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Optimizing Network Architecture for the Remote Work Era

 Mar 5, 2024   |    Black Box

In the wake of the global shift towards hybrid work models, the traditional office environment has undergone a profound transformation. As we adapt to this new normal, characterized by a blend of remote and in-person work, the importance of optimizing network architecture has never been more apparent.

In this dynamic landscape, employees' home offices serve as decentralized branches of the organization, housing critical departments such as HR, IT, Marketing, Engineering, and Finance. This distributed framework not only facilitates connectivity but also fosters enhanced operational efficiency. Let's explore how organizations can leverage technology to ensure seamless connectivity and operational resilience in this hybrid era.

Shifts in Network Architecture

According to Pew Research, before the pandemic, approximately 20 percent of employees were working from home. During the pandemic, that percentage rocketed to 71 percent. Of those remote workers, about 54 percent want to continue working from home after the pandemic ends. Eventually, companies are heeding this shift in preferences and adjusting their strategies accordingly.

As organizations implement safe return-to-work programs, everything looks different, including network connectivity. Now the network must support a mixed bag of fully remote and hybrid employees, which means the network “center” is shifting. In the past, networks were designed to connect users to apps in the data center, with a secure perimeter to keep those users and apps safe from outside attacks. However, with apps moving to the cloud and users connecting from everywhere the perimeter has vanished.

Optimizing Networks for Home Offices

Considering the situation, it's crucial to view the home office as a branch location—that is at the same level of enterprise access and security. In essence, it's time to:

  • Decouple security that’s bolted on at perimeter and endpoints and managed using complex manual policies.

  • Focus on centrally managed, role-based policies that can be enforced anywhere and from any devices an employee chooses to work.

This is where a branch-of-one architecture can assist you in reengineering and redesigning your network for business resilience.

Branch of One Consideration

As you contemplate permanent home office architecture, keep in mind:

Enhanced connectivity: The goal is to give all employees, whether on-site or remote, an excellent and consistent user experience via satisfactory broadband connections. Organizations can do this by subsidizing connectivity for remote workers or by considering plans that take advantage of cellular connections. If that’s the case, a company should think about taking an office-in-a–box approach to standardize branch environments, which makes the process easier for IT to manage.

Office in a box: This simple yet powerful concept provides each branch-of-one with all the necessary equipment for connectivity and security, including wi-fi access, routers, and gateways.

Integrated security: The big concern with remote work — whether it occurs over a home network or via a public network in a coffee shop — is ensuring a safe broadband connection. While VPNs and other standard security measures are still in use, they cannot compare with solutions tailored for permanent hybrid workers, such as SD-WAN, single-sign-on (SSO), reverse proxy with additional benefits of remote browser isolation (RBI), and SASE.

Collaboration tools: With no provision for desk phones and boardroom collaboration tools, the branch-of-one architecture needs to support unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools. UC&C has become an integral part of businesses that facilitated services, such as instant messaging, online “presence” status, VoIP, audio, video conferencing, and mobility features, such as single-number reach. Furthermore, with the increase in home offices, it’s crucial to be able to play videos, which likely requires enhanced bandwidth.

Cloud-based management: Imagine the IT team’s satisfaction when they can deploy application and security procedures to multiple remote employees from one platform at one time.

User-experience monitoring: Nothing affects remote workers more negatively than a substandard user and network experience. Understanding these incidents is crucial to the productivity and job satisfaction of remote workers.

Strategic Connectivity

During the post pandemic phase, organizations have acknowledged the importance of treating connectivity as a strategic element in maintaining, sustaining, and growing their business operations, as well as improving business resilience. Black Box can help you transform your network into a more secure, agile, flexible, and cost-effective system by taking charge of network integration, connectivity, testing, and validation.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Black Box has been providing companies with innovative solutions to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their work-from-home setups.” - notes Randi Roger, Product Manager for Networking in Black Box. “For example, we assisted a leading healthcare network design, procuring, and implementing a secure hardware purchase for every remote employee, including HIPAA-compliant data transfer from home.”

Charlie Martin, Black Box’s VP of Solution Delivery, Strategic Accounts, adds, “Not only can Black Box provide the highest quality implementation services at your primary sites, but also scale to implement our solutions at our customers’ locations, large and small, around the globe.”

About Black Box

Black Box® is a trusted IT solutions provider delivering cutting-edge technology products and world-class consulting services to businesses across the globe. The breadth of our global reach and depth of our expertise accelerate customer success by bringing people, ideas, and technology together to solve real-world business problems.

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