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More evidence is emerging of the struggles that companies have found in supporting remote working since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, with a study from Cato Networks finding that more than three-quarters of enterprises have spent more time supporting their remote workforce since March 2020.
In its Work from anywhere survey, the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) platform provider surveyed the views of more than 2,686 IT leaders around the pandemic. It found that despite the massive investment in remote access infrastructure, most companies have continued to struggle supporting remote workers.
In short, said Cato, the deployed remote access technology fails to meet enterprise requirements, forcing support and helpdesk to compensate.
In making the almost overnight pivot to adapt to a work-from-anywhere business model, many enterprises chose to invest in their existing and known security platforms, particularly centralised virtual privat network (VPN) servers, as indicated by 42% of respondents.
Two-fifths of respondents also indicated they backhauled remote access traffic to a hub or VPN concentrator. In the post-pandemic environment, 82% of respondents indicated that their companies would continue with work-from-anywhere or remote only models. Priorities have also changed, with providing secure internet access everywhere the top priority for 67% of respondents.
But while Cato discovered that a hybrid working model may be good business, the rush to implement remote access at scale has created significant problems for IT, with 78% of respondents saying they’re spending more time supporting remote workers, and 47% reporting that time supporting remote workers has grown by 25% or more.
This was found to be particularly true for those respondents of legacy networks where remote traffic is backhauled to a centralised VPN server. In those environments, remote user complaints soared to 83% of respondents, versus 45% of respondents sending traffic to local security appliances or services.
The respondents broke remote user challenges down into three areas — service delivery, application performance, and security. In the former regard, remote users suffered in most cases when accessing services. Half of respondents indicated that users complained about connection instability (50%) and poor voice or video quality (27%).
More than a third (37%) of respondents indicated that slow application response was the most dominant remote user complaint. For those that backhauled traffic, 30% said application performance for remote users was worse than in the office, versus 22% for those not backhauling traffic.
Somewhat worryingly, nearly half (44%) of respondents indicated they could not provide remote workers with the same level of security for all traffic as their office counterparts. And the vast majority – 86% for internet traffic and 83% for WAN traffic – were unable to provide the same level of security for remote workers as they do for office workers.
“The pandemic has shown us that businesses are no longer tied to a specific office or location,” said Eyal Webber-Zvik, vice-president of product marketing at Cato Networks. “By implementing a work-from-anywhere model, firms are transitioning to a more efficient and collaborative way of doing business, allowing them to better meet the needs of their customers, as well as their employees.
“Work from anywhere has shifted business focus from the place of work to the users and the work they need to do. This shift created a whole slew of operational and budgetary challenges for IT in service delivery, access optimisation, and pervasive security that are designed around locations rather than people.
“Moving to a hybrid working model has not been easy for many IT departments. It is a bigger problem than just scaling remote access infrastructure – and if not done correctly, as we have seen from the survey responses, can be damaging to productivity.”
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