Driving business continuity and resilience in a hybrid working environment

Driving business continuity and resilience in a hybrid working environment.

With more and more organisations moving to a hybrid workforce model, the need to consider and reframe approaches to business continuity is key. The metrics of business continuity don’t change or become less important, but the approach needs to be more expansive, taking into account that IT must empower a workforce where location, access requirements and remote collaboration demands are more dynamic than ever before.

Business Continuity and Resilience

There is no doubt that a hybrid workforce can enhance an organisation’s business continuity, as it will allow the workforce to work anywhere at any time of day, without the restrictions of an office-based environment. It also makes it easier to recruit talent, where geographic and lifestyle restriction had previously caused limitations. Disruptions are minimised, once the workforce has the equipment and infrastructure to be able to work remotely, allowing them to respond to events immediately.

How best to achieve a robust business continuity strategy in this new hybrid workforce world is a key challenge and will vary from organisation to organisation. However, there are several key elements that will give your organisation the best chance of success. These include:

Strategy: Having a clear and concise business continuity strategy in place is critical to ensuring that when an emergency happens, your workforce isn’t wondering who’s responsible for what, and exactly what their role is in it all. Especially relevant as your workforce are likely to be away from the office and confusion is likely to reign if there isn’t a clear and consistent strategy. This strategy also needs to extend outside the organisation, to throughout its supply chain, making sure key suppliers and indeed clients are also considered and involved. Finally, an annual review is essential to make sure that the strategy is still relevant to the organisation and the market it operates within.

Adaptability: Agility to address the dynamic environment of the new workplace. Changes are inevitable; however, it is not always obvious what these will be, having the agility to move with those changes is key. Keep it simple, so when you adapt, you are not adding complexity and thereby instability.

Connectivity: Through a needs analysis, you must know who needs to be connected and at what level. Connectivity has to be seamless, remember this needs to aid productivity.  This is likely to be one of your biggest challenges alongside data security.

Collaboration: The workforce must have efficient access to all applications, data and tools they need to do their job effectively and collaboratively, at any time, regardless of location.

Security: Threats are more sophisticated, attack surfaces are increasing, and people are likely to be working from home, without proper training in basic cybersecurity hygiene. IT needs to address these challenges, with security built in at every stage; implementing this early on is both vital and cost-effective.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Reframing your approach

When an organisation decides to adopt a hybrid working model, it needs to consider what is required to enable it to do so.  One of the first things to do is to perform a requirements analysis; organisations need to understand which services are needed by their workforce. The following covers key areas to consider:

Network Capacity: There needs to be sufficient internet bandwidth to handle the increased WAN traffic that occurs when a high volume of employees accesses the network, in particular for voice and video communications. To add to this, firewalls, VPNs and other remote access related technologies will be in greater demand as the workforce starts accessing the network from outside of the corporate headquarters.

Security Monitoring: To guard against the possibility of malicious attacks, robust training of the workforce needs to take place, along with an ongoing awareness programme, to ensure that data security is at the forefront of everybody’s minds.

Identity and Access Management: To further protect the organisation from unwanted infiltration, investing in IAM solutions able to control access to the organisation’s resources, is a must. The advantage of being able to track and detect suspicious activity is invaluable, along with the ability to onboard new employees and create profiles; all are essential for staying operational in a hybrid workforce environment.

WAN Security: Secure remote access will need to be in place for all devices needing to connect to the network. Whether you choose VPN or SD-WAN, either will offer controlled access and additional benefits, depending on which you opt for. It is worth considering a separate private network for remote access, rather than office based, as a security measure to limit possible cyberattacks?  See my colleague Jeff’s blog, “The Future of Work – Post Pandemic”.

Collaborative Tools: Effective collaborative tools become essential with a hybrid workforce; making sure that teams continue to work effectively together using the right tools is imperative. Further detail about collaborative tools is available in my blog, “The Future is Hybrid”.

Remote Working Policy: A remote working policy is essential to managing remote workers. Including how functions can be completed from home, availability of the IT support team, what is expected regarding output when working from home including deadlines and goals, clearly defined channels of communication. These policies should also include cybersecurity, define roles and responsibilities of all staff addressing, as a minimum, email encryption, remote access, password creation and security, social media practices and device usage.

