Remote work and hybrid work are here to stay. This new paradigm has plenty of advantages—your remote workforce can be hired from anywhere, giving you better prospects, and your business operations can continue no matter where your team members need to be.
A remote workforce does, however, present several problems. A number of variables are introduced—devices of various kinds may be used to access the network, unsecured Wi-Fi may be used, connection speeds can vary significantly, and traffic may ebb and flow more than ever.
However, the security risks and connection concerns presented by remote work can be mitigated through optimization strategies. In this article, we’ll teach you how.
Step 1: Build Network Agility
An agile network is a network that can respond quickly to changes in load, connection speed, and other factors. Traditionally, networks have been controlled and customized using routers and switches. Agile networks, on the other hand, are usually built using virtual networks and virtual machines (VMs).
There are many advantages to building an agile network:
- They’re highly customizable and scalable.
- They can automatically redirect traffic depending on network demands and reconfigure as new devices are added.
- They give network administrators an unprecedented look at the data moving through the network, allowing for better security.
Network agility can be built up using a number of different tools, including:
- Software-defined networking (SDN): The backbone of network agility, SDN centralizes the decision-making process that used to be assigned to routers and switches. This leads to a more flexible network that’s easier to program, as it becomes easier to coordinate all of the routers and switches on a network on the fly. Additionally, SDN allows a variety of physical and virtual network devices to be integrated seamlessly.
- Network function virtualization (NFV): Rather than controlling and allocating resources and network traffic, NFV replaces hardware using virtual machines (VMs). Virtual routers, firewalls, and more can be integrated into a network.
- Network as a Service (NaaS): This refers to any networking tools you purchase as a subscription service. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are the most common example of this for remote work—various SDN and cloud connectivity services may also be considered NaaS.
- Virtual private networks (VPNs): Virtual private networks keep data encrypted and give remote users secure access to your company’s network—they’re essential for transferring sensitive data and for keeping your network safe.
To boost network agility, it’s best to use some or all of these technologies in tandem. Your business could use SDN controllers to control remote work traffic flowing through VPN connections. These connections may have been purchased as a part of a NaaS subscription, and you may be using VMs to act as routers and firewalls throughout your network.
Step 2: Leverage Cloud-Based Security
Building an agile network can help improve security, but agility alone won’t prevent cybercriminals from accessing your network.
Remote work poses several risks—poorly configured networks, public Wi-Fi being used as access points, and unauthorized users gaining access through remote computers. Normally, these can be tightly controlled through a central location, so all network access points are standardized. While remote work makes this more difficult, cloud-based security can help.
- Cloud-based identity and access management (IAM): IAM isn’t a single technology—it’s a set of different tools and techniques that manage who has access to the various parts of your network. Cloud-based solutions can simplify the login process and can integrate with your virtual private network (VPN). A good IAM solution should make logging in easier for your remote workers—though they may need two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) to gain access to your network.
- Endpoint security: Cloud-based endpoint security can keep you and your remote workers safe by ensuring that all devices on your network are protected against malware and other threats.
Cloud-based solutions allow IT professionals to manage user access and report on threats from devices all around the world. Cloud-based security is an essential part of remote working infrastructure, and companies of all sizes should opt to implement it.
Step 3: Equip Your Team With the Right Tools
We’ve now equipped our remote work network with all the fundamentals it needs to succeed. The network we’ve built is agile, secure, and can be managed from a central location. With these features established, we can now focus on providing our remote workers with the tools they’ll need to work effectively.
You have many options when it comes to the tools you’ll choose. You might, for example, opt to keep everything within Microsoft or Google’s cloud and remote networking suite. This can make it easier to keep your network secure—and you can even purchase cloud-security services from Google or Microsoft directly. For example, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint can be used for video conferencing, file sharing, collaboration between remote workers, and more.
Alternatively, you could opt for an ad hoc approach, adding new software as needed from various vendors. This approach has its advantages—you can add the tools that best suit your needs and customize solutions. The disadvantage is that all of these solutions may have different protocols, and you might need to adjust how your network handles them more frequently.
In most cases, we recommend a top-down approach to remote working infrastructure. Take stock of all of your hardware devices, the number of staff you have working remotely, your security concerns and existing security protocols, the network speeds you’ll need, and other factors.
By approaching remote working infrastructure from the top down, you’ll be able to create a network that works holistically, with all of your physical devices, virtual devices, and cloud-based software working in tandem to provide a speedy, customizable, adjustable, and secure experience for your remote workers.
Interested in improving your remote working network? Give us a call—we can help you create an agile, secure network customized to meet the unique needs of your business.
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