Friday, 27th November 2020

Being prepared - make remote working work harder

It’s perhaps an understatement to say that remote working is top of mind for many of us right now. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced most businesses to send their staff home for the foreseeable future, hoping to delay the spread of the illness and keep those around them safe. By Darren Watkins, managing director for VIRTUS Data Centres.

Remote working isn’t a new concept and the technology to support this immediate need and to power the broader trend towards remote working is already available. Cloud platforms which give users access to a collaborative, scalable and convenient remote virtual work environments have been in use for some time.

However, today’s situation is somewhat different to that which IT teams have been used to due to the sheer scale of people working from home, all at the same time. Although the technology is available, only some workers have been using it either because of flexible working conditions or because their jobs are field-based. This sudden increase in usage is causing huge changes to the need for front end tools and hardware, but also the backend networks, servers and computer power that enables it all to work. Fundamentally, the backbone of successful cloud-powered remote working is the infrastructure that underpins it.

Getting it right today

The immediate, pressing need is ensuring employees have access to the cloud applications that enable access to a virtual working environment. The current surge in use of these applications is putting intense pressure on the security, servers, storage and network of organisations, and to deal with these new demands, IT departments are having to deploy more future proofing capacity management strategies to be able to meet their needs.

This puts the data centre strategy front and centre for IT managers - and it’s the outsourced and co-located data centres which are enabling businesses to continue to operate. Not only can they support demands for high-bandwidth and reliable connectivity, they also provide physical security, redundant power, expert monitoring and 100% uptime guarantees.

Reaping the benefits for tomorrow

In the face of a global crisis like the Coronavirus, the immediate priority for many businesses is to simply keep operations running. However, when it comes to remote working, it appears that the current crisis is “forcing the hand” of many organisations. If they are able to embrace more flexible working practices permanently, then businesses can expect to reap long term benefits. Cost savings could be achieved by making strategic decisions to save office space and businesses could be more agile to speedily take advantage of new business opportunities in different geographies. Winning the battle for talent can also become a reality by attracting and retaining staff who are unable or unwilling to work in the office, potentially harnessing the skills and experience of individuals who have to juggle child care or look after elderly family members with work, and individuals who don’t want to work in traditional office based environments.

Just ten years ago the idea of mass remote working would have been impossible - the underlying infrastructure simply wasn’t in place to support it. But today, the global data centre industry is already powering billions of internet-connected “things” and the vast volumes of data they generate - the backbone is firmly in place to help deal with the demands mass remote working will bring. And this is improving all the time. Increased deployment of High Performance Computing (HPC) provides a compelling way to maximize productivity and efficiency, and increase available power density - the “per foot” computing power of the data centre - crucial as we move away from centralized office hubs into thousands of disparate home offices.

Any discussion around data centres inevitably comes hand in hand with environmental concerns - and data centre providers are already working hard to fuel a power hunger industry with renewable energy. But one of the overarching benefits of remote working is likely to be in the form of serious ecological good, as commuting and business travel are significantly lessened. There are other benefits too. While there may be increased IT set up costs, the requirement for businesses to have expensive office facilities may become a thing of the past, powering a more nimble and cost effective business environment.

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There is no doubt that the coronavirus will change people’s attitudes and behaviours – potentially forever. The technology industry is adept at finding answers to problems - and tech vendors are making swift progress in terms of security, collaboration, accessibility and storage solutions to help with the immediate need. But, it’s likely that this new world approach will be here to stay and remote working will become the new norm across sectors. Data centre strategy will become even more critical in ensuring the infrastructure is powerful, safe and reliable for people to work wherever they want, whenever they want.

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