Revisit Your Disaster Recovery and Backup Plans

When considering the suitability of your existing disaster recovery plan, tactically, one of the first actions to take when you’re making ready to support a remote workforce, is to evaluate the solutions that already in place. Things to consider:

  • What technology tools are already in-place?
  • Are you making best use of their full capabilities?
  • Are there features or services that you need that aren’t available?

Identifying what you have to work with, and where the gaps that you need to fill are, allows you develop a roadmap for a way forward. Solutions across the business resiliency range should be considered, from backing up data on remote mobile devices, to the ability to quickly deploy disaster recovery tools if there’s a catastrophic event. Surveying what you have and what you need in terms of backups, disaster recovery, and disaster prevention, can help you evaluate your remote readiness and develop an implementation, technology, and services strategy that you can roll out quickly.

Cloud-Based Backup Across Endpoints

The integrity of your business data is critical and the cornerstone of successful operations. Backups are imperative, and not just for your applications and central data centres. Workers, especially those working remotely, may be saving files to their local computer that are crucial to the business. Are your employees working remotely on company equipment or has ‘working from home’ accelerated a bring your own device (BYOD) program? Each of these scenarios introduces unique challenges.

Cloud-based backup solutions can regularly (as in hourly, or daily) send data from laptops and mobile devices to the cloud. Should a device failure or other issue occur, you’ll have the latest information to work from. Another consideration may be using a file sharing solution; having all files saved to a centralised set of folders. Your team can then access the information they need (provided they have the right credentials) from any connected device, eliminating delays while you troubleshoot specific devices.

Address Network and Power Contingencies

If your employees are using their existing broadband connection and VPN to connect to your data centre and applications, it’s important to think about what you’ll do if that connection is taken offline. Consider what will happen if a storm damages cables and it takes a couple business days to get back online. Connecting via a local business, such as a coffee shop that offers free Wi-Fi is one option, but it can introduce unnecessary security risks (not to mention health risks in our current climate). Consider looking at investing in a failover connection or a simple solution such as mobile hotspot (which can be an individual device, or an add-on feature to your team’s smartphone plans).

It’s also helpful to think about what your employees should do if they lose power. Many offices have generators or other contingency plans, but home offices are often at the mercy of the power company to get back online. Increasingly, organisations are looking at portable solutions such as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) or a power block. These can offer several hours of reliable power to business-essential devices if the grid goes down.

Consider Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

The reality for many organisations is that their busy IT teams are already trying to manage an unprecedented volume of digital needs, from increased digital delivery for customers, to the challenges that naturally arise when employees work remotely. Now may be the right time to consider Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) to strengthen your remote backup and resiliency capabilities. With a managed services solution, experienced disaster recovery IT specialists will work with you to determine your specific needs, configure solutions, and ensure that your backups and other related software are running smoothly across the network. If a disaster occurs, such as a breach or a natural event, key applications may be taken off-line, or critical data jeopardised.

DRaaS provides the technology and services needed to shift your disaster recovery and business continuity efforts into a larger resiliency planning conversation. This can provide the natural jumping off point for how to optimize for new situations, such as a high volume of remote workers.

If your organisation is considering making the move toward a permanent hybrid working model, having a partner who can help guide you through your plans for business continuity and disaster recovery, will be invaluable for making the right decisions. Pendulum offer support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure, wherever that may be.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working solutions or any other area please contact me at mphiri@pendulum-it.com

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

Emerging from the pandemic stronger – How to thrive not just survive

Emerging from the pandemic stronger. How to thrive not just survive.

Even though we are not yet out of the grip of the COVID-19 crisis, it is already clear who the winners in business are. Broadly speaking, those organisations with built in flexibility, that were able to innovate, take opportunity where threat existed and utilise their infrastructure to do it, have done well; achieving in months what would normally take years. A lot of this success could be put down to those organisations having effective business continuity strategies.

About the Author

Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.

According to a McKinsey Global Survey in 2020 of executives, these companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations, by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios, has accelerated by a shocking seven years.

Obviously, there were some industry sectors that were better placed than others, especially those involved in e-commerce, who had the capacity and power to access stocks. Moving away from the headline winners though, there are organisations that have managed, through their digital infrastructure, to survive the drastic measures of lockdowns, which saw their workplaces deserted and a paradigm shift to remote working. Based on research carried out by McKinsey, companies that are involved in manufacture have changed the least, regardless of whether they are in B2C or B2B. The companies that have embraced and developed their digital portfolio have been in healthcare, pharma, financial services and professional services.

