Connected Technology Solutions looks at the supporting networks for remote workers during and after the Coronavirus lockdown

With much of the world going into lockdown upon the ever-growing impact of the Coronavirus, the ways that many businesses operate have been thrown into a state of flux. For some, the transition from local to remote working has been quite seamless as such organisations simply strengthened a digital infrastructure that already enabled home working.

However, for many other businesses, this period is a step into the unknown. While they may claim to adhere to digital working practises, the pressure to not just ‘cope’ but ‘thrive’ in this new climate will inevitably result in teething problems. For these organisations, the main issue revolves around networking. And it is here where business leaders and IT teams need to convert from simply talking a good game, to deeply embedding a facilitative digital infrastructure for a dispersed workforce.

Without a secure, high-performance, and quickly accessible – now remote – company network, how can any individual reach the same level of quality and accuracy in their work as they would in-office? “In this new norm, bandwidth can become a detrimental issue overnight, as different individuals’ home set-ups struggle to meet enterprise requirements,” Thorsten Kurpjuhn, European market development manager at Zyxel, says. “To combat the problem, companies’ infrastructures need to facilitate two things. Firstly, the communicative and management capability for employees to continue working as well as they would in-office. And secondly, the security and efficiency of their digital property to still meet the expectations of their customers.

“Security, control, and flexibility are the ultimate trilogy of considerations that companies now need to strive for to achieve the above. And to do so, they must begin by setting up a virtual private network (VPN).”

Maintaining vital security

The importance of security can never be understated of course, but such a situation as we have now heightened its significance, as cybercriminals identify a prime opportunity to strike. “As ever, it can often begin with phishing emails, coercing people into downloading malware as a gateway to sensitive data,” Kurpjuhn says. “But worms, spyware, trojans and a host of additional dangers are also lurking, and all can be mitigated by providing secure network connectivity and a state-of-the-art VPN firewall.

“The combination of a VPN and a firewall ensure the requisite efficiency and security required for a company’s network to flourish in the current conditions. With users continuously connected to the company’s infrastructure, it allows them to operate as they would normally, without compromising the security of data being produced, collated, or shared at any point.”

A VPN creates an encryption-protected tunnel that connects each employee directly with their company’s network, thus preventing third parties from gaining unauthorised access to the data being transferred inside. The addition of a firewall to the home office provides protection against other deadly cyberthreats such as ransomware and attacks by viruses that sneak in from the home network.

Should a company’s or customers’ data be breached, the impact would now likely be felt more than ever before. It would become an unsettling addition to what is already an unnerving time for employees, who may need time to adjust to this new way of working.

Control of sensitive data

It may not seem like the opportune time to be looking into operating expenses, but it is vital for companies to provide a remote workforce with multi-layer, bundled security solutions and a safe connection to the business network. “Not only will such set-ups make employees feel more settled, but they will also feel more in control being reassured that sensitive data is kept secure, despite the disbursed sprawl of physical property,” Kurpjuhn adds. “With security no longer a concern in the back of workers’ minds, they can hopefully focus on what they do best – performing their usual tasks to optimum capabilities.”

In the coming months, pressure is likely to shift in the direction of IT managers and cloud management systems who will be under more scrutiny than ever before.  Not only do they need to offer a robust and quality solution, but they need to do so in a way that is accessible to a broader pool of users than previously experienced. Even the least tech-proficient individuals must be empowered to take greater control over their own network settings, remote monitoring functions and sharing capabilities.

“To retain a sense of control in a situation which feels largely out of users’ hands will be pivotal from a business perspective,” Kurpjuhn adds. “This can only be achieved though if the cloud-hosted remote management solutions are refined and optimised, so that employees feel they are in charge of their workspaces rather than struggling without assistance.

“Initially, this begins with making sure that any devices being deployed feature the capabilities for remote configuration and installation, given the distancing and lockdowns in place. Ideally this is followed by simple and automatic software upgrades where necessary. The solutions provided to each worker have to be geared up for those even with the lowest levels of tech proficiency and confidence.”

The benefits of flexibility

Establishing control and utilising remote management tools leads seamlessly into the notion of flexibility,  a concept that will not only aid organisations and their employees through this period but could strengthen company processes beyond the pandemic.

“The benefits of solutions that facilitate remote working are thrown into the spotlight more than ever before,” Kurpjuhn adds. “The simplicity of installation, ease of use, controllability, and the way these solutions can help to better manage processes from different locations. These are strands that many organisations have felt could only be optimised through face-to-face interaction and internal digital devices until now.

“To realise that these same advantages could be gained remotely, sheds light on a new employer-employee dynamic. To more suitably address the work-life balance of employees who could sometimes benefit from homeworking is a tangible positive to take from an otherwise negative situation.

“There is an adage that you should ‘never waste a good crisis’. For many organisations, the remote initiation, installation, deployment, management, and refinement of digital solutions for employees working from home may well prove to be more of a long-term transformation, rather than a short-term backstop. It is critical that companies realise this early on and embrace the VPN and cloud management-driven networking potential that lies before them.”