How SD-WAN answers the challenge of remote workforce networking

July 18, 2020
Author: CBTS
Blog | Communications | Digital Workspace

Enterprises of all types and sizes these days are struggling with the difficulties of setting up functioning remote workforce networking and communications infrastructure. Given the speed at which the COVID-19 crisis prompted this transition, it’s no wonder that many solutions to date have been piecemeal, ad hoc, and have exhibited limited performance.

Now that it seems that this new working paradigm is not likely to be temporary, the time is quickly approaching when these rushed solutions take on a more permanent aura, but not so permanent that they become too rigid to accommodate another fast-moving crisis or simply the rapidly-evolving digital economy. Remote working solutions can’t compromise on security or connection quality. Therefore, each employee’s home office requires the same data integrity measures and networking capabilities utilized in traditional office environments.

Fortunately, we can look to one industry sector that has been forced by necessity to quickly ramp up remote data infrastructure at scale while still fostering the long-term data performance for the new working environment. This would be the healthcare industry, which was tasked with rapidly establishing field operations to treat COVID patients using much the same networking technology that knowledge workers across the board need for a productive work-at-home setup.

Recently, Jon Lloyd, Director of Cloud Networking, CBTS and Sanjay Uppal, SVP & GM VMware, VeloCloud BU sat down to discuss these topics:

  • Parallel between IU Health remote testing sites and transforming each home office a fully functioning branch office
  • How to deliver the same performance, security and network resiliency in non-traditional locations and across all devices
  • Agility to stand-up remote office networks quickly, scale quickly and do so with a reliable connection

Networking in the field

A key example is Indiana University Health, which turned to CBTS and VeloCloud to establish a working SD-WAN solution capable of supporting the substantial data loads of field clinics that were quickly created in parking lots and other locations as a way to prevent the coronavirus from infiltrating existing hospital space. In addition to maintaining broad connectivity among healthcare workers and continuous data streams back to central facilities, IU Health needed to maintain high levels of security, resiliency, availability, and a host of other metrics needed to deal with an unfolding emergency situation.

IU Health’s network of “pop-up” testing centers required the same access to data and services that established hospitals receive, including ongoing patient monitoring through connected medical devices. Using VeloCloud’s VMware-based SD-WAN solution, the company was able to field a working network environment on extremely short notice (as little as 24 hours in some cases) while at the same time building in the necessary scalability, agility, and mobile accessibility needed to deliver top-notch care. Additionally, VeloCloud was able to provide a range of proprietary collaboration tools and cloud-based applications to enable such features as network prioritization and single-point-of-contact monitoring and maintenance dashboards.

The relevancy of this solution expands well beyond the unique needs of the healthcare industry and applies to many other industries. While the data and applications may be different, the networking needs of at-home workers and remote clinicians are very similar. One key requirement is the ability to extend existing networks to large numbers of people while maintaining strict security standards, which requires a bit more finesse than simply logging into central resources with a VPN. With a standard VPN appliance, the challenge is to connect all users independently via their own connections, which can quickly increase costs and degrade performance as more users tap in. Under VeloCloud’s gateway architecture, there is one connection that can scale to extreme numbers of users, all operating as if they were working from a fully functional remote office. A managed SD-WAN service from a trusted partner can make all the difference when attempting to stand up a large number of remote work spaces on a limited time frame.

Work-home data balance

Another issue is the way home offices blend personal and work-related data on the same network infrastructure. This can lead to performance and privacy concerns as organizations try to maintain high-quality applications without hampering home services like video streaming and gaming. Naturally, enterprises would like their applications to have priority over personal services, but making this happen without encroaching on the privacy of home workers and their families is a challenge. At the same time, organizations have a vested interest in maintaining security over their data and applications, but this can be difficult when these streams are combined with personal data and applications on the same network.

With VeloCloud’s network segmentation capabilities, however, workers are able to split their professional and personal data streams into distinct network tunnels. And since this is done through a cloud-based ERM tool, this capability is pushed out to the remote workforce with little to no provisioning or setup on their end.

This need for simplicity extends across the entire VeloCloud platform, which was designed around a “zero touch” architecture in which many of the manual processes required for installation and operations are entirely automated. In this way, non-technical users are not burdened with the intricacies of resource provisioning and network access (which sometimes stumps even experienced network engineers), allowing fully functional office environments to be implemented quickly and easily.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and the necessity brought on by a sudden and unexpected worldwide pandemic has forced virtually every business on the planet to invent remote work infrastructure from scratch. Going forward, however, these systems will have to adapt to the broader shifts in the nature of work that will likely to continue long after the virus has been neutralized.

A partner like CBTS, which can bring to bear multiple solutions to remote workforce networking like VeloCloud to craft truly unique environments for each and every client, will be crucial in the drive to embrace the new normal. Ultimately, only those companies that can successfully manage this transition will survive, and those that can do it quickly and effectively will find themselves at a distinct competitive advantage as the digitization of work and commerce unfolds.

For information on how CBTS can help you set up a remote workforce network, contact us.

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