Scalable organisations, that invested and accelerated digital technologies, such as cloud, have shown a remarkable turn of speed against predicted time. The following graph from McKinsey demonstrates not only the impressive speed of adoption, but the key areas that have been invested in:

McKinsey & Company graph showing how companies perceived their reaction to the Covid-19 crisis.

Embracing cloud technology

The term ‘scalability’ offered by cloud computing is often banded about, but what are the real-term benefits of having this resource in-place? To put it in very basic terms, it has meant that those enterprises who had adopted a cloud infrastructure, were able to respond to the increased demand swiftly, meaning the difference between coping with the demand and their website being shut down because it was unable to handle the un-precented volume.

The benefits of cloud infrastructure have allowed enterprises to order more stock quickly and pack it and despatch it more swiftly. Having that ability to increase capacity and speed, when needed, could be the difference between thriving or … not!

It also allows enterprises to experiment with new products/services, shortening ‘time to market’ to days and enabling versatility to switch on and switch off when needed. According to a Centrify survey carried out in Autumn 2020, 51% of business leaders stated that the shift to cloud computing has saved them from collapse during the pandemic. Given this success, 60% also said that they are planning to substantially increase their cloud infrastructure as we move hopefully out of the pandemic.

Remote working has been one the biggest successes during the pandemic and probably caught the most media attention, justifiably. Customer service departments that switched to remote working were able to do so and deal with increases in demand from customer calls, as well as still being able to process industry compliant payments. Remote working of this type has also allowed enterprises to offer an increase in customer service, sometimes moving to a 7-days-a-week model, which wasn’t previously viable. Due to the relatively low-cost entry points, remote access has allowed even small companies to collaborate and remain operational, despite being geographically distant; still having access to critical software and shared collaborative tools. I am sure, if remote working strategies weren’t in organisations business continuity planning before, they certainly will be now.

Using data to drive decision making

Being a data driven organisation can bring many benefits, including effective and improved decision making, proactive responses to customer needs and the imperative ability to stay ahead of the competition with innovative ideas and methods. Nothing new there, I hear you say, however, the sheer time and cost of collecting these insights into your business can be crippling, not to mention very time consuming. Alongside this, the sheer volume of data from varying sources, some incomplete, means data may only be used to back up an opinion for decision making, rather than as a main driving force for change. We haven’t mentioned the cultural barriers, where data isn’t accessed and acted upon consistently.

Cloud services are playing a crucial part in making data-based decisions a reality, and one which is bringing great advantage to those enterprises that leverage it. They allow accessibility and response to immediate business demands for data and analytics. What’s more, they provide a level of skills not often present within the enterprises, to be able to keep pace with big data analytics innovation at a much lower cost.

For enterprises wishing to get started in analytics, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) route may be a good place to start, offering scalability for multiple users, ongoing software updates, and maintenance. This can be extended to add further value by taking on Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), to build custom applications. With PaaS, the provider is able to deliver a solution stack integrated set of software, providing an enterprise’s developers with tools to build an application.
The power of this data analysis cannot be underestimated, with enterprises who have adopted this approach able to constantly analyses data from many customer touch points and roll out a campaign in real time, based upon that data.

Key benefits of SaaS Analytics:
• No requirement to have inhouse expertise and capacity
• The ability to rapidly scale storage and compute requirements
• Significant cost reductions compared with inhouse solutions

Ensuring resilience with well thought out and tested Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) plans

The possibility of organisations being subject to cyberattacks that can cripple a business or permanently destroy its IT systems, are very much a reality these days. Despite the many advantages of cloud infrastructure, digital transformation and hyper-convergence creates unintended gateways to risks, vulnerabilities, attacks and failures. As part of an enterprise’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans, a cyber resilience strategy is essential, that can support a business to withstand disruptive cyber incidents. Such plans often include ways to defend against those risks, protect critical applications and data, and recover from breach or failure in a controlled, measurable way.

Today, many enterprises struggle to evolve their resiliency strategies quickly enough to tackle today’s hybrid IT environments and changing business demands. The reality of our always-on 24-7 world, is that enterprises can often gain competitive advantage, or lose market share, depending on how their IT resources serve their core business needs.

