloud providers may be billed as secure, but data flowing between networks can still be compromised.
When adapting to hybrid work, many companies continue to use their VPN or adopt one, but these aren’t inherently secure. Traditional firewalls need to be replaced by next-generation firewalls that can inspect all network traffic in and out, monitor key applications and provide intrusion protection and detection services.
This will be vital as Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks enable production and factory workers to monitor automated systems from home, further reducing the need for people to be on site.
2. Remote working connectivity and performance issues
Since VPNs can be compromised, and home networks can be sketchy at best (never mind those of coffee shops, airports or other remote working locations), many firms are looking to continue their investment in software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) to improve network performance.
SD-WAN moves beyond typical networks, adapters and Wi-Fi routers, instead treating the business network as a virtual flexible perimeter using any networks it requires or can make use of. SD-WAN centralizes control, prioritizing business applications and data so that workers get a good experience wherever they are. Also, the business gains improved oversight and can fine-tune resources, while reducing IT costs for metered networks or services.
3. Keeping end users secure
While end-users love a fast and seamless experience, they need to be secure, so access to key applications must be restricted in case people lose their laptops or tablets.
Zero Trust ensures that all users, whether new or experienced, contractor or freelancer (and however well trained), are protected and unable to cause damage inadvertently or maliciously.
4. Threat management and security awareness
Most of the new-generation cloud tools provide automated responses based on machine learning, network-specific profiles or watchlists and other tools to reduce the demand on the IT and security team. Automatic response and resolution mean that security professionals only need to worry about the unusual attacks which trigger a specific alarm.
Automation can also teach remote workers the risks by sending random fake ‘threat’ emails to see if they’ve been paying attention to your security training. Teaching people to remain alert is a key part of any IT hybrid work effort, as while people may feel more comfortable at home or on their own device, this adds risk to the business.
5. Business continuity and security workloads
With the growth in adoption of next-gen firewalls, SD-WAN, VPNs and other innovations, firms need tools that reduce their workload. Secure access service edge (SASE) applications deliver in this respect, mixing networking and security features into one cloud-focused tool that scales as the business data footprint grows. This provides secure applications and data, while countering the growing range of sophisticated threats that all companies face.
A powerful SASE can help mitigate data loss, provide intrusion detection and help keep networks up and running when under threat. Ensuring business continuity is vital for any hybrid firm, and the easier it is for IT to operate, the more value it adds.
6. Data loss and the need to perform backups
The biggest risk for any business with a growing IT dependence is losing that data, due to ransomware, malicious internal actors or human error. Every file and service must be accessible and easy to restore if the worst does happen. Ensuring multiple backups are available while avoiding multiple versions of key data is an essential part of any IT hybrid effort.
Use private or hybrid clouds, and archive services to protect data reduces business downtime when malware or ransomware strike. This will ensure that workers can access plan B as part of business continuity efforts using alternative networks if there’s a major impact on the business IT.
With more businesses relying on hybrid workers and cloud services, there’s a growing need to use a range of flexible services to protect those workers and business data. Finding the right applications that meet your business needs, are compatible with the services you use, and work together to provide a balanced mix of security and accessibility is key to deliver a strong experience for your hybrid workers, and for future workers who are more likely to be working remotely.