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Four factors to consider for an at-home workforce

Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay
(Image credit: Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay)

With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forcing many companies to ask an unprecedented number of employees to work from home, it is important to consider certain factors that could simplify and expedite the transition for organisations of any size.

Security, efficiency, and cost concerns are at the forefront of this “new normal” for organisations worldwide, and a cloud-based remote access platform can help solve many of the common problems encountered when transitioning to a work-from-home model.

For the health of an organisation, it is essential to help all at-home employees continue their work with the fewest distractions and roadblocks. These four considerations can help any organisation navigate the transition to an at-home workforce with as much ease as possible:

1. Capacity must increase

When nearly 100 per cent of any organisation’s employees have been asked to work from home, it’s important to realise the impact this has on businesses current remote access infrastructure. Many organisations are having to scale their infrastructure three to four times its normal capacity to support this new at-home workforce. However, with little to no preparation time and rigid bandwidth capacities, scaling to meet demand is difficult, while a sudden surge in at-home workers will strain capacity, causing latency or failure as well as a loss of productivity.

Because of this, many organisations are turning to cloud-delivered solutions to support their new work-from-home models. Adopting a cloud-based remote access service enables businesses to quickly scale to keep employees productive. By ensuring business continuity, these organisations have decreased the chances of long-term negative business impact as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

2. Time is of the essence

Many companies had little more than a week—some had just days—to assess the coronavirus outbreak situation and implement policies instructing employees to work from home. Having little to no time can affect any business severely but even more so in unprecedented times like these. Responding to a new and unexpected need to support an entirely remote workforce can be achieved in several ways. However, not all solutions are practical for rapid-response situations.

Legacy technology requires capacity planning as well as purchasing and deploying new hardware, which can take weeks to months. Meanwhile, business operations fall behind, increasing frustration among employees and company leaders at a time when tensions are already running high. Additionally, deploying hardware often demands participation from multiple teams, which further increases set-up time and usually requires in-person contact, potentially putting employees at risk.

Some companies are spinning up multiple cloud-based virtual machine (VM) instances as a way to decrease deployment time. However, the setup for each cloud instance still requires participation and planning from multiple teams, including security, IT, and administration, and different apps will require different VM instances, adding complexity for users and admins alike.

A cloud-based remote access solution can help mitigate these roadblocks and can be deployed quickly and easily, lessening stress and reducing delays in getting employees up and running. Some benefits of using a cloud-based remote access solution include:

  • Quick deployment – Get set up in days, not weeks or months. Teams can deploy and manage a cloud-based remote access solution quickly and from anywhere, eliminating the need for onsite employees and staying compliant with social distancing requirements
  • Global access at scale – Regardless of user location, device, or application, a cloud-based solution gives workers secure, high-speed access anywhere in the world. A cloud-delivered solution isn’t limited by capacity or bandwidth, making it a sensible solution for any industry and companies of any size
  • Uncompromised security – IT teams do not need to take security shortcuts or make exceptions to accommodate an influx of at-home workers. A cloud-delivered work-from-home platform makes security consistent across the globe, while admins have the granular control to expand or limit access down to individual users and applications

3. Unnecessary costs can be avoided

Budget concerns are at the forefront for many businesses right now, so cutting unnecessary costs wherever possible is a smart move. Funding new, oversized hardware to temporarily support an at-home workforce is not cost-effective and deploying an installation team may be challenging if employees have been given a “shelter in place” order.

Instead, a cloud subscription model can get all employees supported quickly without long-term financial commitments. The objective is to keep the majority of businesses running “as usual,” with limited disruption to its everyday functions, and a cloud-based solution can provide an efficient way to do that.

4. Business-essential apps must be fast and secure

Remote employees still need to be productive during these uncertain times. This means communicating regularly via video conference, chat platforms, and accessing business applications quickly to accomplish daily tasks. But having workers scattered on unknown networks at home, leveraging a mix of corporate-managed and personal devices, can create additional attack surfaces and leave businesses exposed and vulnerable to cyberattack.

Organisations may attempt to maintain security practices by requiring remote workers to access internal apps using a traditional remote access solution, such as a VPN. However, these solutions can actually be the source of an exploitation. With VPNs bringing remote users directly onto the corporate network, it only takes one malware-infected device to compromise any network. On top of this, user experience often suffers with VPN. If employees experience delays and are looking for the quickest way to get their work done, they may bypass security controls, potentially exposing a company’s network.

Productivity and security need not be mutually exclusive. Any business can have both with a seamless, reinforced cloud-based solution that gives employees fast and easy access to the resources and applications they need to do their jobs, while keeping networks and applications invisible to the internet.

Stay safe and healthy

With so many unknowns remaining in the coronavirus crisis, it is important to anticipate the challenges businesses could face with an influx of employees working outside the corporate headquarters or remote offices. Employee health and safety always comes first, but other considerations must be taken to accommodate these extenuating circumstances and keep businesses operating and as many remote employees productive and secure as possible.

Camilla Ahlquist, Product Marketing specialist for Zscaler Private Access, Zscaler

Camilla Ahlquist is a product marketing specialist for Zscaler Private Access.