Business Continuity Management Services are one possible solution for enterprises to protect their business, by identifying and addressing resiliency synchronisation between business processes, applications and IT infrastructure. This kind of service can provide flexible business continuity and disaster recovery, consulting to address a company’s needs – including assessments, planning and design, implementation, testing and full business continuity management.

With the growth of cyberattacks, enterprises are moving from a traditional/manual recovery approach to an automated and software-defined resiliency approach. This method uses advanced technologies and best practices to help assess risks, prioritise and protect business-critical applications and data. These services can also help business rapidly recover IT during and after a cyberattack.

An alternative path could be to opt for cloud-based backup services; Disaster-Recover-as-a-Services (DRaaS), to provide continuous replication of critical applications, infrastructure, and data and systems for rapid recovery after an IT outage.
There are also virtual server options, to protect critical servers in real-time. This enables rapid recovery of applications to keep businesses operational during periods of maintenance or unexpected downtime.

Along the lines of the above solutions, the answer is with resiliency orchestration; a cloud-based approach that uses disaster recovery automation and a suite of business continuity management tools, designed specifically for hybrid-IT environments. This approach helps protect business process dependencies across applications, data and infrastructure components. It increases the availability of business applications, so that companies can access necessary high-level or in-depth intelligence regarding Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and the overall health of IT continuity, from a centralised dashboard.

Being robust is about ensuring you have pared down and consolidated unnecessary systems and spend
It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to be working with multiple vendors, but is it best use of that limited resource, money? Having multiple IT vendors can stretch your enterprise’s spend, and indeed your employees, too thin. Consolidating your list of partners with a wide range of capabilities, could help get better performance out of your processes. A common scenario is where an enterprise may have say Microsoft licenses from one vendor, IT managed services from another and data centre hardware from a third. The complexity and time taken to manage these multiple resources can seriously affect your ability to manage the very resources they are providing.

By paring down your vendor list can bring many benefits to your enterprise, these may include:

• Improved buying power: dealing with a smaller number of vendors increases your spend with them, making you a more valuable proposition and increasing room for negotiation.

• Scalable: ideally you need a vendor who can grow with you; that has the capacity to take you further, rather than reaching a limit where you are left wanting more and having to look outside.

• Better relationships: concentrating your business with a few key vendors will improve their understanding of your organisation and its needs. This closer relationship will pay dividends and encourage more of a committed partnership, rather than them just being another supplier.

• Vendor quality visibility: Having fewer vendors will allow you to make sure that those relationships really are of good quality, if not, they will become very apparent, and you’ll know it’s time to look elsewhere.

An additional consideration is the level of support you receive from the vendor, and indeed the timeliness of their responses. Also, the frequency and quality of product updates/improvements, and finally a very clear sign of who you are dealing with is staff turnover…

Automating where possible, for less ‘Key Man Dependency’
Automation of some processes will have a positive impact on your efficiency, accuracy and the redeployment of resources, from low level repetitive tasks to more strategic work. However, many enterprises are reluctant to use such technology because of the risks around Key Man Dependency; should an enterprise employ someone with the skills to put in-place these automations, there is considerable risk that that person may leave, along with the knowledge of how it works and how to maintain it. To combat this, some enterprises outsource this function to mitigate the risk, providing of course that this outsource company employ a team of developers and cross trains them, to ensure that knowledge is shared across a number of individuals.

Use of off the shelf solutions that have a wider knowledge base
Custom built software certainly has its place for enterprises and sometimes can be the only way you get something that meets all of your requirements. However, there are inherent issues; cost of purchase/maintaining non-standard software, possibly tying you to one vendor, not to mention the possibility of Key Man Dependency, mentioned earlier. The use of off-the-shelf software can offer many benefits to your enterprise, reducing risks associated with custom software. Some of the benefits include:

• Minimum installation time, providing it is compatible with your current systems
• Relatively low upfront cost, possibility of volume discount
• A ready-made support community
• Try before you buy and other user reviews
• Future compatibility and reduced chance of obsolescence

A number of headline areas need to be considered when looking to reduce risk and increase robustness around software. The following should give a good start in assessing whether off the shelf software is right for your enterprise.

