Blog · 06 Nov 2020

Fine-tuning the homeworking experience with SD-WAN

From heading off shadow IT to giving insight into an individual’s working pattern, SD-WAN can vastly improve the homeworking experience.

Senior manager, Edge solutions

By now, businesses are through the initial rapid phase of setting up remote working in response to the pandemic, and most people have the equipment and access they need to do their jobs from home.

In many cases, though, their working experience is far from perfect; it’s merely ‘good enough’. On home broadband networks, applications can run slowly when demand is high and virtual meeting calls can freeze or lag, making it hard to follow what’s going on.

Customers I talk to are finding this ‘good enough’ place can be dangerous for their business. Their people are getting frustrated when applications are slow or intermittent, and some of them are trying to fix the situation themselves with shadow IT applications or devices that the business has no control over. It all has a knock-on effect, too. When they’re struggling to get their job done, productivity can drop.

Not everyone has the same needs, so one tip I’ve been sharing is coming up with work-style personas and the products that suit them. Then you can match your employees to the solution set that solves the application problems they’re most likely to have. Ask yourself the question: ‘How can we make their performance better?’. And think big. Perhaps someone who doesn’t want to be tied to their desk all day would work best with a wall of WebEx screens and a cordless headset?

Getting the trouble-shooting insight you need

You can get the control you need and improve the user experience for your employees by running an SD-WAN solution over their home broadband service. That way, you get total visibility, so you can analyse and troubleshoot user connectivity issues, just as you would on your corporate network. It means you can find out why someone’s Office365 slows down mid-morning by analysing the app in real time and seeing what’s going on. And, if it’s a bandwidth issue, you can prioritise Office365 traffic to keep things running smoothly.  

Greater visibility lets you dig below the surface of the working day, so you can offer strategies and structures to your homeworkers that really make a difference and support them well. The info can be empowering for them, too, helping them to look critically at their working day to identify what activities are eating up their time.

Securing your homeworkers

Clearly, it’s important to keep homeworking secure. But how do you keep it uncomplicated for employees? I’ve been looking at new cloud-based secure access service edge (SASE) options, and they’re promising. They make multifactor authentication easy and available from anywhere that you can get internet connectivity. It can be as simple as using the fingerprint or passcode access on your mobile. This means whenever somebody wants to access your network or change your details they can’t, because they don’t have your mobile that acts as your access key. This technology is already widely used in the banking sector; why not use it in your business? 

Make the most of camera technology

And how can technology help to keep you and your people safe if you’re starting to move back to the office? There are some interesting developments in camera technology. I’m not sure we’ll see truly virtual meetings just yet – where we put on a virtual reality headset and step into a scenario where you interact with your colleagues’ and customers’ avatars. But I bet it’s not far away.

What smart cameras can offer is reliable security monitoring without the need to send video files to the cloud or a local server. And, right now, you can use them to keep your spaces safe and productive. Cameras can assess whether someone is wearing their face mask properly or has put on the right personal protective equipment, sending you an alert if there’s a breach. 

And the technology exists to help you plan for more productivity, too. Tech can track how busy certain areas are, how long people stay and can potentially work out why they visited. Then, correlating purchasing data with location-based analytics gives you valuable insights.

Delivering a great experience

Our latest collaboration with our partner, Cisco, delivers functionality to help you improve your digital workplace. With Meraki SD-WAN technology, reporting and analysis tools you have central visibility of your network and control over your traffic so that all your people get the best  experience.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can improve your homeworkers’ experience and support your move to a safe and secure post-pandemic environment, check out our recent blog post on the latest SD-WAN technology. Or, if you have any questions, please get in touch.