Networking infrastructure issues peg back firms adapting to Covid-19 new normal

Survey shows inadequate infrastructure is preventing businesses from meeting challenges around remote working and omni-channel customer demand and holding them back from embracing more innovative technologies

As remote and hybrid working becomes an accepted way for firms to operate, a survey from Virgin Media Business Wholesale has revealed the infrastructure battle companies have faced in making sure their massed ranks of displaced workers could remain productive over the months since March.

The study, How wholesale partners can help UK plc meet demand, was conducted over one week in October 2020 by Censuswide and consulted 252 senior IT managers from UK organisations with at least 500 employees. It revealed a clear perception that existing connectivity infrastructure had limited organisations rather than being the empowering force it should be.

Just over three-quarters of businesses (77%) have struggled to adapt to Covid-19 due to legacy IT networks. Moreover, it also found that businesses were reluctant to make upgrades to their networks, with less than a quarter (23%) seeing this as a top priority. The perceived cost of making improvements was cited by 36% as the main reason companies had failed to take action. 

The reasons given for poor performance were diverse. Nearly two-fifths (38%) said their networks hadn’t provided their organisations with the flexibility to support remote working needs and meet online customer demand, while 34% did not feel it gave them enough bandwidth to handle the surge in demand for data. In addition, 31% said they were not convinced their networks could give them scalability if their data needs were to increase. Worryingly, a third regarded their existing networks as insecure. This suggested that many customers were vulnerable to the recent spike in cyber crime due to the pandemic, according to Virgin.

Similarly concerning, given that all businesses now need to support effective and productive remote working, 48% of senior IT managers said they were finding it challenging to support remote working, while the same proportion were struggling to meet customer demand. The same percentage said they were currently upgrading their networks to future-proof their business to enable it to cope with the demands of these innovations on bandwidth and data. This is particularly pressing, as even though firms weren’t all investing in the networking infrastructure needed to support them, just over half (52%) of IT leaders were exploring how they could use internet of things (IoT) technology over the next one to two years and 48% were looking at how they would incorporate 5G.

The study also showed that there was room for channel partners to get closer to customers. Nearly a third (31%) felt their channel supplier lacked the knowledge or expertise to guide them through challenges, and 27% said their partner didn’t have the right technological solutions to help meet current demand.

“These findings show that legacy networks are holding UK plc back. Inadequate infrastructure is preventing businesses from meeting challenges around remote working and omni-channel customer demand, and holding them back from embracing newer, more innovative technologies,” said Dale Parkinson, sales director at Virgin Media Business Wholesale.

“By adding more flexible and agile connectivity solutions to their product portfolio and getting closer to their customers, the IT channel can play a critical role in ensuring organisations benefit from the lightning-fast speeds, flexibility and agility provided by solutions like national high-capacity services.”

In a bid to alleviate such issues, Virgin Media Business Wholesale said it was making a multimillion-pound investment in its core network capabilities and widening access to its 10Gbps portfolio across the UK. This includes its national high-capacity services (NHCS) to help businesses transfer huge volumes of data in a fast and secure way. The company is also reducing pricing for its NHCS 10Gbps services by up to 38% and making it easier for partners to access the technology through its Engage partner portal.

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