Pricing model
Does the subscription and licensing approach suit your organisation. Is there a possibility that this licensing might limit how you do business now or in the future as you grow in size and geographical reach? What product features can you do without, to gain lower licensing fees?

Functionality
Does the software offer the functionality that you need now, or possibly in the future, and is there built-in flexibility of the package as you grow? Consider the level of complexity and how your users will adapt to it.

Process Flow
How will this software work with your current processes? – and is it likely to require changes? If it does require changes, what cost is there likely to be and is it worth the investment?

Platform and Technology Support
Will this software be supported on your enterprise’s platform? Check the level of data security, including authentication and access control, and check it fits with your enterprise’s level of sensitivity.

SaaS hosting or on-Prem
Consider whether your enterprise is better suited to allow cloud hosted SaaS or will it need to be hosted on-Prem? Look into the level of network changes that would need to be carried out to allow users to access it. System resilience and backup frequency also need to be considered. Does the software provide APIs to enable data integration with other systems? If so, what exactly does this cover, and do they use the most up to date standards?

User Experience
Last, but certainly not least: what level of training and support is offered?
The lack of adoption could negate any advantages gained by ‘off the shelf’ software, if your users don’t like it, can’t use it, or avoid using it.

Moving away from Proprietary Systems
Having an IT platform that is flexible and able to work with your customers and vendors alike (including cloud providers), will put your enterprise in a much better position, providing agility and robustness. Regardless of where you are with your cloud migration programme, if indeed you have taken that path, avoiding propriety systems wherever possible is a very wise strategy.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it will be the need to be flexible and agile and that applies as much for IT systems, as for the way people are having to work. Some organisations’ journeys during lockdown periods will no doubt have been made a lot more painful, as they discovered their incompatibilities with other systems.

If your enterprise is looking to improve its business agility and flexibility, having an IT partner who can help guide you through will be an invaluable asset. Pendulum offers support and expertise, to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working solutions or any other area please contact me at jmagara@pendulum-it.com

I hope that you have found this blog useful. If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into the way your organisation’s IT Team supports the workforce of today, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

About Us

Pendulum IT p logo



Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com 

The future of work is hybrid – but how do IT Teams best support hybrid working?

What does the hybrid workforce need from a technology perspective?

Events in 2020 have probably changed the way we work forever, forcing organisations to embrace technological change at pace, often without the usual timeliness, due diligence etc that would normally be applied. There’s been a revolution, forced by necessity, but hopefully it has allowed many to take a long-term view on how they do business for the future, realising the many benefits afforded by a digital strategy that embraces cloud technology. Also, business has had to assess how that impacts attitudes to employees; how they work and most importantly where they work from.

A lot has been written about how business has adapted and changed in the face of drastic restrictions; the growth in hybrid versions of previous business models, that embraces digital cloud infrastructure. Most businesses acknowledge that it is unlikely that we will ever fully return to a pre pandemic way of working.

The future, we feel, is indeed hybrid. I would like to take the opportunity, over a series of blogs, to look at what this might look like in terms of the technology and equally significantly, the workforce. How do IT Teams best support hybrid working? It is important to remember that the technology is only part of the shift to hybrid working, the workforce itself also needs to adapt and change, looking at the cultural shift which is, and will be, significant for some time to come.

Melusi Phiri

About the Author

Melusi Phiri is a Senior Account Manager, helping clients of all sizes, across sectors to find and make best use of technology. Melusi can advise on the full technology stack, including cloud, application modernisation, security, networking and remote working solutions.

Cloud Technology

Making the move away from a traditional on-prem data centre infrastructure is one of the most significant decisions for an organisation to make.  The benefits the move to the cloud brings are numerous; leaving behind heavy capital expenditure, large, hard to recruit teams of skilled workforce as well as managing the pending obsolescence of expensive kit.

The following benefits evidence why more and more enterprises are making the move to cloud infrastructure, either wholly or, as a hybrid version.  These include:

Flexible and Scalable – Cloud infrastructure is able to scale on demand, allowing the enterprise to be agile in both times of high and low demand. Storage options can be easily configured, including a hybrid version, making use of existing on-prem services depending on security and regulatory requirements. The current three leading cloud service providers offer a high availability of storage, removing the issue of investing in more on-prem physical storage.  

Enterprises are able to easily determine their own level of control with a wide range of as-a-service options, starting with Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) which provides users with access to computing resources such as storage, networking and servers on demand. This service also offers the benefit of virtualisation of administrative tasks, freeing up resources for other work.

Continuing on with the as-a-service model, enterprises are able to stack services, including Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Enterprises can test, develop and host applications, PaaS enables a focus on development without the worry of underlying infrastructure provision.  Importantly, it also facilitates collaborative work including remote and hybrid working teams.

Staying with remote working, Software-as-a-service and Desktop-as-a-Service are both tools adopted by IT Teams to support a hybrid working environment. They are no longer bound by their own network infrastructure, have minimal setup and can avoid platform compatibility issues.

Storage

Cloud storage reduces an enterprise’s expenditure by providing data storage on remote servers, where it is maintained, managed, backed-up and accessed remotely.  Importantly, it also allows that data to be accessed remotely, providing the permissions are all in place.

Decentralised IT (Multi Cloud Strategy)

Many organisations, in addition to moving to cloud based infrastructure, are moving further away from a single on-prem data centre and decentralising by using a number of cloud providers rather than relying on one.  This multi cloud strategy allows the enterprise to choose the provider for its strengths rather than accepting its weaknesses. Greater flexibility and agility are achieved by spreading risk, taking advantage of a specific cloud provider’s strengths and competitive pricing.

Connectivity

As enterprises move to a hybrid working model, IT Teams are finding that a high performance, secure and agile wide area network (WAN) solution is paramount. Two network solutions that will offer users secure access are Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Software-defined-wide-area-network (SD-WAN).

A VPN, being the most established technology of the two, is an internet-based network, which allows users to turn a public connection to a private one. When connected to the VPN, it offers protection against surveillance or tracking.  The user’s data is transferred to its intended destination by a network of servers that the VPN maintains, rather than the user’s internet service provider.  The VPN encrypts the data, preventing it from being read by any unauthorised access.

SD-WAN, on the other hand, connects organisations via a number of transport media, such as broadband internet, LTE, 4G or MPLS. Its technology is able to separate different types of data traffic, based on security, authority and quality of service.  This technology doesn’t use a traditional router, instead using the cloud exclusively, giving flexibility and bandwidth capabilities.

Which is best for your organisation, depends on business needs; both offer unique benefits.  The key difference between the two is the software defining technology of SD-WAN.

In terms of cost, a VPN comes out as being the most affordable, in part through its simplicity, making it great for low site count organisations.  However, as the question of maintenance comes up, a VPN requires more of it, and indeed the expertise to facilitate it, and this will increase in complexity should more sites be added to the organisations WAN.

In overall performance, SD-WAN takes the prize, VPNs suffer greater latency, due to distance between sites, with increases in demand effecting overall performance.  Whereas SD-WAN offers dynamic path selection quality of service and application aware routing. As for latency, being cloud based, SD-WAN suffers no latency due to geographic distances. Reliability is good for both options, however, the failover security features of SD-WAN excel, automatically fixing outage problems by transferring connection to another network.

Access – Digital Workspaces or Remote Access Solutions

A significant challenge to enterprises that have already gone down the remote working route is in achieving an excellent user experience and productivity rates, whilst maintaining infrastructure visibility and security. 

With the workforce no longer under one roof, so to speak, coupled with a multitude of devices being used to access data, it can quickly become an onerous task and one which is fraught with security issues and a real lack of visibility. Creating a digital workspace, is necessary – a connected workplace solution, which provides a familiar work environment that pretty much works any device. This also allows users to access their work applications and data via a single entry point rather than multiple sign-ins.

Citrix Workspace ONE is one such solution, providing a unified digital workspace for all employees, regardless of their location or platform.  Combined with a secure internet connection, this kind of solution will achieve a much-improved workforce experience, higher productivity, increased IT visibility and a high level of security.

What is a Digital Workspace?

