Blog · 13 May 2021

The 5 key factors driving LAN strategy today

New research reveals what’s going on in the LAN market and highlights the key factors influencing organisations’ LAN strategy decisions.

Senior Manager, Edge Solutions

There’s a quiet revolution going on in LAN infrastructure right now as organisations adjust to changes driven by the pandemic and the wider sweep of digital transformation.

We commissioned exclusive independent research of over 400 large enterprise organisations during December 2020 and January 2021 to take a snapshot of the LAN market’s drivers, challenges and maturity. It revealed an interesting, layered and somewhat surprising picture, with five key factors shaping LAN strategy.

1. Digital transformation is putting pressure on the LAN
Pre-pandemic, organisations were already asking more of the LAN – and were finding that this was making performance more of a problem. Video streaming was booming and the number of connected devices to support the move to the internet of things was driving an exponential increase in data. Digital transformation calls for innovation, and innovation needs strong performance as a foundation – but LANs are struggling to deliver the performance an evolving organisation needs.

Performance wasn’t the only issue. The physical nature of a LAN means it can be difficult for it to flex and scale to meet the needs of digitisation and this is reflected in our research, too: scalability came out as the main problem organisations face with their LAN (21% agree), with flexibility not far behind (18% agree). And, although software defined networking helps, it doesn’t fix the problem of needing to physically extend equipment.

2. The pandemic is driving rapid LAN changes
Our research reflected the conversations I’ve been having with customers: changes in how and where we work driven by the pandemic are a big reason for changes to the LAN. For many, some degree of homeworking is here to stay, so improving the home LAN experience is a priority. For organisations starting to move employees back into the workplace, the office LAN experience needs to deliver a better experience than they get at home; connectivity experience can be a driver for people to come into the office. And when in the office, they may no longer collaborate in a meeting room in person, instead they will need to use collaboration tools wherever they settle for the day, including video, adding to pressure on the LAN. We’re also seeing increased data demands on the LAN coming from adding extra technologies designed to protect safety in the workplace, such as camera feeds monitoring PPE and social distancing compliance.

3. Organisations are planning for new LAN technologies
Organisations are well aware that the LAN is the essential foundation for many of the new capabilities critical to a successful digital transformation. Our research revealed that organisations have developed strategies for software defined networking (79%), 5G (65%) and the internet of things (65%) and may have begun their implementation.

I certainly agree that these new technologies are on the network agenda, and that there are a lot of conversations going on about them. However, I’m finding organisations’ interest in IoT and 5G in particular is often driven by vendor hype, rather than use cases, so these reported strategies may not be along the right lines. I’d like to see organisations looking at these technologies as a whole and thinking bigger picture, challenging their potential partners to help them understand what the actual benefits are. Plus, of course, there needs to be a discussion around how to create a LAN that can support these ambitions.

4. Outsourcing the LAN is the norm
As organisations adapt incredibly rapidly to new ways of working and the new demands of digitisation, they frequently lack the skills and experience they need. So, when pushed to move quickly, they’ve turned to partners: 96% of respondents use managed LAN services, entirely or in part (56% use a fully managed service and 40% use a mix of DIY and managed).

Organisations are very clear on what they want from a managed LAN service: to make changes to the network in hours not days; to be able to view requests as they’re being processed; to see outstanding issues and actions; to view the status of their transformational project; and to be able to request quotes for services and equipment online.

Organisations are also looking for an outsourcing service that feels like an inherent part of their business. Something that’s integrated into how they operate, so it’s easy to access the skills and experience they need to get their network to deliver.

5. LAN security is a critical outsourcing decider
Our research reveals how conscious organisations are of the importance of LAN security, with 45% still feeling they need to keep it in-house. They’re hyper aware of the risks of data breaches and are managing this situation with the help of increasingly automated threat detection and remediation. 95% of respondents can automatically detect suspicious activity on their LAN, and 88% can quarantine threats and anomalies.

When considering whether to outsource elements of your security provision, it’s important to consider how outsourcing supports LAN security. The right partner will deliver all the reassurance of an in-house service, plus the very big extra of experience. The message from your partner should be ‘we’ve got you - we can do all the things you need; we can deliver consistently, and we’ve dealt with whatever’s threatening your LAN before’. Take zero-day threats, for example. Organisations handling their own security will be seeing the threat for the first time, whereas a security partner will have seen it hundreds of times and will be ready with the most appropriate response to defend against it.

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.