When implementing remote work, companies can achieve a long-term balance between performance and security.
Fast internet connections and the increasing availability of cloud-based tools have made remote working a viable business strategy. Nevertheless, remote work remained the exception rather than the rule for many companies before the Corona crisis. 12.9 percent of all employees worked from home, with only 5.5 percent using the home office daily or at least half of the working hours. In spring 2021, this situation changed drastically with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hygiene and distance rules decreed by the government made working remotely – where possible – a must and have doubled the number of people working remotely:
For companies that had previously hardly dealt with the topic of remote work and therefore had not taken any measures to implement it, the sudden transition represented a huge undertaking. Much was initially provisional, and only gradually were operating processes adapted and the necessary tools purchased. And this process will continue now that it is foreseeable that remote work will continue to define our everyday working lives for the foreseeable future. Because the majority of those responsible have long recognized the enormous importance of well-organized remote work for the safety and productivity of the workforce.
Why Short-Term Strategies Fail
For those businesses that only consider remote work as an option for occasional travel or home emergencies, a traditional VPN solution has long been the most common approach. These tools establish a secure connection to the corporate network by routing traffic through a VPN concentrator, typically a data center. Before Corona, many companies mainly used older VPN tools, which may have worked well for a small number of remote employees. Still, they were overwhelmed with the necessary scaling due to the sudden increase in working from home in the spring.
Additionally, managing legacy VPNs is often very resource-intensive for IT departments, as setting up a single VPN can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Multiply that by a workforce of hundreds or thousands across multiple locations, resulting in a daunting workload that, for many organizations, likely meant hefty outsourced IT bills.
But even once employees are connected, things don’t always run smoothly. This is because conventional VPNs often suffer from performance losses as all data traffic has to be transmitted back to the data center. This means significant speed deficits for employees, severely hampering their productivity and making more data-intensive tasks such as video calls almost impossible. The problem is exacerbated when the VPN software of choice is not designed to seamlessly integrate across multiple or disparate network components and operating systems, especially when there is a high likelihood that home workers will be using their own devices.
What Security Risks Exist
For example, employees who carry out their productivity from their home office are faced with a more significant cyber threat, especially when speed problems arise in the VPN connection and the user is looking for a way to the data center via an unprotected Internet connection, for example.
Given that many companies have committed themselves to a holistic VPN strategy. Still, this service is only available to a few employees; against the background of the Covid-19 crisis, there has been a disproportionate increase in VPN home offices. With the rollout of VPNs on a large scale, scalability limitations automatically arise, as also security risks that can be traced back to insufficient updates or software updates of existing VPN solutions by IT departments. As a result, all doors are opened for cyber attackers, who find companies an ideal target for attack and can thus cause damage that should not be underestimated.
If Remote Work Should Not Remain a Stopgap Solution
Speed was the essence this past March, and underperforming VPN deployments were the norm then. This was certainly not ideal, but it was a justifiable short-term solution because of the explosive situation. Almost seven months later, the problem now looks different. Some employees have returned to their usual office workplace, but normality is still far off. Many workforces are still working remotely for security reasons and will likely continue to do so in the longer term. For companies, this means implementing strategies and measures that overcome the initial emergency solution of working from home and ensuring secure remote jobs for a long time.
One of the most critical steps to achieve this is replacing old, outdated VPN setups. While an IT overhaul can be pretty resource-intensive and should not be taken lightly, it is essential to ensure the continued smooth running of the business and the safety of employees – both physically and virtually. And the best prerequisite for these new requirements is a fully cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) approach such as SD-WAN (software-defined vast area network). Cloud-based infrastructure has a significant advantage over on-premises setups because companies do not have to install any new physical infrastructure on site. Also, giving employees access to resources is much easier, drastically reducing implementation time and costs. Additionally, SaaS contracts typically include flexible scaling provisions. Businesses should look for vendors that can scale up or down when business conditions unexpectedly change, as they did last March.
A high level of interoperability is another critical feature that companies should look for. A successful solution must have a virtual architecture compatible with all devices and operating systems the company uses, including the ability for authorized personal devices to be used at home. That enables scaling up or down if the conditions in the company unexpectedly change – as was the case last March. A high level of interoperability is another critical feature that companies should look for.
A successful solution must have a virtual architecture compatible with all devices and operating systems the company uses, including the ability for authorized personal devices to be used at home. That enables scaling up or down if the conditions in the company unexpectedly change – as was the case last March. A high level of interoperability is another critical feature that companies should look for. A successful solution must have a virtual architecture compatible with all devices and operating systems the company uses, including the ability for authorized personal devices to be used at home.
It Is Maintaining The Balance Between Performance And Security.
Organizations aiming for large-scale remote deployment must keep two priorities in mind: performance and security. This means they must enable their employees to work effectively from home or on the go while ensuring that this is done in a secure environment free of vulnerabilities.
Overcoming speed penalties, widespread with legacy VPN solutions, requires a virtual architecture hosted across globally distributed cloud gateways rather than relying on a single data center that can be far away from some employees. Performance can be further improved by prioritizing the application based on user needs. For example, a remote sales team using Zoom for meaningful sales negotiations needs a fast and reliable connection. These team members can be given higher priority for network traffic when using real-time applications like Zoom to ensure their video conferences don’t crash due to unexpected network delays.
Security issues associated with a complex legacy VPN setup are also solved this way, as the SD-WAN provides a single point of control for the entire network. IT and security teams can quickly update patches while gaining a complete view of all network activity.
Suppose companies want to offer remote work not only as a short-term emergency solution but also to enable secure and productive remote work in the long term. In that case, they must move away from legacy VPNs and take the time to implement a solution that can be quickly and securely scaled and also has defined security standards fulfilled.