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Connecting remote workers with SD-WAN for the home

12 Feb 2021

According to our report on future-ready businesses, businesses that are prepared for the future are more likely to invest in cloud and online storage compared to those that are not (36% vs 24%). They’re also more likely to invest in mobile devices for employees.

As employees’ homes are increasingly used as “work branches” and rely on the cloud to access business-critical applications, and more mobile devices are connecting to corporate networks remotely, making these networks flexible and scalable is critical.

And so too is investing in them.

Whether businesses retain 100% remote working, or move to a more hybrid model, building a flexible, future-ready network directly into an employee’s home is going to be the backbone of their organisation.

It also opens up the debate of who is responsible for these ‘home branches’ and the level of connectivity they need. Are employees responsible for corporate networks built on top of their home broadband?

Or are these going to be corporate-owned resources that elevate an employee’s regular home-based access into the tier of mobile, enterprise connections?

Ultimately, the destination for remote working will wholly depend on how workers come to terms with “the new normal” and how effectively businesses can utilise hybrid and remote models. For now, the main challenges are connectivity and communication to support these rapid changes.

Identifying the challenges to the new networks

With more and more employees working from home or remotely, businesses are having to reassess the capabilities of their networks and whether they can support new ways of working.

Innocent Drinks, for example, is one global company already benefiting from optimising their WAN system.

As a global company, they’re reliant on employees being able to access networks and work collaboratively from multiple countries.

Working with us, they’ve been building a worldwide network to ensure the entire company is connected to their data network, and data can be sent and stored easily and securely on the network.

It also allows Innocent Drinks to use a single network with the same ‘look and feel’ for every employee, ensuring data is accessed and shared in a consistent way across the entire company.

Adding automation to network traffic management

Another significant challenge facing businesses when it comes to network management is the competition for capacity.

With thousands of “home offices” now trying to connect, the corporate network is under higher levels of stress. (If you want to find out more about managing the evolving remote workplace, our guide has all the information you need).

The use of video conferencing for meetings means calls are now competing with high volumes of low-bandwidth requests — this includes employees accessing their emails, sending messages or using cloud-based collaboration tools.

Expecting these high levels of traffic to move seamlessly over a network without management and not cause disruption isn’t realistic.

Quality of service will also differ from company to company. For example, remote contact centre reps will have a much higher quality of service requirement than knowledge workers. These reps need access to higher bandwidth applications to deal with customers efficiently. And these connections need to be available 24/7.

Knowledge workers, on the other hand, don’t need 24/7 access but need reliable connections to their applications, email servers and documents when they do log on.

This isn’t something that can be managed by relying on employees having sufficient broadband connections in their home. Nor can it fall on employees to upgrade their home broadband to meet higher requirements if they want to retain the option of remote working long-term.

To achieve this, businesses need a company-wide, long-term investment strategy to identify exactly what levels of connectivity need to provided to give employees network access from anywhere.

Failing to manage this transition properly could mean that businesses quickly find themselves with an overloaded network, or employees struggling to access the data and tools they need.

An ideal solution in this instance is SD-WAN. It can direct traffic and automatically assign requests to a particular path based on bandwidth availability. It’s also highly customisable.

And if you needed to create a new connection — for those higher bandwidth tasks — you could create a segmented route, enabling those business-critical requests to bypass the higher volume activity and reduce latency.

This will help improve the performance across the entire network.

Creating an adaptable, scalable network

If a business is to be fast and adaptable in the future, it needs a network that can do the same.

With the ability to quickly scale capacity to deal with higher levels of capacity, SD-WAN can easily manage the requirements of a future network.

Not only does it create the automatic agility to manage traffic in real-time, but it’s also a self-learning system. As more data passes through it over time, the network will learn the best routes to send data to manage requests more efficiently and continue to improve.

Plus, because network performance is visible from a central source, managers and IT teams have a complete picture of how their network is performing, with the real-time data they need to make informed decisions about future strategies.

Aligning networks on the edge

Edge Computing is changing the way data is handled, processed and delivered across devices by moving data closer to the devices creating it.

It’s also helping manage the higher levels of data being collected across dispersed areas through IoT-enabled devices and sensors.

Any company looking to take advantage of IoT as part of their future strategy is going to need to seriously consider how investment in Edge Computing can help them manage more efficient and reliable data storage.

According to Statista, the global Edge Computing market is expected to be worth roughly $15.7bn by 2025. And in the future, more companies will be looking to combine SD-WAN with Edge Computing, taking their network management to the next level.

If businesses expand Edge Computing resources to be closer to more remote-based workers and couple it with SD-WAN, they can start to selectively send traffic to the edge networks most appropriate for the location.

From a user standpoint, it will mean further reductions in latency and application disruption, allowing them to be even more productive and efficient.

A network ready for the future

Whatever the future holds for businesses, the increasing use and reliance on data to quickly pass from one place to another is becoming more critical.

If remote working does become a more permanent fixture in the world economy, traditional networks are going to struggle to face the growing demands being put on them.

Businesses looking to the future are looking towards a network that cannot just handle more connections and requests but is also flexible, scalable and intelligent enough to adapt to constantly changing requirements.

Want to know about how SD-WAN forms part of your business’ remote working solution? Check out our guide here.

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