The hybrid workplace – a combination of remote work and in-person work – is starting to become the new normal for many businesses. However, as we have seen over the last year, there are multiple technological considerations to be made when planning for this model long-term. This includes those around your corporate network. Although this may be secondary to concerns like cybersecurity, it is still important for your business functions and employee productivity. Recently, a webinar lead by Jake Eaker, Senior Consulting Engineer at NetGain, and Russ Boyd. Systems Engineer at Aruba Networks, discussed what to consider when managing your network for the hybrid workplace. Read on to learn their insights.
How the Shift to Remote Work Affected Networks
Boyd explained that when all work shifted to remote, managing a different scale for your corporate network was a big adaptation. There was a large change for organizations’ IT staff as well, he said, as they had to now manage many uncontrollable network environments (employee home networks) instead of the single, controllable corporate network. Providing a network experience identical to the corporate network proved difficult as well.
Eaker pointed out that the remote work shift is one part of the larger virtualization of many things like Azure and moving to the cloud. Having a scalable, streamlined plan using solutions like the ones Aruba provides for your network is important for the remote workforce, he added.
Network Considerations for the Hybrid Workplace
Eaker and Boyd reviewed several points to consider when planning network management for a hybrid workplace.
Connectivity is different for everyone, Boyd explained, due to different internet providers in employee’s homes. They are also typically not corporate quality. Additionally, securing the network is always a concern. Boyd explained that a solution like Aruba’s micro-branch solution allows both strong connectivity and easy visibility into various network issues. The micro-branch solution is essentially an extension of your corporate network, including an extension of security.
Eaker explained that the faster end users can become connected, the better it is for both employees and IT staff. It makes for a better user experience, allows end users to be independent without having to configure their network, and lightens the burden on IT.
Eaker emphasized defining roles and access control for the network, in order to control what users and what devices can be connected to the network. This is especially important when employees are working with other individuals in the household that could try and connect and potentially compromise the network, he explained, as this is a consideration to make when planning for remote work.
Boyd mentioned that Aruba has a zero trust security model for their network setup, which allows only those specifically allowed on the network to connect. The hybrid model allows individuals to move back and forth between the office network and their home network, so having stopgaps in place to protect the corporate network both remotely and in-office is important, he said.
Easy to Use Architecture
Eaker emphasized efficient, secure architecture for a network, as well as a solution that is easy to deploy and manage. Solutions like Aruba’s allow for good visibility into the network, which helps organizations stay secure, and helps IT be able to see into their network easily.
Boyd added that Aruba integrates with third-party solutions easily, which makes deployment and management even easier. Considering network solutions for your business that is simple to use is one of the best things you can do for your network.
End User Ease of Use
Eaker explained that the way end users connect to your corporate network needs to be as easy as possible. Preventing disruption of workflow is the number one priority. Connecting exactly the same way remotely as you do to the corporate network is an ideal situation. He also explained that adding on more end users should be easy, so that individuals can be working right away.
Boyd echoed that having the same connection remotely as in the corporate office is vital. He explained that Aruba’s micro-branch solutions are one example of the extremely simple, easy to use setup that is possible for your network. All that this solution takes is plugging in the micro branch and any corporate devices connecting to the solution, and the employee is up and running. This allows the process to be streamlined, and make it identical to the corporate network.
Return to Office
Eaker explained that finding a networking solution that can be transferred to a corporate office allows for flexibility and adaptability, so that the solution can function both remote and in the office.
Boyd added that the new hybrid situation creates a vital need for the entire organization to seamlessly go between the home and corporate office. He also explained that some organizations will go back to fully in-person, and finding solutions that can be repurposed for in-person work is ideal. Aruba offers some such solutions, including their micro-branch.
A good, secure network is an important part of your technology infrastructure for the hybrid workplace. Networks are no longer isolated, Boyd explained, due to both remote work and other factors like the cloud. It is important to have a partner, he says, that has solutions that have been available for years that function well for the hybrid workplace. Eaker said that a remote workplace is like building roads for employees to get access to corporate information they need; but you also need a partner or “traffic cop” and different plans in place to be able to reroute and adapt to different traffic issues. He said this management is the important part to consider when planning your network strategy.