The ‘new normal’ means a new dependence on the public Internet - so how can IT teams prepare?

If you could tell employees all over the world back in 2019 that in just two years, expectations and understandings about the way we do our jobs would do a 180 degree turn, they probably wouldn’t believe you. But we now know that to be true, as workers across the globe adapt and learn to live with a new hybrid working model. By Alex Cruz Farmer, Group Product Manager, End-user Experience at Cisco ThousandEyes

Although the majority of organisations had to scramble to quickly adapt to this new model, many of us have now settled into the rhythm of hybrid work. This means that businesses now have the opportunity to get to grips with running a successful hybrid work technology stack, enabling workers to feel supported and continue to work productively and collaboratively - even while physically apart.

This new way of working comes with a myriad of benefits, offering flexibility and the ability to spend more time at home with loved ones, but there’s a lot of uncharted territory to explore - bringing with it the promise of several bumps in the road. For IT teams, hybrid work means transitioning from looking after one central office hub to many distributed ‘home offices’ potentially all over the world, each with its own individual factors which could impact an employee’s ability to effectively do their job.

Cloud collaboration tools, business-critical apps and VPNs are now an essential component of many organisations’ everyday procedures, and they bring a new world of business opportunities - but these components must work together successfully in order for organisations to benefit. For IT teams, this means learning to navigate these tools within an increasingly complex Internet ecosystem, where workers are connected via both home broadband and corporate networks. They must therefore implement end-to-end visibility from user to application in order to spot and remediate issues as efficiently as possible, in turn enabling their businesses to feel confident and informed in the new hybrid world.

The enterprise tech stack without borders

While by no means an easy task, IT teams had a much simpler job to tackle when employees all worked together in one central office. They were able to look within their own internal network and data centres to locate, fix and even prevent issues - but with workers now dotted around multiple locations, this presents new challenges to IT. Their data centre is now the cloud, their enterprise network the Internet, and their app stack SaaS apps.

Public cloud adoption is one such development that organisations can hugely benefit from, offering more stability than ISPs. In fact, from January 2020 to August 2021, cloud provider networks accounted for just 5% of outage incident volume, with ISP networks accounting for the remaining 95%. However, as with any new technology implementation, this doesn’t come without IT considerations. As businesses add more cloud-based services to their technology stack, they face less visibility into performance and availability within different areas. Cloud also means that organisations lack ownership and therefore control of these networks, which adds further complexity to the monitoring environment.

The public Internet now also holds up the enterprise network - but it is not fit for this purpose, and for many network engineers has become a ‘black box’ which they struggle to understand. It’s therefore more important than ever for organisations to gain visibility in order to maintain the health of the Internet and deliver quality connectivity to employees, allowing them to work uninterrupted.

Additionally, workplace collaboration apps have taken off since the pandemic - in fact, they are now the #1 most monitored application type globally, and are viewed by many organisations as the most critical application type for hybrid work success. However, IT teams’ lack of ownership of these apps alongside their growing importance means that teams now depend even further on external third-party providers outside of the four walls of their business.

With all of these factors at play, understanding how outages occur and resolving them has never been more important in ensuring business continuity. After all, outages are inevitable. Without the right insights, companies can lose valuable time and money while their IT teams frantically work to resolve an issue - but this can all be avoided with actionable Internet intelligence.

Powering the hybrid workforce with actionable intelligence

In order to build a digitally connected workplace and run the new technology stack, businesses need to explore up-to-date and intelligent network monitoring tools. Using a combination of real-user monitoring alongside synthetic proactive transactions, they can detect and respond to performance bottlenecks not only reactively, but even in pre-production before disruptions impact employee experiences. By implementing end-to-end visibility of the entire ecosystem - from the user’s device, across the network, and into the cloud infrastructure - businesses can ensure visibility and performance across all components of the supply chain.

Hybrid working is now a long-term and strategic decision for organisations, many of which are investing in this model all over the world. They therefore require this visibility, now and in the future, to allow them to garner instantaneous and workable intelligence into their own networks - whether or not they own them. This knowledge means that they can ensure that employees can seamlessly access the business-critical applications and collaboration tools they require to effectively do their jobs, keeping workers, customers, and therefore businesses happy.

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