As more of us are thinking about returning to the office, I’m hearing a lot of conversations about new ways of working.
Companies are now under pressure to make workplaces safer than ever by following Coronavirus regulations. For many this will mean fewer workstations and expanded gathering spaces, but places of work come in many shapes and sizes, and regulations will mean different things for different sectors. Manufacturers for example, are going to have to think much more about how people are spread out around machinery on the factory floor.
At BT, we’ve been enabling hybrid and remote working across the globe for over ten years. We’re now expecting a rise in hybrid working across the board, with large companies like Microsoft and Google offering employees at least a couple of days at home each week. As these workforces spend less time in the office, more will need to connect remotely, and they can’t afford to sacrifice security or performance. What will these changes mean for organisations’ LANs?
We commissioned a global survey by CCS Insight that went into the field from December 2020 to January 2021, asking over 400 enterprises how they were planning to change their LAN in the short and long term.
I’ve identified four main drivers for LAN development as organisations adapt to the lasting effects of the pandemic:
1. Better experiences working from home
With so many staff connecting to corporate assets from home, organisations are finding themselves managing a string of mini-LANs, all interconnected, and it’s highlighting the potential drawbacks of the situation. As more companies look at longer term remote working or hybrid working, they want to improve performance and reliability, as well as introducing centralised control and security across their employees’ home networks. It’s leading to a boom in LAN spending: 68% of organisations are looking at purchasing equipment to improve the LAN experience of their homeworkers.
2. Encouraging employees back into the office
At the same time, many organisations believe they’ll also need to upgrade the office LAN to encourage staff back. Employees simply won’t want to return if network performance isn’t up to the standard they’re used to. Changes in office layouts are likely due to a smaller amount of people onsite, or with social distancing measures in place, so companies need to make sure the experience is still right regardless of where people are now working. We’re seeing a rise in LAN spending in this area, with 31% of companies boosting their office LAN.
3. Efficient collaboration between workers in the office and at home
The upswing in ‘work anywhere’ that comes with more hybrid working turns the spotlight on how employees collaborate. Working during the pandemic has only underlined how important easy and natural communication, and good access to resources are to productivity. Video has taken off as a critical business tool – but it’s bandwidth greedy. Forward thinking organisations are on the case though: 58% of respondents are looking to improve their office LAN to deliver better collaboration experiences with their homeworkers.
4. Increasing safety capabilities in the workplace
The effects of the pandemic mean workplace safety now includes monitoring how people gather in groups and whether they’re wearing the correct PPE, and organisations are turning to technology to enforce new safety measures. Security cameras are an important part of automated PPE detection and crowd density analysis systems. But having all these extra cameras means more edge devices, streaming more data onto the LAN, and that increases pressure on capacity, performance, and latency.
There’s no one-size-fits-all set of motivations for LAN development
Interestingly, the research revealed that different sectors are moving in different directions when it comes to LAN development.
On the whole, the financial sector prioritised improving employees’ home working environments and making sure remote workers can connect and collaborate easily. This isn’t really surprising, as hybrid working has worked well for these organisations, so there’s less of a drive to get employees back into the office.
Manufacturing and logistics companies were also concerned with improving the quality of their home networks. Pre-pandemic this industry was mostly office based, and it makes sense for them to need to put some work into supporting their relatively new remote workforce.
Most organisations from the technology, life sciences and business service sector wanted to have better collaboration experiences by improving their office LAN. The survey built a picture of this sector’s familiarity with remote working, with workers well-equipped at home. So their focus on improving homeworkers’ ability to connect and collaborate with the office was a natural next step.
More organisations are looking to outsource
Regardless of sector, organisations are looking to managed service providers (MSPs) that can help them overcome these new LAN challenges: 50% of respondents were considering outsourcing all or some LAN functions. They know they need to transform their LAN quickly so they’re looking for larger partners with the experience to deliver rapid solutions, particularly around scalability and performance.
Organisations are choosing to buy in the experience they lack. I always say you can teach skills, but you can’t teach experience, and providers will have seen (and solved) the problems organisations are facing countless times before. Organisations are also aware that they can’t afford to take on added risk, so they value the fact that MSPs offer reliable support, around the clock, if necessary. Global MSPs have their support services and tools distributed in multiple locations, which is a strategic bonus during a pandemic - you’ve got a serious problem on your hands if your inhouse support team is all based in one country and it’s affected by an outbreak.
A trusted and reliable partner
Here at BT, our teams are used to working remotely - that’s what they do - and our global experience means we’ve seen hundreds of problems across thousands of our customers’ networks. Plus, our support team is always available, and is distributed worldwide, so we always have experts to support you, no matter what’s going on in any given region at any given time.
To explore the full picture of today’s LAN market, download our research report. And to find out more about our managed LAN services, please get in touch with your account manager.