From few to many: the networking impact of WFH

Cradlepoint Australia Pty Ltd

By Daniel Polomka, Regional Sales Manager ANZ
Friday, 10 September, 2021

From few to many: the networking impact of WFH

With much of the country in lockdown, the realisation that life and work will continue to differ from 'normal' has settled in. As a result, many Australian businesses are reprioritising and looking at more permanent changes to how and where employees work.

While the concept of remote work is not new, it was previously a perk that some employers provided to their staff. For many years, the standard work from home approach was to install a remote access client or VPN on everyone's PC or laptop. However, the sheer number of employees that need to access corporate networks quickly outpaced the capacity of most IT teams and their VPN infrastructure. Employees and corporations turned to unsecured home Wi-Fi access to allow employees immediate access to corporate applications and networks they needed to do their job.

Now that a 'hybrid' work model is likely to become a mainstay in many organisations, IT teams are scrambling to deal with how to protect their corporate resources from security flaws that exist on home networks. Moreover, home networks don't give employees the dedicated connection they need to isolate work assets from the household network.

IT leaders need to find a sustained, cost-effective way to connect, secure and manage a much more dispersed network. In essence, businesses must find a way to deliver an office experience from a performance and security perspective to many employees working from home at least part of the time.

From a few to hundreds of 'office' networks

An enterprise-grade network is very different from the average home internet and Wi-Fi network. Today's home network has many shared devices and bandwidth-hungry applications across multiple household users and devices, such as TV streaming, PCs, tablets, phones, IoT devices (think smart home) and security cameras. The problem is more challenging with kids involved in remote learning and online gaming, spouses trying to access their work applications and the constant presence of work and personal web video calls all competing for finite capacity, and stepping on each other.

Extending the enterprise WAN to each employee's home is a deployment, security and management challenge for the IT teams already stretched thin. Imagine going from a few big offices with hundreds of workers to supporting hundreds of workers with individual home offices.

With the new corporate WAN edge now at every employee's home, IT becomes responsible for ensuring the uptime, performance and security of business applications on shared home networks they can't see or control. This massive expansion of the WAN edge also represents an expansion of the 'attack surface' of the network, creating more real estate that has to be surveilled and protected.

Enabling an IT-controlled remote work environment

The key to enabling managed, secure and performant networks for remote workers is deploying an IT-controlled router with dedicated wireless LAN and WAN environments. By isolating the employee's home and work networks, IT can provide an office-like experience at scale. Moreover, leveraging 'corporate-owned' 4G and 5G cellular connections offers universal and reliable Wireless WAN connection to every employee's home regardless of their local home internet provider. This corporate-driven approach simplifies procurement and enables zero-touch deployments and more IT control of uptime, performance and security.

Corporate owned or controlled laptops, VoIP phones, printers and other work devices can run on a separate and secure Wi-Fi network from other household devices and utilise reliable, high-speed 4G and 5G cellular connections that are dedicated to work and not shared with competing household traffic. With control of the WAN, IT can now define the right security posture to include direct internet or VPN access.

For traffic bound to the internet, the local cellular router can provide firewall, IPS/IDS and web filtering security services to secure access to cloud-based applications like Zoom or Microsoft 365. Additionally, interoperable IPSEC or DMVPN connections can be configured over the cellular WAN to securely transport traffic destined to behind-the-firewall business applications or to support centralised security services in the data centre. Either way, IT is in control and able to monitor the security posture of hundreds, even thousands, of remote work environments from a centralised, cloud-based pane of glass.

Making IT work for your business with wireless WAN

As organisations grapple with the long-term effects of remote work, they cannot afford to step backwards when it comes to the security, performance or uptime of critical remote workers. Moreover, substantially increasing the cost of supporting remote workers, by commingling their work and home networks and traffic, is not sustainable. The best way to provide an in-office experience to employees working from home, and to control IT costs, is by providing a dedicated remote work network environment based on IT-procured and -provisioned routers with 4G/5G Wireless WAN technology.

Image credit: © Nivens

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