How can data centers support a remote workplace?

Remote work presents a variety of challenges to businesses. Here's what an organization can do to provide adequate resources for its at-home workers and admins.

The age of COVID-19 ushered in remote work for a variety of industries and organizations. Businesses must take steps to support workers in their remote workplaces.

Organizations can help their remote workforce in a handful of ways. By providing their employees with the right productivity tools and equipment, remodeling their IT infrastructures to support a hybrid model of in-person and remote work, and using endpoint security technology for increased protection of remote workers, businesses can create a work environment that supports their remote workers' success.

Networking for work from home

As work from home (WFH) becomes more standard, organizations' networking teams must find ways to support this kind of work structure in a formal, long-term way. The most popular approach is called the branch of one, which involves deploying devices to remote workers that supply networking and security functions. Organizations can also reimburse employees for internet and WAN access for their primary or backup connections.

Organizations should prioritize networking for customer-facing employees and those who use sensitive data. This can include sending SD-WAN gateways to those employees or paying for them to install fixed mobile connections. However, this can be costly and challenging, so many organizations maintain a bring-your-own-device approach.

Remote collaboration

Several tools for remote collaboration help ease work in remote workplaces. File-sharing tools -- such as Box or offerings from Microsoft and OpenText -- enable easier content management, better communication, faster file access, smoother workflows and enhanced security. They keep all files in the same secure location accessible to workers.

A good remote collaboration tool should include functions such as file storage, file sharing and the ability to classify, tag and group files. It should have good security, privacy, reporting and mobility features.

When deciding on a remote collaboration tool, organizations should focus on each tool's intelligent services. These include content intelligence, which automates content classification; productivity intelligence, which determines how content appears to users; security intelligence, which automates security over content; and governance intelligence, which retains and disposes of content based on an organization's policies.

VPNs for remote work security

When it comes to remote work, organizations must prioritize security. Businesses have long used VPNs for secure, encrypted remote communications. You can use a VPN to establish what is referred to as a software-defined perimeter (SDP) around remote networks, which adds increased security and protection.

An SDP creates a virtual boundary at the network layer rather than the application layer. It must authenticate both user and device before it permits an individual access to the internal network's resources. This network connection is unique and only that specific user can use it. It grants access only to services for which the user has been approved.

Ensuring Wi-Fi access

Wi-Fi access is essential to the WFH experience. Organizations must ensure they support Wi-Fi for remote workers, which is difficult since home Wi-Fi systems obscure the visibility that network admins might require.

Organizations can take a few steps to ensure they meet their remote workers' Wi-Fi needs. By establishing sufficient ISP bandwidth, an organization can mitigate bottlenecks to productivity. Legacy devices can slow network performance. Signal strength affects the speed at which workers can use the internet. Organizations should be prepared to advise their workforce on these topics.

Organizations can take more advanced steps, such as extending the company network to the home and employing remote performance monitoring. Modern wireless LAN systems have access point models that organizations can send to remote workers, which essentially puts home-based workers back on the company Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, a remote monitoring service -- such as Mobile Eye or NetBeez -- can provide invaluable insights into remote environments.

How businesses can use AI to improve remote work

AI can help remote workers better communicate with customers and colleagues. Technology such as smart video can change screen layouts to ensure remote meeting participants remain equally included, and speech-to-text software accurately transcribes meetings for those unable to attend in real time. AI can also create meeting summaries, which enables employees to search for words and phrases to find only the most relevant parts of a meeting. This makes work more efficient for employees, who then aren't required to be present at every meeting.

AI-driven features also improve the home-based user experience during meetings. AI can eliminate distractions with features such as noise suppression, blurred background, dynamic lighting adjustment and auto-framing.

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