Rethinking — and Treating — the Home Office as a Branch Location
The office environment as we knew it for so long mostly doesn’t exist anymore. While we will eventually return to the office, the space will be vastly different from the one we left in March 2020. There will be no large numbers of employees in close proximity five days a week with permanent seating areas. Instead, the new office will feature a limited number of employees on-site on various days, safely distanced, in seating areas that are fluid and impersonal.

On the days they’re not in the office, those same employees will work from home in offices that can — and should — be thought of as individual branches of the larger corporation in areas such as HR, IT, Marketing, Engineering, Finance, etc.

Business as Usual… Isn’t

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 — and companies are listening.

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.

A Branch of One

That’s why it’s important to think of the home office as a branch location — a branch of one — and treat it with the same level of enterprise access and security. In other words, it’s time to:
  1. Decouple security that’s bolted on at perimeter and endpoints and managed using complex manual policies. 
  2. Focus on centrally-managed, role-based policies that can be enforced anywhere an employee chooses to work and from any device an employee chooses to work and from any device.

This is where a branch-of-one architecture can help you re-engineer and redesign your network for business resilience.

Branch of One Considerations

As you think about permanent home office architecture be mindful of:

Enhanced connectivity: The goal is to give all employees —on-site and remote — an excellent and uniform 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.1

Office in a box: This simple, but powerful box concept gives each branch-of-one all the equipment needed for connectivity and security, including wi-fi access, routers, and gateways.1

Integrated security: The big concern with remote work — whether it’s over a home network or via a public network in a coffee shop — is a safe broadband connection. While still in use, VPNs and other standard security measures can’t compare with solutions for permanent hybrid workers, such SD-WAN, single-sign-on (SSO), reverse proxy with additional benefits of remote browser isolation (RBI), and SASE.1

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 business, thanks to services such as instant messaging, online “presence” status, VoIP, audio, video conferencing, and mobility features, such as single-number reach. What’s more, 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.1

User-experience monitoring: Nothing makes remote workers crankier than a substandard user and network experience. Understanding these incidents is crucial to remote-worker productivity and job satisfaction.1

Strategic Connectivity

During the ongoing pandemic, organizations must acknowledge the importance of treating connectivity as a strategic element in maintaining, sustaining, and growing their business operations, as well as improving business resiliency. 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 creative ideas to make their work-from-home solutions safe and effective,” notes Randi Roger, New Product Manager for Networking. “For example, we helped a top-five healthcare network design, procure, and implement 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 in every industry. 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.

1. IDC. (2021). Branch of one: Evolution of the enterprise network edge for remote workers. IDC.

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