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Network Monitoring and Management Turned Upside Down

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Work from home
(Source: Pixabay)

As executives and line of business leaders are working to pivot during our global COVID-19 crisis, by adapting supply chains and marketing approaches to maintain operations and revenue streams, pressure on IT is equally escalating. From our recent conversations with IT teams, we’re reminded of their commitment to support their companies, although the approach they are now taking has shifted from office-based environments to remote locations—essentially inside out to outside in.

Most companies’ technology ecosystems have been centered around the corporate and branch offices — where their employees normally worked. That focus is now inverted, and the ecosystem is now truly concentrated on remote workers and their ability to connect and be productive from home on different devices and for different work functions.

Like many other technology solution providers, we’re in the thick of supporting an overnight shift to just about everyone working remotely at home. As the focus of our business is the watching and maintaining of network infrastructure, we’re relatively high on the list of the people getting calls from customers who are looking to ensure that work-from-home (WFH) keeps humming along, and that they understand where things stand within the network that facilitates their WFH strategy.

As we move into a second month of this major upending of the workplace, the number of customer calls we receive is up by anywhere from 30% to 40%. That increase in customer outreach is distributed across the board, rather than concentrated in a particular geography or industry. In simple terms, that just tells us we’re all in this together, sharing the same concerns for our business going remote regardless of the type of business or location.

The IT and network administrators who are calling us have two priorities: managing their firewalls and managing their VPN connections. Firewalls are a priority because they allow the traffic to flow in and out of the network, and firewall traffic is at an all-time high with so many people accessing work resources from home. By proactively monitoring and managing firewalls, the IT groups we work with can ensure traffic continues to flow back and forth at optimum levels. They can be alerted when anomalies occur for proactive management taking care of an issue before it impacts users’ performance. Equally important is the critical link that gives remote end-users access to VPN connections that, in turn, provide access to applications.

For their part, VPN connections are how remote end-users gain access to on-prem applications and file storage.  Network IT staff are on the hook to make sure there are enough VPN sessions available, as each end-user requires their own VPN session. That means hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of users at the same time are using VPN sessions to be able to access those vital apps, and IT teams need to be able to see where there are saturation points on devices, as such saturation impacts end-user ability to access their on-prem hosted applications.

Effectively managing those VPN sessions requires having the ability to see vital statistics -- who are the VPN users; how many VPN sessions can currently be supported; how close the company is to its maximum number of VPN sessions available; and the number of VPN sessions running by type of device. The ability to view and manage the network not only geographically, but also down to individual device level for troubleshooting failures, is imperative.

Collectively, this information allows IT to quickly and fully understand the status of activity on a device, providing a way to proactively monitor if more VPN tunnels are needed to accommodate users, and the trends being seen so that IT staff can adapt resources to accommodate usage changes.

The WFH tsunami presents a fundamental change in how the network that underlies all modern business is supplying services, essentially turning things upside down for network administrators and IT groups. The end result for IT teams continues to be the same – providing the best end-user experience. So, whether employees are home or back in the office, reliable access to applications ensures high productivity and contributes to a business’ success. And that will go a long way to helping businesses find the right side up.

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