Over the past few months, Covid-19 has impacted us all in many different ways. Something we can all relate to is that it has changed the way that we work, with different locations and enforced home working, altering the way that we all access data.
I have been speaking to customers over the past few weeks about how they are planning for the new normal and have been hearing several common thoughts. These include reviewing the use of existing office space, adopting a much more accepting and flexible approach to working from home, a clear appetite for greater flexibility when it comes to new locations in the future and working to ensure that data is accessible securely for the people that need it.
For some organisations these unprecedented circumstances have validated recently implemented cloud strategies, for others, it has accelerated plans to adopt more flexibility in their IT infrastructure and for many, it has made them sit up and consider what the future should look like. Regardless of which camp you sit in it does not hurt to reflect on the learnings of the past few months and build them into an ongoing strategy.
I know that IT departments across all sectors are being asked to look at what they currently have and what they need for the future, all while they struggle to understand what the new normal will truly look like. Depending on your industry, the size of your organisation, and where you are in your Cloud journey, the priority will be different. However, across all businesses everyone will certainly be looking to ensure that their systems and infrastructure can offer the following;
- More flexibility
- Lower operating costs
- Increased security
- Easier access for remote workers
While these topics have been on every CTO’s agenda over the past 10 to 15 years, the reality is that there is an increased urgency to ensure that they are delivered given the learnings from Covid-19 and the genuine risk of a second wave of the virus shutting the UK economy down once again.
- How far into your cloud journey are you? One of the primary reasons for having an MPLS network is often to allow users in branch offices to easily access corporate applications and data that is located on servers inside the organisation. As more and more workloads are moved to the cloud, the need to be directly connected to the head office naturally reduces. Write a list of applications and data that will remain on corporately owned assets and next to it write a list of applications and datasets that have already moved to SaaS applications. Having this down in front of you will help you to visualise the network requirements.
- How has your user profile changed and how will it continue to evolve over the next 24 months? Predicting the future is impossible, especially at the current time, but learning from the recent past is much easier. What has changed in your organisation with regards to access requirements, user habits and data profiles? Are there trends that can guide you towards what user demands will be and whatever those trends might tell you, make sure that you also question if the pace of change might be accelerated in the new normal.
- Is there a need to offer staff connectivity solutions for working from home? We all have that colleague, customer or supplier who struggles to complete online meetings because their connectivity is not up to the job, but at what point does it become the job of the IT department to offer a solution, possibly a 4G dongle, or a dedicated DSL line back into the corporate network. Understanding how home workers are best served by the network must be a critical part of any planning for your new network, even if it is just making sure the existing VPN access methods are secure, without being onerous on the user.
- What agility do you need across your contract term? Given the way digital transformation has been fast-tracked within B2C and B2B businesses over the past 5 years and the way that Covid-19 has completely changed the way we work in just three months, it is safe to say that the requirement for flexibility within IT and network teams has never been greater. So where might flexibility be needed? From scaling offices up or down to coping with different volumes of users and some businesses may need to quickly spin up new locations within the corporate blueprint, in all circumstances flexibility is key.
- How secure is secure? When users are sat inside the corporate network managing security is not easy, but it is still much easier than when they are outside. The biggest risk for most CIOs is not the hacker, but instead the authorised users. Mistakes are made, data is leaked, and security compromised, often by internal staff, normally unintentionally but sometimes maliciously. As more of the workforce are accessing cloud applications directly, sometimes from personal devices rather than controlled assets, the security of the network has many new challenges.
With any complex solution such as a multi-site WAN, sadly, there is not a ‘one size fits all answer’, however, there are common elements to consider and with a world that is changing at an unparalleled rate sharing the learnings of others might just ensure that the next decision you make delivers more value than it might otherwise offer.
There is a strong likelihood that the future network of any multisite organisation will involve an element of SD-WAN technology while using many different types of connectivity to join users securely with the data they need to perform effectively.
The move towards SD-WAN in the UK has been driven by the need for both flexibility and better access to cloud applications. With many SD-WAN vendors Head-Quartered in the USA, the messaging they lead with is almost always cost-based and focuses on how an SD-WAN wide area network will be cheaper than a more traditional MPLS or VPLS network. This is not, however, the case in the UK, the truth is that here the cost savings can be minimal if there are any at all. The real benefits are flexibility, security and improved performance to public cloud and SaaS applications. The reality is that many organisations look towards ‘Hybrid SD-WAN’ or ‘SD-WAN ready networks’ to manage the transition from their current network to the network of the future. Having a network that understands the need to access legacy applications on corporate servers balanced with more access to public cloud from any type of connectivity is key.
Getting the right connectivity options at every location is critical if you want to build a future-proofed network. Having the ability to use whatever connectivity medium best fits the situation requires a network aggregator that is connected to a range of carriers, networks, and technologies, all of which can be managed by one support team.
FluidOne is offering free network consultations to organisations who want to plan for the future. In this consultation our expert team will discuss and explore the topics above and make tailored recommendations for your organisation.
If you would like to learn more about how FluidOne can help you plan and design the network of the future, please click the button below.
If you would like to discuss how your organisation is looking to adapt for an increase in home working, then I’d be happy to share further insight and ideas.
About the author
Will Brooks, Enterprise Sales Director, FluidOne
Will is an experienced Sales Director with a proven track record of managing teams selling IT and connectivity Solutions in channel, direct, new business and client management situations in markets including server infrastructure, storage, virtualisation, Managed Services and more recently Cloud, connectivity and Unified Communications.
Will's management style is to actively encourage and create an environment that drives individual and team success, understanding strengths that ultimately benefit individuals and the business. At FluidOne Will looks after the Acquisition, Account Management and Strategic Partner teams.
Will is married with two daughters and lives in North Oxfordshire. While his days of playing rugby are behind him, he actively gets involved with his local rugby club; and is also a keen golfer.