While each of us certainly hopes that the COVID-19 coronavirus won’t become a major health event in their part of the world, many businesses are considering contingency plans with a close eye towards avoiding serious disruption of their operations.
This is necessary – there is no doubt that any large-scale outbreak of this coronavirus will be a disruptive event overall – and potentially critically so for businesses that are not prepared.
Working remotely – should you be planning for it?
Remote working, or the practice of working for an extended period outside the formal office, is growing steadily in popularity, enabled by a host of digital tools of virtually every description, from Web conferencing and e-mail to mobile collaboration applications and virtual event platforms.
In my experience with digital productivity and collaboration trends, when it comes to remote work I find that many organizations are frequently stuck in the fairly early stages or have not committed enough yet to design, nevermind invest in full-blown strategies and enablement. Consequently, no matter where you are, there is usually considerable room to improve the digital employee experience when working outside the office.
So, to help organizations as they prepare for a surge in remote work requirements and workers as the coronavirus story unfolds around the world, I’ve put together a fairly comprehensive quick start guide below. This guide will, ideally, help those organizations just getting started as well as those who may already have existing remote work programs but would like to upgrade their effectiveness to minimize impact to their customers, workers, and suppliers.
The strategies and tools below will offer noticeable improvements to the remote working experience and deliver improved downstream results, including higher productivity, more complete engagement, better work/life balance, and an overall increase in quality of results from remote work.
In general, when I’ve had to choose between presenting either a basic strategy or tool, or the best overall solution , I’ve identified what the basic options are and recommended the best practical approach – solutions that will have enhanced longevity, or will produce improved overall results for a reasonable amount of effort and expense. Just keep in mind that the better approach may be slightly more complex and time-consuming to realize; at the same time, extra effort and expense can often be recouped with the productivity improvements in these solutions.
Create a safe and effective foundation for remote digital access.
First and foremost, this means providing secure access to IT resources within the business as well as to the internet itself, typically through an internet provider and virtual private network. This requires attention to every part of the connected tech stack, from internet access itself to providing secure means to reach and interact with corporate networks, data, communication channels, and applications. This is also the overhead of managing and supporting the whole process.
Internet access. Don’t assume workers have adequate online access at home or elsewhere. While many will, some won’t have reliable or fast enough service or only a mobile device.
Survey Remote Workers
Quickly survey or otherwise gather data from the workers included in your remote work strategy and determine where the gaps are. For some workers, be prepared to invest in mobile hot spots and associated data plans, as well as providing stipends to establish home internet access plans or upgrades to existing access, which can be especially important for workers that live in more rural areas.
One of the largest blind spots is in knowing how much bandwidth workers will need to be optimally productive, and quickly assessing this early will pay dividends. Remote workers, especially at first, often have to sync their files and data. For some industries, this could be a lot of rich media and data that has to go back and forth regularly. How fast it goes will determine remote work productivity. More significantly, the types of applications that are used regularly, especially web and video conferencing, can determine bandwidth needs as well.Finally, ensure you have a clearly articulated remote work policy along with a plan, communications program, budget, training, and support for ensuring sufficient internet access wherever the worker will be working remotely. Preparing quickstart guides, like those used with consumer technologies, are a big help to shave the initial learning curve off of any new tools or technologies. Organizing power users to support new remote workers, answer questions, and share techniques is also a big help. Normally all of this is part of an overall remote work program, but may be separate depending on who is responsible for providing different services inside your organization.
Remote work devices. There are two major forks in the road when it comes to devices. Either a) workers can use their own, which is a bigger security risk, but quite a bit cheaper and faster to deploy if their devices are up to the task, or b) a company can provide the devices that are needed.
Given that the prevalence of Shadow IT (workers using unsanctioned, unofficial apps to get their work done) is generally higher than most enterprise IT departments are willing to admit — meaning that company data is already on many personal devices anyway — I advise companies to seriously consider assessing workers existing computing hardware to see if they are capable, as they are least expensive and quickest option to enable for a crash remote work program. Organizations can rent, lease, or buy devices as appropriate for those that don’t have them or are not suitable.
What devices are needed? Presumably one smartphone and one computer or tablet, plus any internet access hardware. But your specific business requirements will dictate what is needed. In addition, when providing a superior remote work strategy, there are a number of accessories that can greatly improve the experience, with minimal cost. These include:
- A webcam for web conferencing, if the worker’s base computing device does not have one. 720P is the minimum acceptable resolution for quality results, but that is usually standard now in most webcams.
- A high-quality headset or headphones with mic. While workers almost always have headphones, you’d be surprised how many don’t have good enough microphones in their headphones for phone or web conferencing.
An “On the Air” sign. Workers located at home or shared locations are at risk of being disturbed during remote meetings by those around them. Inexpensive On the Air signs with remote controls can be purchased at online and make a real difference in the overall quality of the remote work experience during meetings and at any time. For the budget-conscious, On the Air door hangers are also available. The positive impact of using these signs to ensure smooth communications and collaboration is surprisingly high.
Secure remote access to business assets and online services.
While VPN solutions come in a wide variety of flavors, some well-known vendors aren’t always the best, and fly-by-night solutions should be avoided for security, reliability, and support reasons.
Usability and reliability are keys here because almost every other part of the remote work solution will use the VPN as the core foundation for secure internet access.
No VPN, No Access
In general, the worker should never do any work for the organization without the VPN on their device(s) being turned on. This includes online services on the internet. After all, the VPN ensures a higher level of security and safety between the remote worker and business’ information.
Your VPN usage policy must be crisp and clear on what workers are allowed to do with the VPN on, and with it off. It’s important to note that the VPN will be the single most important link in your remote work chain, so ensure your solution works on most devices reliably.
The effectiveness of your VPN can also differ depending on where workers are actually located. In some cases, IP addresses can end up getting blocked when global organizations use local internet services.
Be sure to test all the service providers, devices, and locations to be used, and ensure performance is sufficient. Some VPNs route traffic through central hubs located throughout the world, and are often overtaxed during business hours.
Let Lanworks take the guess work out of setting up a secure VPN, call or email us now!!
If you ask 10 people to define “IT Managed Services”, you will most likely get 10 different responses. Having catered to customers for over 30 years, Lanworks provides customized support services that are as unique, as the customer.
From a Lanworks perspective, a Managed Service is a customer service support program tailored around a customer’s documented, detailed or contractual requirements. The flexibility of Managed Services is that it can comprise of one or more of the following examples.
- A single task or requirement
- Firewall Management
- Complete IT Support and Services
- Total IT Management (servers, firewalls, monitoring, etc)
- Remote or Onsite Support, or both
- System engineers providing remote and/or help desk (or other) support
- Available 5×8 enginneers or available “as required”
- Dedicated onsite engineers working at your facility everyday or just when required
- Proactive monitoring and immediate resolution of key and/or critical equipment
- Immediate notification of a Server outage, with associate call to action
- Reporting and/or Compliance reports
- Monthly Backup/DR confirmations
Our managed services are centered around organizations that wish to solely concentrate on their business while having minimal involvement with their IT infrastructure. With the influx of malware, viruses and crypto-lockers, the better we understand your network environment, the better we can ensure timely resolutions!
Whether you have an IT department or someone with an assumed role, we have catered our offering to proactively support and service the demands of your business. Our “We’ve Got YOU Covered” Managed Services offering allows you to pick and choose the services requirements dependent upon your business needs.
- Customized Support catered around your unique requirements
- Fixed Monthly Budgets to streamline and predict your expenditures
- Fixed Monthly Cost providing consistent predictable budgeting
- Priority Service with SLA’s
- Certified & