The Future of Remote Work – Post Pandemic
There’s no doubt that the events of 2020, due to COVID-19, have had an impact on the entire world, not just in people’s personal lives; we have seen fundamental changes in the way we work and indeed, in some instances, what work we do. Some of those changes that happened during 2020, relate to remote working, where, due to the pandemic, traditional office-based roles were forced out of the office and into the home. There was already a trend, the technology and indeed the desire for organisations to utilise cloud flexibility and remote working, but what would usually take years to implement, in 2020 it took literally months. It was more about survival rather than gaining a competitive edge.
About the Author
Senior Account Manager, Jeffrey Magara helps Global Enterprise & SME clients to deliver consolidating, cost saving IT solutions and projects.
It seems as though, now we’re moving out of the pandemic, that some office-based jobs are likely not to return to pre pandemic levels. Currently, computer-based office work accounts for approximately one third of potential remote working opportunities and it is clear that the shift is here to stay. A survey carried out by McKinsey of 278 executives in August 2020, found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30%.
As much as the trend to move to remote working has been driven by necessity, there are some clear advantages of adopting a remote working strategy. Much has been said about the cost of office space and considerable savings that can be made by reducing it. This is particularly true today as technology has removed many of the barriers with data centres in the cloud, virtual workspaces and ‘as-a-service’ solutions. Another potential outcome is the availability of talent your organisation may be able to entertain, as geographic barriers are removed. Couple this with the draw of the latest software solutions, especially for workers that fall into the millennial bracket. The following paragraphs look further into current options to help your organisation along the road to remote working.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
Originally coined by VMWare, the term VDI has been around for some time now. Fundamentally, VDI hosts a desktop workstation on a central server, granting remote access through a secure network portal. This allows laptops, mobile and thin devices to experience a virtual desktop. VDI is traditionally hosted by an inhouse server and favoured by companies who feel that their data is too sensitive to send out to a third party to manage. It requires specialist staff to maintain it however and it can be costly, as you have the infrastructure as well as the software to look after. From a user experience perspective latency can be managed quite well. However, VDI suffers from traditional in-house datacentre issues and when things go wrong with either hardware or software, it can become very costly to put right. Compliance is another area where VDI might fall down; making sure version control licence issues etc are maintained can be a problematic to administer.
Desktop as a service (DaaS)
Moving right up to current cloud trends, DaaS is an organisations’ virtual desktop infrastructure and is hosted in the cloud, by a third-party provider. The complete hardware, as well as software, is administered by the provider. This kind of service provides the advantages of cloud infrastructure, removing the headaches of hardware failures, software problems and regular maintenance. It is mainly offered on a subscription basis and invoiced per user, offering an organisation maximum flexibility and agility when acquiring the latest software solutions. As stated earlier, it increases an organisation’s attractiveness to a larger talent pool, no longer precluded by geography, which cannot be underestimated.
Being relatively new to the party, the DaaS business is still struggling with some teething troubles. To date, many providers only offer conventional programmes that come along with standard Windows software, so other more specialist programmes will need to be provided and configured by the organisations’ in-house IT team. This may leave some wondering if the cost is worth it, certainly in the beginning when the administrative task load is likely to be high. There are DaaS providers, who offer comprehensive business-ready solutions from the cloud, however they are rare. Overall ongoing costs of DaaS require a lot of attention when considering this kind of virtual desktop, as the initial figures can be deceptive and might only offer the most basic service. Finally, as many software vendors are working on suitable licensing offers, the cost can be quite high for DaaS solutions.
What DaaS is ideal for organisations that require agile and flexible computer demand, certain organisations will find this kind of service a real benefit, in higher education, for example, where students can be offered a work environment without the need for any hardware setup. Similarly, those that employ temporary workers, gaining the advantage of zero cost setup. Who it may not favour however, is the average desktop user, where VDI may be a better fit at a lower cost.
Online collaboration tools have been a valuable productivity resource for some time now. However, with the onset of Covid-19, 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, collaboration 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.
Some of the most competitive collaboration tools are project management related, 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. As you would expect, they all come at a cost and bring various restrictions in terms of minimum users and licence durations, but the value to the organisation will far outweigh the subscription costs and initial training.
Some examples of the more popular collaborative tools include:
Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Fuze, Lifesize Video Conferencing, and Skype.
Project & task management
LiquidPlanner, GanttPro, Trello, Airtable, Asana, Basecamp, Wrike, and Monday.
When looking to adopt a collaboration tool you should bear a few things in mind:
• Try and choose a tool that does the majority of tasks, rather than switching amongst a number of tools. This should help gain and keep people committed to using it, providing of course that it does those things well.
• It probably goes without saying, but being intuitive to use is key, and again will help keep your team onboard. Demo-ing before committing is worth the time spent.
• Levels of privacy maybe something you need to consider, where certain areas will only be available to certain members of the team. Again, this will really help the uptake of the tool, avoiding off-tool conversations.
One caveat that needs to be stressed, is 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’.
Connecting it all up
As the cloud becomes the preferred option of organisations for applications management, finding a high performance, secure and agile wide area network (WAN) solution, becomes paramount. Two network solutions that will offer users secure access are Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Software-defined-wide-area-network (SD-WAN).
VPN, being the most established technology of the two, is an internet-based network allowing users to turn a public connection to a private one. When connected to the VPN it offers protection against surveillance or tracking. The users’ data is transferred to its intended destination by a network of servers that the VPN maintains, rather than the users’ 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 utilising 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. As 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, VPN comes out as being the most affordable, some of which is through its simplicity, making it great to low site count organisations. However, as the question of maintenance comes up, 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, VPN suffers greater latency, due to distance between sites and 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 technology 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.
To conclude, SD-WAN is the clear winner, however, not all organisations are the same so it’s worth looking at your specific requirements, in terms of geographic distance, site count and level of data security, not to mention budget.
If, after reading this blog, you feel that it might be the right time to look further into your organisations remote networking options, having a partner who can help guide you through will be invaluable to making the right decisions. Pendulum offer 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 email@example.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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org