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The Role of IT in Rearchitecting for a WFH Future

COVID-19 has radically changed the way we work. Recent shelter-in-place orders have turned our homes into the new enterprise microbranch of the future and forced a greater workload onto home wireless networks. Experts predict that even post COVID, we will see a new norm with more people working from home, fundamentally shifting how businesses will provide IT services moving forward. As we continue to rearchitect for a work-from-home future, IT will play an increasingly key role in providing enterprise-grade support to remote workers, securing data with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), and deploying AI solutions to provide better end-to-end visibility and remote support.

Adapting IT Support for a Remote Workforce

One of the biggest challenges for employees working from home is that they can no longer simply walk over to IT when they have a network problem. In this new world of remote work, new questions begin to arise that IT departments need to be prepared to answer: What happens when an employee experiences network issues at home? How can IT support them?

To prepare, companies must expand enterprise-grade support to employees’ homes to match the level of quality support that they would get in the office. The end-to-end view of the user’s experience provided by AI and machine learning will give IT the ability to remotely solve issues that arise in real-time. This is especially important given that remote network usage across homes is very different compared to usage in the office.

One can think of the home as the new enterprise microbranch. Families and roommates are often sharing the same network that you are trying to do business on – from remote employees working on confidential projects to children streaming content. To support a worker experiencing with all of this different network traffic, IT can implement network segmentation, which allows network traffic to be prioritized. By not having to compete with other household traffic, a segmented network can improve performance and minimize delays.

Why WFH Will Accelerate SASE

Security is another challenge that enterprises face with a remote workforce. IT has already been navigating security issues given employees’ increasingly mobile lifestyles, but now there’s one technology that will likely be accelerated to better adapt for remote enterprise security: SASE.

According to Gartner, “SASE combines network security functions with WAN capabilities to support the dynamic, secure access needs of organizations.” With remote work, security needs are changing drastically, but SASE can make the lives of IT workers easier. If you continue to think of the home as a microbranch, then the same security issues that apply to the office now apply to the home.

SASE is a paradigm shift from securing things via a firewall to securing traffic at the cloud onramps of the internet. Employees who are working from home are doing many of the same tasks as at the office and must have network security measures in place to support them. For example, if an employee is accessing cloud services, SASE allows security to be placed right at the onramp to the internet by an application. Similarly, SASE creates security checkpoints for sensitive corporate data at the onramp, mitigating security threats that can be harmful to IT infrastructure as people are working outside of the office.

Using AI to Manage the End-User Experience

AI is important for working from home when it comes to enabling IT teams to support remote employees. This starts with AIOps, which aims to find the root cause of a connectivity problem. AIOps is becoming vendor agnostic, ingesting data from multiple sources to allow IT to quickly isolate a poor user experience to device, access point, LAN, WAN, DHCP, DNS, or application.

Once the problem is solved on the back end, there’s a matter of how the solution is communicated to the end user. AI has traditionally been categorized as Tier III IT support level. However, with the transition from dashboards to conversational interfaces, we can expect that AI will increasingly allow employees themselves to directly ask the network why there is a problem. As remote workers encounter new problems and report them to the AI system, the system will keep evolving and improve at solving these problems. This means that as employees spend more time working from home, the network will learn and, in turn, network problems will become easier for IT to resolve.

A New Phase for Modern Enterprises

It goes without saying that as a result of COVID, our ways of working will likely never be the same. Our homes may permanently become a new class of microbranch, with people working remotely much more often than in the past.

There are many challenges when it comes to working from home during a pandemic, such as maintaining work-life balance, homeschooling children, or staying focused. And while IT can’t solve all these problems of working from home, by leveraging AIOps, they will play an important role in maintaining the network infrastructure, data security, and user experience in the new home microbranch to create a strong foundation for enterprises to build a positive work-from-home experience.