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New normal: IT strategies for embracing the era of remote working

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

To say that 2020 caught many businesses off-guard would be a considerable understatement. Little did we realize a year ago that working from home would become a way of life, and terms like “social distancing” and “new normal” would be so prevalent in our lexicon. It’s become almost trite to say that these are unprecedented times, but they truly are.

As the sand shifts beneath the feet of organizations around the world, they all share one common objective: to master remote working without compromising on productivity, security or worker morale.

Embracing the new normal

Not many businesses out there will have been able to adapt to remote working at the drop of a hat, particularly those with hundreds or thousands of employees. For most businesses, this is a huge experiment and it might be one that actually pays off. The pandemic has completely changed the way businesses operate from the ground up, and will almost certainly leave its mark on processes, routines and even ‘office’ culture permanently. Perhaps one of the most enduring changes will be the new IT strategies that emerge as businesses scramble to regain control and steady the ship.

You couldn’t walk into any boardroom in 2019 and not hear the words ‘digital transformation’, so businesses were already at least part way through their efforts to evolve by adopting tech solutions such as cloud infrastructure. Even the most technologically challenged businesses will have embraced SaaS (Software as a Service) in the form of CRM, accounting, email and other productivity tools. Those businesses with a more robust and developed IT strategy will probably have embraced IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), giving themselves access to easily scalable computing resources. All of this technology will certainly put businesses in good stead to embrace the new normal, but there’s a third which is perhaps a natural evolution of the two - DaaS (Desktop as a Service).

Taking the office home

In many ways, DaaS represents the latest revolution in remote working. In fact, if you were to design something to instantly enable hundreds of employees to seamlessly switch to remote working in case of a global pandemic, you probably couldn’t do much better than DaaS. But what does it do?

At its core, DaaS is a cloud-based solution that delivers a complete desktop environment, with email and other business critical applications, directly to your team, wherever they are. It’s a ready-made solution to the problem that many businesses are now facing, removing the headaches usually associated with managing an entire IT infrastructure, by placing the responsibility in the hands of a third-party provider.

Imagine a scenario where users can log-off at the office, and pick up right where they left off at home without needing any locally installed software, robust hardware or CPU horsepower to make it work. All your team will need is an internet connection and a device – laptop, PC or tablet – and they’ll be able to log-in to their remote desktop with the same access, permissions and tools as if they were on their office machine. That includes essential applications like accounting software and productivity tools, as well as proprietary software, and even legacy client-server applications.

Overcoming new challenges

Naturally, there are concerns when it comes to remote working. While most businesses will have had a remote working policy in place prior to the pandemic, those policies likely weren’t robust enough to account for an entire workforce (or at least a large percentage of it) working remotely on an almost permanent basis.

One of the biggest factors here, of course, is security. It’s natural for organizations to feel apprehensive about moving entire chunks of their operations online, but in most cases - particularly where DaaS is concerned - the solution is hosted in a secure data-center and security will be multi-layered. Having a managed host to administer DaaS also has the benefit of ensuring that your tools and applications are always patched to the latest version, otherwise it is up to you to make updates to all systems. In other words, an enterprise is more secure if its entire infrastructure is hosted in the cloud than in-house, particularly where cybersecurity is concerned.

That’s because by moving the data away from a local machine and into the controlled and managed environment of a data center, DaaS solutions remove the possible security risks of multiple lost, stolen or compromised end-user devices. Not to mention the fact that, usually, DaaS providers deploy security measures such as multi-factor authentication, data encryption, and intrusion detection to ensure total security of your data.

Another challenge that might stand in the way of businesses fully embracing the cloud via IaaS, DaaS or any other model, is cost. On the surface, paying a monthly fee to utilize remote hosting and gain access to the tools your team needs can seem daunting. However, the monthly cost pales in comparison to the cost of ensuring your in-house IT infrastructure is well maintained, secure, up-to-date and capable of doing what you need it to do in an industry that very rarely stands still.

More importantly, there are DaaS solutions in the market where you can pay only for what you use, usually on a per-desktop billing model. These are the ones most experts would recommend. They enable business leaders to accurately forecast the exact cost of a workforce expansion to the IT department, therefore removing the risk of any unpredicted hardware addition to your company inventory.

Moreover, if you were to expand your workforce and supply it with physical desktops and laptops, DaaS can help centralize the management and execution of tasks such as installing new applications, patching, and updating operating system software across a large number of machines. This means that new users will be able to be onboarded much faster than having to set up physical hardware in the office. Similarly, if an employee were to leave the company, they can be removed just as quickly.

So while there are most certainly challenges and concerns with remote working, many of them are either based on outdated notions about the complexities of cloud migration (it’s now easier than ever), or simply require the culture of the business to evolve and adapt to home working as the new norm. Those businesses willing to take those steps more boldly will set themselves up for success in the near-term. 

What’s next?

Cloud adoption and the move to a more agile workplace was always on the cards, with businesses moving at their own pace and exploring SaaS, IaaS and DaaS as potential options. If there’s any small silver lining to be taken from this crisis, it’s that it has catalyzed this move and crystalized the focus of many businesses who might otherwise have fallen behind.

It’s safe to say that organizations are going to need to adapt to these new circumstances for a lot longer than many of us had anticipated. Those trying to weather the COVID-19 pandemic as a short-term storm before things get back to normal will end up worse off than those who are trying to evolve and adapt to the so-called “new normal”. While certain sectors of the economy may see something resembling normality in the coming weeks and months, the cloud and remote working are likely to be staples of the workplace from 2020 onward.

Jon Lucas, Co-Founder, Hyve Managed Hosting

Jon Lucas
Jon Lucas is the co-founder and director of Hyve Managed Services. With 20 years in the IT industry, Jon has been director since 2001.