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Why work-from-home technology is not one-size-fits-all

Almost exactly one year ago, the world as it was known changed inexorably.

Businesses around the globe had to close their premises and millions of office workers quickly transitioned to remote work from their homes.

And while, in general, IT managed this emergency shift successfully, their work is far from over, explains Garsen Naidoo, General Manager of Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Now that that initial urgency had been dealt with, a focus on the long-term plan is required for continued business resilience, considering where people will be working, how they’ll access online resources, and how their workloads can be secured and supported,” he says.

This requires a fundamental change in the view of home networks being secondary to corporate, office-based networks.

The home network is now essentially the default network.

As such, it must be afforded the right connectivity support, and this means identifying the specific needs of different workers and tackling issues before they become critical.

“Each individual’s situations and circumstances must be looked at, such as how important it is that they’re online 100 percent of the time, and do they have access to reliable ISP connectivity, as well as how many and what type of devices they’re using.”

Experts from Cisco suggest to include following considerations:

  • Continuing to equip those employees heavily reliant on corporate apps with access to standard Virtual Private Network (VPN) software.
    Split tunnelling can be utilised, where only specific enterprise-bound traffic will be sent through a corporate VPN tunnel, optimising performance to cloud-hosted services.
  • For users who work exclusively on cloud services, a zero-trust posture can be taken with their networking stacks, relying on the applications for security, instead of a VPN.
  • Monitoring the performance of network and application services provided, regardless of connection to corporate-controlled resources or not, via digital experience monitoring.
  • For employees for whom best-effort connectivity isn’t enough, Cisco recommends to replace or augment a home wireless access point with a Wi-Fi router that acts as an extension of the corporate network.
    A home wireless access point, configured by company I.T. before the employee installs it, can provide advanced security and monitoring and prioritize bandwidth for applications that need it.
    As a side benefit for users, corporate access points can make an in-home network appear just like the at-the-office network.
    If their devices automatically connect at the office, they’ll do the same at home. There’s no need to bother with firing up a VPN.
    A good solution for users such as customer support engineers that need network access for multiple devices (including non-PC devices), this can provide advanced security and monitoring, and prioritise bandwidth for applications that need it.
  • For those staff members for whom downtime or performance outages are an absolute no-go, or who may have limited ISP bandwidth within their home, a secure SD-WAN router is recommended.
    These solutions are able to select better or alternate paths to necessary resources in real-time and can be configured for the routing of critical communications either all the time, or when the main link becomes burdened.

Research has found that 80 percent of leaders surveyed plan to allow staff to work remotely at least part of the time post pandemic, with close to fifty percent stating that employees would be able to work from home full-time.

Furthermore, a PwC study said that 78 percent of CEOs surveyed believe that remote collaboration is here to stay.

So, it could be safe to say that, even as lockdowns are lifted, many people will probably continue to work from home in some capacity and their home installations deserve the same level of consideration and support as those in the workplace.

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Why work-from-home technology is not one-size-fits-all