Putting it simply, a digital workspace allows an organisation’s employees access to apps and real-time data on any device, from any location, regardless of whether that information is stored in a traditional data centre, or on the cloud. Digital workspaces are integrated technology frameworks, designed to deliver and manage app, data and desktop functions. But digital workspaces are much more than remote access solutions, they are value-added, providing:

• A level of collaboration, where teams connect much easier and faster, sharing data and files more than previously done, regardless of their physical location.
• Security has also benefitted massively through digital workspace and zero-trust security, where an organisation shouldn’t trust anything inside or outside of its parameters and instead must verify everything before granting access.
• Resilient business operations, where risk is spread, allowing organisations to operate in the most challenging of situations and no longer conforming to traditional business hours.
• Integration with other technologies. The connections can be seamless allowing employees to connect through their chosen platforms, to all parts of the network, without the need for multiple logins etc.
• Cost reduction. With remote working being the norm, there is less need for commercial square footage and utility costs can be reduced significantly.

Collaboration

A growing number of organisations have embraced on-line, collaborative tools for some time now, being a valuable productivity tool. With last year’s challenges they really came into their own and we have seen a huge take-up from organisations and individuals alike, trying to survive whilst working in relative isolation.

Much more than video conferencing, collaborative apps offer co-workers, wherever they may be in the world, the visibility of the work being done and how their input is affecting the overall output, along with the assets they may need to do it with. It probably wouldn’t be too much to say, if you can imagine a tool to help, it probably exists.

Project management collaborative tools have the greatest market share, where projects and resources can be managed in one place. These tools range from the old favourites such as GanttPro, to relatively new to market, LiquidPlanner. Finding the right one for your organisation will prove to be invaluable and necessary when moving over to hybrid working.

When considering the right collaborative tool for your organisation, it needs to be stressed that no tool will be effective without the buy-in of the key players in the team. Without this it is likely, especially with learning curves, that people will resort to old ways ‘passing-on through sending emails’.

Hybrid Culture

Definition:

hybrid workforce is a team of employees that have a flexible work structure. In other words, some team members work remotely while others work from a central workspace such as an office.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in September 2020, 40% of employers said that they expect more than half their workforce to work regularly from home after the pandemic and restrictions have ended. This potentially represents a significant shift in how organisations retain their current workforce and how they onboard new talent in the future.

It’s certain, when considering a hybrid workforce strategy alongside your digital cloud infrastructure, it’s not going to be the case of just sending a proportion your workforce home with a laptop. Based on the research so far, a percentage of businesses are looking for a mixture of both homeworking and office time. Indeed, the term ‘hybrid working’ comes from this desire to have the option of both home and office environments, rather than one of the other. This will present quite a challenge for organisations trying to balance those two things, whilst achieving the obvious cost benefits of remote working.
A significant culture shift will need to happen within those organisations that choose to go down the hybrid working road, establishing new ways of working and associated practices and policies.

Organisations who choose not to adopt hybrid working, and return to the old ways of working risk the possibility of high staff turnover and difficulty in recruiting talent; losing out to much more flexible organisations who do offer hybrid working.


If your organisation is competing for the best talent, then in the future you may be left with no alternative but to adopt a properly supported hybrid working policy. There’s no doubt that employees have enjoyed the obvious benefits of flexible working in the last 12 months, and will now be offered a real alternative to commuting and working in an office five days a week.

Making the move to Hybrid Working

Suggested key steps towards ensuring your hybrid working policy is properly supported by the IT Team:

  • Agree an overall strategic position on hybrid working for the organisation.
  • Define how hybrid working will look in your organisation including the possibility of different forms depending on job roles and teams. 
  • Carry out a full engagement programme within your organisation, as well as the provision of training and development to support successful hybrid working. 
  • Put in place a clear and comprehensive communication plan to share the strategy the organisation has in terms of its approach regarding hybrid working, including how employees can request a move to hybrid working.
  • Plan for and respond to the organisational implications of hybrid working on matters such as technology, employee wellbeing, inclusion and facilities. 
  • Support effective team building and cohesion in hybrid teams.

I hope that you have found this blog useful. If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into the way your organisation’s IT Team supports the hybrid workforce, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offers support and expertise to help you get the most out of your organisation’s infrastructure.

My next blog will be following on the theme of how to secure the hybrid workforce, discussing specific cybersecurity technologies that can enable secure remote/hybrid working.

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Pendulum is a leading IT company providing services, hardware and software across the UK and internationally. For further information on remote working, public cloud hyperscalers, cybersecurity, modernising the data centre, HCI or any other area please contact your account manager or email info@pendulum-it.com