Hybrid Workplaces and the New Network Normal
The implications of the current healthcare-related disruption are vast and business-defining, having been discussed to a great extent over the last weeks and months. From worker productivity to business viability, the challenge in maintaining a semblance of business order has been fraught with difficulties.
Central to this problem is connectivity, between humans, machines and applications. Connectivity in the local area network, across the wide area network, to the cloud and the types of access are all changing. Remote networking with virtual private networks, that was once a peripheral use-case, has now become mainstream due to work from home considerations.
While all this will come to pass over time, businesses need to adapt for a hybrid work environment in the coming years. Being able to shift types of access at short notice will become imperative in this hybrid environment. In such a situation, just throwing bandwidth at a problem will not suffice. Different applications have different requirements associated with latency, jitter etc., that cause performance problems even when bandwidth is a-plenty due to the nature of the underlying protocols. Bandwidth not just needs to continue to increase, but become more intelligent and definitive.
The video conferencing conundrum
Businesses and organisations now find themselves driven by video conferences, the UK cabinet office going so far as to tweet about its use of Zoom (meeting ID included).
With video conferencing almost becoming the de-facto method of collaboration, the quality of the underlying connectivity will impact the audio and video characteristics. From ensuring that the endpoints are ready to support video through to the right collaboration tools and the quality of the wide area connection – all are important to assure a quality conversation.
The wide area network is an important part of this equation. A recent Aryaka Networks survey, conducted with over 1000 IT professionals on the state of networks globally, digging into the biggest real-time voice and video performance challenges, found that, in Europe specifically:
- 33% experienced frequently dropped calls
- 38% had lag or delay in communications
- 36% had poor voice or video quality
Additionally, set up and management of underlying network infrastructure was complex in nearly 39% of the cases, resulting in sub-optimal installations and configurations. Clearly do-it-yourself (DIY) installations weren’t scaling.
Throwing more bandwidth at the problem or taking comfort in a good Internet connection doesn’t always suffice. The public internet, while increasingly robust, still suffers from high levels of packet loss, as well as increased latency and jitter. With exponential traffic increases, these issues are exacerbated.
Such cases can be somewhat alleviated by a managed SD-WAN provider network that removes the unpredictability of a DIY solution, delivering the network as-a-service that lends itself to better change management and by adopting high-performance private networks that bring greater predictability and security compared to the vagaries of the Internet.
Preparing for the new hybrid workplace environment
The challenges of WFH are there for all to see but, by itself, it is not a particularly
tough problem to crack. The challenge is in ensuring the worker is productive from anywhere, and that the business has little to no negative impact regardless of where the worker is working from. This is the new hybrid workplace normal.
Video conferencing problems are a small part of the productivity equation. With the onset of artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, 5G etc., several other factors come into play that allow a business to take advantage of the combination of leveraging technology and enabling worker productivity.
With all this, the network continues to become strategic. Whilst speeds will continue to increase, applications that consume more bandwidth also continue to increase exponentially in that more bandwidth is, by itself, never enough to solve a problem. The bandwidth needs to become more intelligent and dynamic, which means the network has to be able to accommodate this.
A managed provider that can provide end-to-end network visibility and take accountability will have an edge in this situation, particularly for a global enterprise. The hybrid connected workplace will be the new normal with a focus on cloud-based applications that have distributed inputs. Managing change will be key. In this equation, enterprises which are flexible and agile enough to cope with uncertainty and disruption will be able to thrive. Cloud-First networking principles are key to make this successful.
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