Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Extending the secure network to remote workers: 2021 Networking Trends

February 3, 2021

Who would have thought just ten short months ago that working from home would become the new normal for so many around the world?  We generally thought it was going to be short-term, we never imagined it would continue, and the potential longer-term changes that may result are becoming increasingly apparent.  

This unexpected situation has become a potential catalyst for innovation and change.  We’re all going through a very disruptive event, that has disrupted us in new and unexpected ways. Unusually this is not impacting one country or one geographic area. The whole global community has a shared common experience.

Going to a place of work and considering work to be fixed to a location has been the norm for a long time.  There have been some pioneers of remote working and home-working, but they were in general the exceptions and certainly not the majority.  Here at Cisco it was common for some to work permanently remotely, and for a few to mix their working pattern between home and office.  Even for us though a permanent move to the home-office for everyone was until now never anticipated.

Working from home now for the many not the few

When the pandemic came with it came a realisation that socialising, and being in close proximity particularly in enclosed spaces, was where the risk of transmission was highest.  Almost unanimously as the pandemic reached the borders of each country the instruction came to stay at home and work at home where you can possibly do so.

What happened next was unexpected for many.  There was not a reduction in performance or a decline in business effectiveness, as many had predicted.  With the right tools and the right technology to keep connected, people were able to work effectively at home.  At the same time, they reclaimed precious quality time to spend with family, to enjoy hobbies and to exercise (where permitted). Time previously lost to the ever-lengthening commute as work and home had already become less connected by geography due to the convenience of the car and good public transport.

This may well become a long-term shift, a new normal, as in a recent study it was found that “almost 90% would like to continue working from home in some capacity, with almost half wanting to work at home often or all of the time1.”

Businesses and public sector organisations are also gaining the benefits from the increased employee productivity, coupled with reduced travel, workplace and entertainment OpEx , and on top of this the potential to widen the net for attracting the best talent into the organisation.

Creating an effective and secure remote worker experience

What was clear though was that to work effectively from home needs two things, firstly whether it is the type of work that can be done remotely, and secondly to ensure the same level of access to, and security of, the company network and applications as can be achieved in a traditional office workplace.

On top of this, it is clear that from a business resilience perspective we need to widen the scope of what we consider to be required for being prepared.  And one of these requirements is to be ready to securely extend the enterprise network to wherever the user needs or finds themselves working.

It sounds easy, everyone is generally already connected everywhere, whether via home or public Wi-Fi or a mobile connection such as 4G.  However not everyone has equal access to high-quality, reliable bandwidth.  Plus, there are additional considerations, and these go beyond simply spinning up a VPN to allow access to the corporate network:

  • You need to ensure robust security particularly where untrusted network connections are being utilised.
  • On top of this where a VPN is employed there may be unintended pressures on network traffic caused by non-work related application usage such as YouTube, Netflix or FaceTime.

In a recent customer survey, the second biggest challenge reported by IT with enabling a remote workforce is the end-user behaviour.

From the same survey, carried out in September, 57% of organisations still reported that securing their remote workforce was a top priority, up from 23% prior to the pandemic.  That’s five months after the office exodus typically began in March. 

The solution is to extend the secure enterprise network connectivity to remote workers at home and in micro-offices with solutions that can be centrally managed. Giving end-users an enhanced application experience with the same level of protection, governance, and performance they have enjoyed in the office.

For more information about preparing for business resilience: 


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