Planning for Productive & Secure Remote Work with Cisco

Monday, July 16, 2020
By Marcus Schmidt, VP Product Management, Intrado
Chris Franke, VP Global Solutions Strategy, Intrado

Catalysts for large scale change in the technology sphere is usually motivated by financial drivers, technology innovation or, in more recent times, environmental adaption. However, we are currently facing a ‘new normal’ where a perfect storm of environmental, societal and demographic changes is creating a revolution in remote working.

In our recent webinar "How to Master Remote Working with Cisco" – now available to watch on-demand - Marcus Schmidt, VP Product Management at Intrado and Mark Nash, Managing Director, Webex at Cisco, looked at how companies can prepare for this revolution from a technology perspective.

After the initial phase of the pandemic when students, office workers, customer facing and line workers alike, were sent home in order to stay safe, it quickly became apparent was that people needed more than just meeting tools; they needed to find new ways to replace all physical interactions with work colleagues in a virtual environment.

When walking over to a co-worker’s desk and have a short 1:1, or brainstorming with colleagues in a meeting room is no longer an option, then alternative solutions need to be found. As requirements started to escalate and compound rapidly, multiple technologies such as messaging tools, video and IP telephony are being implemented in an ad hoc fashion. At the other end of the scale, IT Directors need to find solutions to enable thousands of dispersed contact center agents to handle calls from home, while meeting customer needs and staying secure.

Do office networks still matter?

This initial rush to preserve business as usual left many organizations with a non-integrated and complex user experience that was not designed to maximize value. As we move to the next phase, the priority has shifted to; how do I empower employee to complete complex tasks and solve problems while maintaining camaraderie and teamwork and managing costs?

Many organizations are now asking the simple question: Do office networks even still matter now that everybody's working from home?

In the words of Mark Nash: People will go back to the office and while we don't know how many and how fast that transition will happen, it will definitely happen. Office networks still need to be there, they still need to be strong, and they may also need to be reconfigured to cater for a dispersed workforce who will still need collaborative spaces, as well as those that choose to work from home more often.

This hybrid future means the network has to scale to the requirements of most users falling into 3 categories:

  • A borderless network focused on OTT cloud services where it is available over the top of the internet
  • Other customers are focused on being extra secure and will still want to filter all traffic through their network
  • And finally, you may still have a number of homegrown or hosted business applications operating within the corporate network that need to be accessed in a secure way to be able to allow users to get their work done

Additional factors will need to be considered when planning a new network topology. Users connecting from their homes are, in many cases, using a shared connection. So, the network will need to be able to intelligently demarcate between personal and professional traffic i.e., a work call over VoIP versus a Facetime call to a family member.

Creating a flexible solution that works for everyone

Cisco’s networking solutions are designed to cater to all of the above scenarios with multiple options available. Encrypted network solutions and services such as Webex Edge allow for network monitoring and the implementation of effective intercloud peering with granular management of traffic patterns across different services such as VoIP & Video.

Security for home users also needs to be addressed, particularly for those sharing consumer internet connections. As we move forward, SD-WAN and Edge networking are providing options to extend the corporate network to the home, but a modern dynamic and intelligent VPN solution also has its place when implemented correctly. Ultimately the goal is to make the right traffic go the right direction and providing protection from vulnerabilities such as DNS hijacking.

From an IT perspective the priority will extend beyond the user experience, to the need to provide services and meet customer needs in a virtual world. Organizations will need to ensure integration between applications to allow for seamless transition between meetings, presentations or collaboration.

The right tools for the job

It will also become more important to equip users with the right devices. IT managers will need to cater to the needs of five generations of people working remotely. Selecting devices that scale to the usage requirements while also being flexible enough to meet the individual user factors will be key.

As home working becomes a way of life for many, the physical welfare of employees will come into play. As Mark says, employers will want to avoid the ‘hunched over laptop syndrome’ which will not only create discomfort and poor productivity, but could lead to injury.

With video already established as the go-to solution to replace physical interactions it is imperative that video experiences are optimal and dedicated devices are a huge step forward in pursuit of this goal.

There are many aspects of a successful strategy and Intrado will continue to provide assistance in its capacity as a global leader in this space through detailed consultation and strategy development. As a partner of Cisco for decades Intrado has the knowledge and experience to help you adapt rapidly and sustainably to the new normal.

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