How to maximize uptime and prevent the outages that are holding back your remote workers

By Ben Williams, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace

The share price of video conferencing specialist Zoom tells an eloquent story about the sudden centrality of remote working tools in 2020. From $87.66 on February 3, it jumped to just under $600 by mid-October, before settling back after the first successful vaccine trial announcements to a more modest $400 at the time of writing.

The technology necessary for what Fujitsu describes as this ‘Work Life Shift’ is not new. It was largely perfected some time ago, but adoption was held back because companies were much more comfortable with people coming into the office. That suddenly changed with multiple national lockdowns across the globe, preventing people from traveling to work or meetings that were not crucial to performance. With vaccines now in sight, remote working is unlikely to retreat into the shadows: Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, has extended its remote working policy to 50,000 employees until 2021, and here at Fujitsu, we have introduced a permanent remote working policy for 80,000 employees.

The tech may be mature, but that does not mean you can deploy and forget. The supply and demand imbalances created by the sudden spike in usage in early 2020 indicated that service disruption was not unusual.

Identifying risks to availability

Availability can be affected by a range of issues: misconfiguration, cybersecurity threats, lack of resources, and more. The challenge is knowing exactly what is causing problems. App providers won’t exactly be in a hurry to acknowledge issues, putting a premium on independent monitoring in real-time and the ability to do something about it when a problem is detected or becomes obvious when users start to voice their displeasure.

In terms of cybersecurity, the pandemic was and remains the perfect storm. It threatens and questions the very fundamentals of many security strategies. The first days of lockdown were an uncomfortable time for cybersecurity teams, suddenly under pressure to grant system access from devices and locations that had never previously been allowed. Retrofitting security measures to a technology stack and processes is costly and time-consuming. Organizations that moved quickly to secure remote working promptly were the ones that already had the right security pieces in place.  Others were left to scramble for VPN licenses in a panic.

A few months ago, very few companies had considered providing security awareness training from the perspective of working from home. However, overnight strengthening the “human firewall” became an issue of paramount importance. The emphasis here has been on creating additional awareness, backed by specific policies on what is acceptable and what an employee should do should they spot something suspicious.

Another key learning has been that users will inevitably bypass any security that gets in the way of usability, either through necessity or convenience. Now-essential tools, from file sharing to collaboration are often shadow IT, blocked by IT security policies. While most cloud services are inherently secure, they may have been deployed quickly, without much thought about how corporate security policies should apply. Consequently, organizations could have introduced new risks as they embraced new agility.

Spotting and dealing with outages – automatically

Organizations also need to seek back-end technologies that automatically and proactively detect risks and misconfigurations across all components of the public cloud before they lead to service disruptions in the first place that can impact business.

For most organizations, the picture is even more complicated. Without descending into deep detail, let’s just say that as well as cloud apps, many workloads will be running in on-premises data centers. Optimizing workloads, no matter if they are on-premises or in the cloud, requires quickly and flexibly creating network connections without getting tied down by complexity.

The Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is the key technology that has emerged to make this happen. The SD-WAN creates an abstracted overlay network on top of existing physical networks and can monitor the performance of all paths, routing business-critical and delay-sensitive traffic accordingly.

But using SD-WAN also implies a need for flexible and agile network availability to react to outages, rather than being shackled by a contract that makes it awkward – and expensive – to respond. Highly secure, direct, low-latency connections to the major hyperscale cloud providers creates the option to move workloads between clouds as well as opportunities to bypass any cloud platform issues, and of course the flexibility to negotiate the most favorable terms.

When it comes to workloads wholly or partially using on-premises data centers, hyper-converged systems are hugely valuable because they are so flexible. Built-in data services – including data replication, snapshots, deduplication, and data tiering – turn hyper-converged systems into a software-defined storage (SDS) platform. This creates unified, single-pane-of-glass management fremote working,or compute and storage resources, with reduced administration requirements and lower demands for highly-skilled administrators.

We’ve covered a lot of ground already – and there is much more that could be said about maximizing uptime for remote workers. My key point is that recognizing the potential issues, being agnostic about cloud app and platform providers, and having the technical know-how to orchestrate and automate remote working environments is a unique set of attributes. Fujitsu’s Borderless Office exists to connect diverse and distributed workforces and keep them collaborating digitally.

If you would like to learn more about how Fujitsu can advise and support your organization’s Work Life Shift imperative, take the next step and contact us.

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