We’ve seen more change in the past year than we have in any other time in recent history. Words like “agility,” “pivot,” “remote workforce” and “unprecedented” became the new buzz words. But these phrases came from a necessity as businesses started to recognize just how strong their Business Continuity plans actually were. Nothing better than a real-life situation to stress the concepts a business requires to maintain and prove themselves resilient to unforeseen change.
Change doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, either. Business and their employees have seemingly become very comfortable in their new ways now that they’ve been working in this fashion for over a year or more. Commercial and Public Sectors alike now require a standard of tools, systems and technologies that are flexible and cost effective, not to mention adaptable as we never know when the next curve ball will arrive.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when determining your level of business resiliency and some thoughts on each.
How well suited is your network to support a sudden and/or extended change?
Your network is the backbone of your IT system. As such, you need to be confident your network is well suited to support a sudden and/or extended change. Our recent experiences with this current pandemic showed a very forced switchover en masse to working remotely. This essentially took place overnight across the entire country and organizations quickly discovered how agile their networks were or weren’t. They were quite suddenly faced with new demands on their network, bandwidth, redundancy, licensing and VPN capabilities.
Today’s networks are more extensive than in years past and as technology and requirements evolve year over year, this is guaranteed to be the same situation in the future. That recurring evolution of the network, when combined with today’s pandemic-related demands, require your IT Network Management team to be more flexible and more enabled to react to performance issues. They must ensure that the remotely oriented workforce is properly supported and can continue without interruptions that aren’t as typical in an in-the-office scenario. Networks are again needing to evolve to support the latest generation of SaaS based applications and an ever-growing device count connecting to the network.
“Rip and Replace” is not a financial strategy met with excitement from CFO’s. Here are some important options to consider when setting your network up to be more future-proofed that are also more cost conscience for today’s uncertainty:
- Software-defined Networking (SDN) – a modern approach to traditional networking, SDN can help simplify, automate and secure IT assets and systems.
- Software-defined WAN – optimize existing networks to migrate to a software-defined environment to ensure long term cost effectiveness.
- Data Center Networking – future-proof the data center with the appropriate underlying infrastructure and bandwidth so you’ll be covered no matter what the future throws at you.
- LAN/WAN Infrastructure – modernize both LAN and WAN to meet modern technology needs including IoT and mobile (necessary when so much of work happens in different places).
- Wireless Networking – secure wireless access is critical to enable today’s mobile and remote workforce but also must be readied and optimized for return to the workplace initiatives.
- Programmability – streamline repetitive tasks and enable machines to shoulder rote processes so you and your team can concentrate on higher value work.
- Global Enterprise Fabric (GEF) – a Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) platform that groups computing, storage and network resources in the same infrastructure environment to allow for easier management and reallocation of those resources.
Do you have the right collaboration tools to allow for agility?
Let’s face it, the look and feel of conference room-based, in-person meetings has changed for the foreseeable future. Collaboration has changed, become more and more virtual in nature, and presented an all new set of challenges. It isn’t as easy as gathering folks in a conference room anymore. With a dispersed workforce and 24/7 connectivity being the new norm, voice, video, A/V, and teleconferencing tools were rapidly and increasingly being utilized to maintain important contact with peers, customers, employees, etc. In many organizations, such tools were also sometimes consumed without being fully vetted out as viable for the organizations holistic needs (e.g. free promotions, ease of access, etc.). Ultimately, what was needed and what was used didn’t always match the organization’s needs, security requirements and more importantly long-term business continuity requirements. They were point-in-time solutions that weren’t always right, but can just as easily be upgraded and/or replaced without additional costs. Regardless of your situation, here are some examples of collaboration tools and features you should consider when assessing your current solution against today’s new atmosphere and expectations:
- IP video and telephony – there’s a new convergence of telephony, video and collaboration enabled by a shared IP platform. Make sure yours is designed to meet your organization’s specific business goals.
- Collaboration applications – this includes instant messaging, video chat, email, Cisco’s Webex Calling and/or shared workspaces and their ease of use combined with interoperability. Agility with and within these tools will rely on the type and number of licenses your organization has so be sure to check those when scaling for a remote workforce.
- Telehealth – making in-person healthcare appointments are difficult during a pandemic and as such many organizations have turned to telehealth/telemedicine solutions. Collaboration tools for telehealth need to be easy for both patient and provider. Be sure to to work with an organization that understands healthcare privacy and security as related to any such tools you decide to leverage.
- Secure cloud collaboration – having a cloud environment ensures business resiliency however you must also ensure that such cloud offerings also meet your security requirements and can be managed under a centralized system. You want to be careful in your selection, making sure that such options make it easier for your IT team while also providing the necessary scalability to meet day-to-day business demands. Also pay close attention to the cost structure so you understand where hidden costs may exist (i.e. overages, true-ups, etc.).
How confident are you in your cybersecurity?
While mobile, cloud and virtualization technologies have led to enhanced productivity, it has also led to a new array of entry points for cyber attackers. Resilient organizations will implement security tools that provide visibility into traffic traversing the network to obtain a baseline of normal traffic flows. With such a baseline in hand, organizations are better able to detect anomalies, misconfigured devices and malicious attacks. Protect your most valuable asset – data – with visibility into who is accessing it, how they’re getting to it and when they’re doing so by separating trusted and untrusted networks and strengthening external borders against unauthorized access and attack. Like any cyber security personnel would tell you, the possibility of malicious attacks entering the network will always exist. It is critical to have the security tools in place before attacks happen to speed response time. Approaching cyber security in this way means working to keep IT systems operational in the face of mounting threats, staying up-to-date with the latest attacks and defense methods and aligning security solutions with your business needs and compliance requirements. Businesses or agencies that are able to have a secure presence will reap the benefits of business resiliency and enjoy operational continuity.
Business resiliency = scalability
The underlying requirement that would make all these efforts work, however, is scalability. There is no benefit to using tools that can’t change and evolve with your organizational needs. Organizations that will survive and/or thrive during times of rapid and unforeseen change must be able to scale up or down as their workforce changes, as their network requirements shift and as cyber security measures increase in demand. Those organizations that prove to be too rigid will inevitably succumb to performance pressures that they cannot meet with their current infrastructures and be faced with expensive remediation strategies. To make sure this doesn’t happen to your organization, ensure your network can support a sudden change, have agile collaboration tools, you’re confident in your cybersecurity position and that all your tools can scale to meet changing needs.