How to Implement a Successful Remote Work IT Environment

A retrospective on the pandemic

March 2022 marks two years from the start of the pandemic that changed the world as we knew it. It’s estimated that before the pandemic only 4 millions of Americans were working from home [1]. This number quickly increased to 22 million as a result of the pandemic [2], and it is forecasted to reach approximately 36 million by 2025 [3]. 

As a result, network traffic is moving off premises and so are the boundaries of enterprise networks. These networks are extending beyond traditional corporate premises to now include remote home offices as well as third party networks and public clouds. The Internet has become the new enterprise backbone, increasing complexity.

This is posing a major challenge to IT teams that are moving from a support model where most of the network hardware was directly managed at the corporate level, to a new model that includes third party networks and devices that are not under direct management of the IT team. An EMA research paper on post-pandemic networking highlighted the top root causes that are impacting remote/work from home users, such as the Internet Service Provider, home Wi-Fi, and the application itself. These elements are not directly managed by the corporate IT, reducing their ability to efficiently detect and troubleshoot end-user experience issues [4].

In this situation, IT can’t use the same tools and techniques that previously did. Legacy network monitoring solutions based on SNMP and NetFlow are incapable of identifying root causes on elements that they don’t directly manage. This has dramatic consequences for IT. The burden on tech support teams is noticeable: work from home contributed to an increase by 35% in support tickets, which translated to a 30% increase in support costs [5]. Organizations are struggling to keep up increased demands of a more distributed workforce and are looking to replace legacy monitoring tools with new solutions that can help address these challenges.

How To Regain IT Control

One thing that we know for sure is that the flex/remote work trend will continue its trend in the coming years (see previous estimates of 36 million Americans working from home). We also realize that some industries are better positioned for such a change (e.g. Technology), versus others that are not (e.g. Manufacturing). Lastly, culture is another determining factor of such a change, and within a given industry, we see a spectrum of organizations embracing a change more openly versus others that tend to “drag their feet”.

Having worked with many organizations that moved ahead of the curve to a remote work culture, there are two key recommendations that I have for companies that wants to be prepared, from an IT perspective, to move forward with this important culture change:

  1. Empower your help desk with the right tools – Level 1 (L1) support is the first line of defense for remote end-user issues. Ticket escalations to higher engineers are very expensive: $69 for each ticket that gets escalated to Level 2 support versus $22 for a Level 1 [6]. Also, each ticket escalation increases resolution time, with frustration to the end-user, and drain of valuable resources (e.g. network engineers) from important design/implementation projects. The solution is to empower help desk agents with a remote worker network monitoring tool that provides diagnostic data that is used to identify root causes of remote user complaints.
  2. Share IT guidelines with your remote users – Develop and share best practices that remote users can use to optimize their IT setup at home. For example, recommend use of a wired connection from the router to their desktop/laptop. This is very important for call center operators and other job functions that rely heavily on digital audio and video calls to perform their duties. If a wireless connection is the only option available, then make sure that the router is in line of sight with the laptop/desktop as much as possible (avoid placing it behind metal bookshelves or inside a dusty closet).
  3. Identify the best Internet Service Providers where possible – Not all areas have choices, but if they do, then identify the ISP that has the better reliability and speed for a given budget. A remote worker network monitoring tool should provide aggregate ISP data that can be used to identify top ISP from under-performers. This will help decide what remote users can be switched to a better ISP with gains in end-user experience but also cost savings for the whole organization (less tickets).

Conclusion

It’s never too late to start planning for your remote workforce’s IT needs.

References

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