Consumer-grade network solutions can be burdensome, risky, and costly to IT
By guest author Lee Doyle
As many businesses will be continuing remote work after the pandemic, it is time to re-evaluate how we connect and secure our critical and most productive employees.
Many IT organizations have struggled to scale up their ability to provide reliable, secure work at home and remote work environments. Leveraging the employee’s existing consumer-class networks was the obvious interim solution. But the reality of working at home is that employees have experienced a number of problems including slow application performance and an inability to access all key applications and data. Frequently cited issues include:
- Increased security risk. According to a survey by BitSight Research, malware was found on 45 percent of corporate-associated home office networks.
- Unpredictable quality of service can lead to a poor user experience.
- Inability of IT teams to “see” the home network can result in a lack of visibility and control.
These disadvantages of the consumer-grade home network greatly increase help desk trouble tickets and make it very difficult to maintain a quality application experience.
An enterprise-class network at home should be simple to deploy, easy to manage, and cost-effective. To achieve these goals, IT organizations should evaluate remote work access solutions based on the following criteria:
- Ease of installation and use by nontechnical employees
- Simplified, cloud-based management
- Comprehensive security
- Performance and application prioritization
- Support for 4G LTE and 5G
Remote Work Solutions Should Be Simple to Add Without Disruption
Wireless networks based on 4G LTE and 5G make it easy to add and sustain robust and secure connectivity and reach both urban centers and remote locations that wired connections cannot. Plus, wireless adds an element of link diversity from a variety of carriers to strengthen business continuity for mission-critical employees.
Cloud management provides special insights into what wireless usage is, the health and security of the connection, and visibility into application performance. By harnessing network intelligence, providing a single point of policy definition, and centralizing troubleshooting, this connection for remote work becomes easy to deploy and manage.
Secure Networking Considerations for the Remote Worker
Consumer-grade networks are vulnerable to attack, which is why home networks are now an obvious attack vector. The remote, home network solution must have built-in security.
Industries with high compliance concerns will benefit from the isolation of work devices (e.g. PCs, tablets, and phones) from the insecure home network. Network segmentation also enables predictable quality of service — as compared to the current “competition” between household members for quality voice/video service on a single consumer broadband link. 4G LTE and 5G service provides for a “private” network for executives, separate from the home Wi-Fi, and offers the benefit of mobility/portability for employees on the go.
Remote Work Example: Large U.S. Financial Institution
At a large U.S. financial institution, the IT organization needed to rapidly support a large percent of its employees working remotely. Their requirements included reliable, fast Internet bandwidth with visibility and centralized management. A high level of security was needed to comply with regulations, customer data privacy, and compliance.
The organization selected NetCloud from Cradlepoint for its critical employees with cloud-based management with global security policy distribution and enforcement. Cradlepoint’s all-in-one solution includes routing, switching, Wi-Fi, broadband, and cellular connectivity. The organization found the solution was easy to deploy with zero-touch connectivity, secure, and provided excellent quality of user experience.
Conclusions and Recommendations for IT Leaders
Secure remote access solutions are now a critical element for most IT organizations. Remote users need to access all key applications and data from any location, on any device and via any network. They need streamlined access to popular IaaS and SaaS applications, and they require application prioritization and security.
IT teams need begin to evaluate their remote access options and prepare for longer term solutions. The low ratio of IT staff to employees means that remote access solutions must be quick to install, easy to troubleshoot, and offer centralized management and visibility. 4G LTE and 5G connectivity can provide significant advantages to high-value remote, mobile employees. And using cloud-based management with wireless connections can add insights into network health, security, wireless usage, and application performance.
Managing consumer-grade networks is burdensome, risky, and costly to IT organizations. While many companies depended on these for the initial move to remote work, mission-critical employees continuing to work beyond traditional offices deserve a high-quality user experience for critical applications independent of their location, network, or device. Extending the same user experience and security as the office starts with a dedicated network to the remote location.
4G LTE and 5G now can provide that network option for high-performance connectivity for a remote and mobile workforce. No matter what happens in 2021 and beyond, secure, reliable work at home will become a critical requirement — one that IT must deliver.
Meet the Author
Lee Doyle is the Principal Analyst at Doyle Research, providing client-focused targeted analysis on the Evolution of Intelligent Networks. He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets. Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was Group VP for Network, Telecom, and Security research at IDC. Lee contributes to such industry periodicals as Network World, Fierce, and Tech Target. Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College.