The global spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has organizations large and small readying their office-based staff for temporary remote work. While it’s a wise move for achieving containment, this isn’t as easy as an email sending everyone home for two weeks. Many infrastructure and networking considerations must be accounted and planned for, not the least of which is additional bandwidth to ensure steady application performance.
In a snap poll by Gartner, 54 percent of HR leaders indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to an effective work from home model. IT leaders play an essential role in abating that concern and making any telework policy a success.
With that in mind, what are the top networking and security considerations for remote work?
Check out the brief network FAQ below for the most essential points.
How can I determine if my company needs additional bandwidth?
Start by looking at your applications. What applications do workers need to effectively do their jobs? How and how often are these applications accessed?
Good news: If the application is already hosted in the cloud via platform as a service (PaaS) or software as a service (SaaS), you may not have an issue. Workers using Office 365, for example, will still be able to access their important documents and communicate effectively with their teammates via related workflow tools like Microsoft Teams. But even if an application isn’t in the cloud, if workers are on a remote desktop program, the heavy lifting is done in the data center and won’t affect your network.
Additional bandwidth may be needed if your organization runs frequently used, resource-hungry applications over the corporate network. Common examples are file share systems or home-grown apps that involve rich media or large data sets, like CAD software or business intelligence tools. Access to these will require a VPN, which in turn may require greater bandwidth. (See below) The net amount of new bandwidth needed will be determined by application access and traffic patterns.
What considerations need to be made to support a greater number of VPN users?
First, review your license capacity. VPNs are typically licensed per concurrent user. For example, an organization might choose a license for 50 users because the number of remote workers at one time would rarely if ever exceed the cap. With emergency plans, however, that number might suddenly jump to 250.
Next, look at hardware specs. Firewalls have different capacities for hardware performance. They also have a hard number of users than be supported from a VPN. Check with your VPN provider to make adjustments.
There are also hardware limits for how many users a VPN can handle. For instance, a new firewall license may be needed if your current limits are insufficient. To update the license, you would need to make a call to your firewall provider to update the number of seats.
What recommendations should companies make for worker’s home connections?
The biggest roadblock to smooth remote network connectivity may be largely outside IT’s control: Your end user’s home internet service. In this case, preparation is key. Before a mass migration to remote work, test a representative sample of current remote users’ access to applications to see where you might run into performance bottlenecks. If some employees don’t have access to high-speed internet, discuss business continuity contingencies with senior leadership. Can the company reimburse users for upgrades? If not, how can critical work be done offline?
What security measures should be considered with sizeable move to remote work?
While the VPN will provide a secure connection, two-factor authentication ensures the remote users are who they say they are. You should also configure your system to prohibit file storage on users’ home devices, and if possible, prevent VPN access to employees’ home devices altogether by providing company owned endpoints.
For optimal network security, configure your VPN to prevent split tunneling, which allows for some traffic to route over the protected network and other traffic (such as streaming and web browsing) through the public internet. While this will make all endpoints more secure, preventing split tunneling will require more bandwidth.
I’m an INAP customer and need more bandwidth. What’s the process?
If you’re a current INAP customer and already have bandwidth with us, you can check your IP usage here. If needed, you can adjust your commit or your cap limit, depending on how your circuit is set up. Increasing your commits is easy as long as there are no physical changes being made.
If you have a cap configuration, changes to the rate limit are also simple to make via a logical configuration. While you can remove the cap or increasing the rate limit, be cautioned that this isn’t the most fiscally beneficial move to make, as making a commit will get you a better price.
If you need to change the physical network topology, such as making a move from a 1 GB to a 10 GB circuit, the process will take additional time. Contact INAP support or your account rep to start the discussion.
Finally, if you’re an INAP Colocation customer and won’t be able to directly manage your environment at the data center, contact us for adding 24/7 remote hands support.
I’m looking for a new high-performance bandwidth service. How can I get started?
Our multi-homed bandwidth service, Performance IP®, is powered by our proprietary route optimization engine, which ensures your outbound traffic reaches end users along the lowest latency path.
If you’re already collocated in one of INAP’s 100 Global POPs, the turnaround for a cross connect is typically achieved in 1-2 weeks. If a remote connection to your data center is required, contact us for a complimentary solution design consultation.