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How to Ensure Remote Workers Have Tools to Remain Productive

As COVID-19 continues to redefine “normal” for the global workforce, some regions are slowly returning to the office. With this migration back to the office, the strain on virtual private networks (VPNs) may be eased somewhat. However, a highly distributed workforce adds pressure to IT Teams in different ways.

Ensuring that on-premises applications are working well, and can be easily accessed, will enable your remote workforce to remain productive, allowing them to focus on providing value to the business and your customers rather than wrestling with application latency.

Monitoring a remote workforce calls for a robust business continuity plan and a shift in monitoring strategy. Prior to COVID-19, IT teams were accustomed to monitoring LANs/VLANs in office locations. Dashboards that provide performance analytics for routers, switches, and wireless access points enable IT teams to manage capacity and utilization for their on-site workforce.

Now that two-thirds of employees are working remotely, many of these network devices are left unutilized, with the remote workers home network doing much of the heavy lifting. And while IT teams cannot manage an employee’s home network, they can ensure that remote workers can connect to the company network without issue, and that applications running on-premise are performing optimally. So, how can this be achieved?

Ensure remote workers can access company networks without issue (via VPN)

It is crucial to ensure remote workers can access company networks without issue (via VPN). Start with a dashboard to monitor how many active VPN sessions per location and when VPN saturation will occur. This allows your IT team to visualize VPN activity over time, how it fluctuates during business hours, and encourages proactivity in preventing saturation. Correlate the number of VPN sessions with application performance (such as response time) and outbound/inbound traffic on certain interfaces. If circuit saturation and application degradation correspond with the rising number of VPN sessions, your IT team can start planning for optimizing capacity.

Ensure on-premises applications are performing optimally

It's also important to ensure on-premises applications are performing optimally. With fewer people on-site, extra attention should be paid to the environmental conditions of server rooms, QA labs, and data centers. A server room (with servers hosting many important on-premises applications) could be susceptible to a cooling failure. The first warning signs may be your users reporting slow or unresponsive applications. Then your monitoring solution may start showing temperature alarms on CPU and chassis or fan failures. The last thing any business wants is for its users to be their early warning system for a potentially catastrophic and costly failure.

Again, your IT teams can be proactive by monitoring key servers, setting thresholds for CPU, chassis, fans, and application response time. This will give your IT team precious time to remediate any issues before they turn into revenue-impacting downtime.

How to monitor applications that are not on-premises (SaaS/cloud)

But what if a remote worker was accessing an application that wasn’t hosted on-premises? What if they are accessing a cloud-hosted application that did not require the remote worker to go via the VPN?

In this case, an IT team would need to monitor the traffic going out of the home network, across the public network (internet) to the cloud host to uncover any potential network bottlenecks. An application path analytics tool could help with this.

Such a tool could run on the remote worker's laptop/PC and simulate traffic to a cloud-hosted application. The tool could then show every device the application traffic traverses over en route to its destination and highlight potential problems along the path. Once a problem has been identified, the IT team could then make a call to the relevant ISP/network owner and report the issue.

Even if the workplace culture one day finds itself in a “post-COVID-19 world,” many companies may allow their employees to remain remote. These suggestions will outlast the current crisis and help maintain strong and reliable application performance for remote workers.

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