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The impact of Covid-19 has forced many businesses into unfamiliar situations as employees across the country continue to adjust to working from home. As lockdown took effect in the UK, less than 30% of the UK workforce had previously worked from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, by mid-May, 44% of UK employees were working remotely full-time.
As a result of this shift in working life, the topics of data privacy, secure connections and internet stability have come to the forefront of businesses’ minds, and IT teams have been tested with implementing new processes and educating their employees almost overnight.
Those struggling to adapt to this rapid change in circumstances are most commonly businesses with outdated legacy technology and network infrastructure in place, predominantly implemented to meet the office needs of the time but struggling to meet unprecedented demands of a fully remote workforce. Some businesses may have felt this pain but hoped they could persevere in the short-term however, remote working, for many us, looks likely to continue in the long-term. With this in mind, IT leaders should be thinking about their digital infrastructure and what key considerations they need to make to ensure their business can continue functioning normally with the demands of a remote workforce. A good starting point here is undoubtedly edge computing.
What is happening at the edge?
With millions, if not billions, of employees working online, there is now a significant number of devices connected to the internet. As this figure has grown, due to more staff being shifted into remote working roles and new devices continuing to hit markets, it is no longer practical or sustainable for businesses to operate from a centralised server.
Through its strategically dispersed network of servers, the edge allows Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to provide the internet fully at scale. It means instead of data being sent all the way back to a centralised server every time a customer makes a request, businesses can respond quickly and efficiently, essentially reducing congestion and latency.
The edge supports businesses in streaming video webinars in broadcast quality (and beyond), rendering on any device, to viewers in any location, as well as providing large software downloads at scale. This means that regardless of the upsurge in internet use during the pandemic, businesses across all industries have the capacity to cope with numerous requests.
Securing the connection
With many people now working away from the office, CIOs and their teams are presented with fresh challenges, namely on the security side. In usual circumstances, companies would typically have a security stack designed for day-to-day office needs, operating on the assumption that a majority of employees would be working inside the existing network perimeter rather than remotely.
When hundreds, or even thousands, of employees are working from home outside of the normal perimeter all of a sudden, securing the endpoint of devices becomes a significantly bigger challenge and, in order to scale quickly, businesses need a cloud-based solution that can be deployed at short notice. This is where the edge comes in. Alongside its ability to reduce latency and congestion, by placing servers at the edge, businesses can mitigate attacks before they get anywhere near the core network itself.
What’s more, IT teams should ensure that whenever a network decision is made, security remains high on the agenda. For this reason, it is best to follow a zero-trust approach and verify before trusting network actors. It goes without saying that corporate networks shouldn’t be made completely accessible to everyone, even internally, and with staff located outside of the normal network perimeter, this identification is more critical than ever.
Considering digital infrastructure for the long-term
As businesses battle to keep themselves running during this time of crisis and considering their long-term infrastructure, IT leaders need to consider implementing technology that won’t just see them survive, but thrive. Gartner predicts that working from home will become a sustained fixture of working life, as almost three quarters (74%) of CFOs plan to shift at least five per cent of staff into a permanent working from home setup post Covid-19. Therefore, through its ability to help businesses scale and meet evolving needs of remote working, the edge is here to stay and as it continues to develop and adoption rates rise, businesses will understand the vital role it has to play for years to come.
Luca Collacciani is Sales Director, Web & Security, UK and Ireland at Akamai