Have you reviewed your corporate network in the past two months?
- Has internet circuit utilization spiked?
- Has the internet caused business continuity problems?
- Is cell usage through the roof?
- Is streaming video now a critical path?
- Have corporate data and voice networks been idle?
The recent aggressive switch to a majority remote workforce has exposed the many ways our enterprise networks fall short. Unsurprising, of course, as most networks were built for the way business was conducted prior to the pandemic and not for today’s work-from-home workforce (full-time or part-time).
Even if your existing network is large and robust, it is only used to supporting a 10-20% remote workforce. The challenges are less about the bandwidth and more about latency (the round-trip delay across the network to an application and back). Network latency headwinds are strong and range from poor basic services at home to more sophisticated challenges like routing VPN connections through the corporate data centers just to exit a cloud-based application.
There are companies still scrambling to have adequate basic capabilities. This includes providing VPN access for remote users and appropriate licensing for VDI sessions, and support for uncontrolled home office environments including managing new threat vectors and rearchitecting security, to name a few. Even BYOD (bring your own device) policies have been redefined in the past several months.
We don’t know what the new normal looks like. What we do know is that remote office work trends will remain permanently elevated and most likely to increase significantly by more than 50% in the foreseeable future. As organizations strive to get back into a “business as usual” posture, there will be a re-prioritization of the digital transformation agenda to include application resiliency, cloud adoption, modified business processes, cultural impacts, new business tools to interact internally, redefinition of customer engagement, and, of course, enhanced network services. A successful transformation means enabling the data and voice network to support the legacy operating models while redefining the network architecture, optimizing costs, and ensuring the overall user experience and productivity meets the revamped business expectations.
No doubt, leaders are currently focused on maintaining business continuity and adapting business processes to ensure their employees can work safely and effectively. And the enterprise network is an integral part of that undertaking. Essential business processes such as customer service, employee onboarding, market posturing, regulatory compliance, to name a few, depend on reliable data and voice network operation. If these business processes are the railcars of a train, then the network is the railroad track that train rides on.
So, how to transition from where your organization is now to a practical working future? Here are eight key areas you can focus on to enhance your network services and optimize cost at the same time.
Now is the perfect storm for SDWAN implementation and review for various reasons: technical debt relief, cost savings, agility, cloud interconnectivity, security alignment, remote access capabilities, wireless WAN integration, etc.
- Mitigate backhauling into your data center for cloud applications
- Plan for newer technology trends that will integrate network and security in a cloud-native environment orchestrating identity-based access
The typical organization lacks the time, monitoring capability, skills, or desire to effectively manage a burstable bandwidth pricing model. But the price and bandwidth flexibilities along with today’s environmental and market realities make bursting a viable and cost optimizing solution worthy of consideration
Use the network transformation to begin or bolster your network automation strategy. The ability to proactively orchestrate, identify and manage events in your network becomes integral to an agile network.
4. Contractual Reviews
- Negotiate dedicated Internet access and broadband connections with MPLS or enterprise-class like service levels and performance requirements
- Consider mid-contract review and renegotiation
5. Cellular networks
Leverage cellular today as it continues to evolve over the next several years:
- 4G can be an effective solution under many correct business conditions
- Build your infrastructure to support 5G as it reaches critical mass—other than several major cities, it will be years until the 5G promises of low latency are truly realized
6. Application and network availability
Design application performance management solutions to include remote locations that have varying service levels.
- Automation of logging, monitoring, and analyzing data for intrusions, vulnerabilities, and endpoint management
- Prepare to manage multi-cloud environments (including the corporate network) from a single management tool set
If your organization has adopted DevOps and networking does not have an active role in the effort, make that change immediately. Regardless, integrate network and security at the onset of the application development lifecycle to ensure the desired application performance is attained.
The short-term adoption of network modifications driven by the COVID-19 crisis must be the catalyst for building a secure and sustainable network that supports the work-from-anywhere business requirements of the new reality. IT leaders need to look ahead as well as take advantage of today’s network infrastructure differentiators to support their organization’s recovery and build resiliency.
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