Six Remote Network Challenges
The events of 2020 have seen many organisations across the UK Public Sector pivoting to rapidly enable their workforces to be productive outside the traditional office space.
In these vastly distributed environments, the boundaries of the network edge extend all the way to employees’ homes. While a rapid response was necessary in the moment, and a good first step, these measures revealed major shortcomings in user experience and put a significant strain on IT.
Read on for six network challenges experienced by remote workers and IT.
Remote Worker Pain Point No. 1
VPN Usage Skyrockets
Since 11 March 2020, global VPN usage has shown a massive spike. Workers in the US are spending an extra 3 hours a day on business VPNs, the highest jump worldwide.
Source: IT Security Guru.
“I can’t get – or stay – connected.”
When VPN technology was developed in the 1990s, it was designed to provide a subset of corporate apps to a subset of mobile, remote or branch users. In today’s world, all the users are on the VPN, distributed across many devices and locations, accessing applications on-premise and across various Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers. This increased network traffic pushes the VPN past its capacity, as activity bumps up against capacity and licensing limits and leads to congestion, random disconnects or rationing.
Bottom Line: No one can get their job done and productivity plummets.
Remote Worker Pain Point No. 2
Fierce Competition for Bandwidth
Throughout the first 90+ days of the COVID response, Verizon networks carried 10.3+ trillion MB of data – leaving business-critical apps to contend with a massive flow.
“My apps don’t perform like they should. I’m not getting anything done!”
Business-critical apps in a home office are up against compounding performance challenges:
- Last-mile connections to users’ homes are notoriously oversubscribed and congested
- VPNs are overloaded by more traffic than they were designed for
- Some legacy apps were designed for clients in proximity to a server on the LAN. These apps may not perform well when remote
- Without priority handling, business apps must compete with all the other neighbourhood network traffic, including video conferencing and content streaming
- Enterprise cloud and SaaS apps may take unnecessary trips back to the corporate network
Bottom Line: When employees can’t get the application performance they need to do their jobs, they not only get frustrated, but the business suffers.
Remote Worker Pain Point No. 3
Help Desk Overload
Password resets represent the highest proportion of help desk tickets, coming in at 1/3 of all requests.
Source: Security Boulevard.
“I’ve got too many passwords to remember … plus, I have to log-in over and over.”
Accessing apps from home often requires more frequent or more stringent authentication. Combine this with the new productivity apps, like video conferencing and chat, that organisations are rolling out to enable remote collaboration, and you’ve got a recipe for proliferating credentials – one more thing users have to juggle to get the job done.
Bottom Line: A frustrating, unproductive end-user experience. This frustration is passed on to IT via tickets, which can quickly overload help desk resources.
IT Pain Point No. 1
Off-Network Devices Remain a Mystery with Traditional Tools
“We don’t know who’s accessing what.”
Traditional monitoring and security tools require devices to be on the corporate network.
Bottom Line: Lack of visibility into users and the corporate resources they access raises multiple security red flags.
IT Pain Point No. 2
Data Exchange via Unmanaged Devices Increases Exposure – and Risk.
“We can’t be sure our devices – and data – are still secure.”
As current events sharply accelerate the transition to remote working, employees are exchanging and sharing data from a variety of unmanaged personal devices to get their jobs done. However, with endpoints no longer behind the corporate firewall and web filtering, IT has much less visibility into device compliance. It’s difficult to push updates to corporate-managed devices when they’re off-premise. On top of that, home office users introduce the risk of business apps and data being shared with other users on the network.
Bottom Line: Outdated devices accessing your network for the sake of employee productivity increase the attack surface – and your risk of a breach.
IT Pain Point No. 3
Residential Network Traffic Bottlenecks
Comcast, operator of the largest residential Internet network in the U.S., saw a 32% increase in upstream traffic growth and 30–40% increase in VPN traffic from March to May 2020.
“Our OS and app updates take forever over the VPN.”
When large patches and updates are pushed from the corporate network over the Internet via an overloaded VPN instead of over the LAN, they must travel over a much slower connection to the users’ devices at home. These bottlenecks mean that routine patches and app updates that take minutes to deliver on a local network can take significantly longer.