Here’s how IT can remain a vital player for today’s remote work

Remember how experts used to predict when we’d return to business as usual and offices would be packed once more? These discussions have largely vanished and been replaced with the growing discourse around the next phase of work and whether we’d go fully remote, return in force, or adopt a hybridised mix. But for most IT pros, the same question from before lingers: how should enterprise network architectures adapt to this new reality? 

This question demands an answer because the pressure is on to balance IT spend between mission-critical infrastructure and digital solutions critical for a fully remote workforce.

How can IT teams strike a balance in the new work era?

How can IT teams keep costs reasonable while establishing infrastructure enabling productivity and innovation in this new era of work? Below is a battle plan for IT pros wrestling with the needs and challenges of the next phase of remote work. 

Prioritise Evergreen Network Investments

The continued uncertainty around work arrangements remains a primary barrier to budget and capacity planning for IT teams. Fortunately, there’s a twofold solution to this problem.

First, IT teams must review their existing hardware investments that once made sense but no longer do in today’s sparsely used offices. For instance, how do powerful Wi-Fi access points help empty conference rooms? Now’s the time to revisit subscription licensing for this—along with other solutions that are overkill for the current situation.

Secondly, should use their budget on architecture solutions that will remain evergreen. For instance, VPN subscriptions and gear will remain useful no matter how things pan out. When it comes to scalable IT architecture, VPNs complement SD-WANs while ensuring remote workers are privately connected to the network. Until something better comes along, investments into solutions like VPN or SD-WAN are no-brainers for forward-thinking IT pros.

Establish Smart Monitoring for Resilience

As the remote workforce has evolved from a select few executives and employees to entire divisions, businesses have undoubtedly had to improve monitoring to keep up. This has also introduced greater levels of complexity, as routing and site-to-site connections have to be configured for greater security and stability to better support a largely remote workforce.

This also means a greater number of things IT and network teams have to monitor and track. Endpoint connectivity, server statuses, cloud resources, and VPN tunnels need to be carefully watched 24/7, and issues need to be resolved as quickly as they appear.

This requires smarter monitoring capabilities, which include things like intelligent monitoring, automated alerts and logs, and analytics to give network teams a clear contextual understanding of why things have gone wrong when they inevitably do. 

Implement Measures to Regain Control at the Endpoint

This is an obvious point, but it bears repeating because of how critical it is. Whether your workforce is largely remote or a hybrid mix, the security perimeter of your business has likely expanded, requiring greater levels of endpoint security on the devices your employees use.

The thought of threats entering through an employee’s unsecured home —or via IoT devices of an unknown third-party vendor—is enough to keep any IT or network team up at night. 

There are some ways to mitigate these security risks. Endpoint monitoring and security solutions allow network teams to regain some proactive control over endpoint threats, allowing for rapid early threat detection and action before things escalate beyond control.

These solutions, used in tandem with on-device endpoint data security and privacy solutions, provide IT teams with some measure of control in a hard-to-secure environment. 

Perform Constant Assessments of Solutions

Though there’s still ambiguity on where the future of work is headed, conduct scheduled assessments on which solutions are seeing high or low rates of utilisation, how often these solutions are utilised, and to what extent they’re utilised. IT teams can use the data from these assessments to determine where budgets and resources can be freed or which areas of the infrastructure can be optimised for better efficiency, security, and stability.

These assessments should also extend to software and applications, where the aim is to always ensure undisrupted application delivery to users. This could mean putting certain applications like hot-desking apps on ice while optimising others, such as cloud storage or single sign-on applications directly contributing to remote workforce productivity.

With the pandemic and global situation in constant flux, nobody knows what the future of work looks like. The past has shown how quickly things can change, and the key to success for IT and network teams could lie in their ability to remain flexible and prepare for the unexpected going forward. The above steps help build scalability and resilience into the enterprise network—and IT pros are bound to need both in heaps for the coming days.

Sascha Giese is the Head Geek at SolarWinds.