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Has the pandemic triggered the network of the future?

Has the pandemic triggered the network of the future?
(Image credit: Shutterstock / carlos castilla)

49.2% of adults in employment are currently working from home as a result of the pandemic. We aren’t expecting to go back to a normal day in the office anytime soon. Even in a post pandemic world, early signs show that most workplaces will likely remain displaced in some form. Remote working is here to stay, and IT management must adapt to provision for rising edge workers and fewer office workers.

For many organisations, remote working at this scale was never considered or planned for. IT teams have been challenged from all angles with a myriad of IT support requests. At the same time having to deal with the pressure of setting up new systems and ensuring consistent, fast connectivity for remote teams.

On top of this, cybersecurity has become a significant concern. The number of security endpoints has grown exponentially over lockdown - all of which are outside the traditional network perimeter. Be it employees not following security policies or working from their own unsolicited devices. IT teams have struggled to keep up. Shadow IT has become a prominent issue, to which visibility is much needed, but sometimes difficult to implement.

Despite the unexpected nature of the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the issues in themselves are not new. IT teams have long been aware of the pressures to innovate, but the mandate to make changes has been accelerated. Change is therefore needed but this next-generation world of work presents a series of hurdles for traditional networking and security infrastructure to overcome. IT teams now have an opportunity to revolutionize their networks, not only so they are fit for purpose during the pandemic, but in the world thereafter.

Finding a solution in a crowded marketplace

To cope with the scale of issues they face in the remote working world, IT teams need to move away from legacy systems to intelligent, cloud-based technologies. These solutions can help to improve visibility and automate repetitive tasks. Freeing up the IT teams to deal with strategic business-focused issues, rather than handling ticket requests and fault resolutions.

Many vendors offer solutions that claim to improve network visibility. However, not all solutions are created equal. In this area, some have created cloud services that provide unified management and orchestration. Alongside end-to-end visibility over remote networking issues, that can be addressed from a single pane of glass. This seamless visibility into the state of WAN, LAN and wireless LAN infrastructure is essential - and critical for a post-pandemic world where remote working will become the norm.

With a single pane of glass, IT managers can deploy, configure and monitor their network’s health from edge to cloud. Embedded telemetry and guided workflows allow connectivity, performance and security to be managed with a minimum of effort.

Understanding the value of artificial intelligence

The solution should also be AI-powered, predictive and automated. This frees up IT teams from tasks so that they can solve real business problems and accelerate innovation. These kinds of solutions are agile, resilient and flexible. Moreover, AI-based profiling, policy enforcement and management capabilities help businesses reduce their cyber-risk.

While many organizations are already tapping into the power of AI and automation, some do so without a strategic overview for implementation - choosing use cases where the value can be seen quickly. For more complex, large scale uses, it is necessary for organizations to partner with expert network providers, who can tailor a comprehensive portfolio for their specific needs and can improve the overall business agility, whilst building new revenue streams and creating compelling experiences that delight customers and employees.

Preparing for the future

We will return not to one, but to many kinds of workplaces – traditional offices, on the road, homes – and businesses will need to show geographic resilience as safety must be ensured. It has become essential for employees to move seamlessly from location to location without retraining or compromise.

This new workforce requires situational awareness, adaptability, and scalability - on a global level - and all without security gaps. Traditional offices and buildings are now relying on AI-powered contact and location tracing tools to enable social and physical distancing monitoring solutions that make the workplace safer. These solutions use IoT and Bluetooth radios that are pre-built into access points and can simply be managed from a single pane of glass. They can also operate on a customers’ existing infrastructure, eliminating the need for rip and replace, and leverage cloud-based applications that are easy to activate and affordable to deploy.

The pandemic may have forced IT teams to adapt and change their systems faster than anticipated. However, making these changes is what will put organisations in a stronger position for the future. Now is the time to re-examine and evolve as we move towards a COVID-free future.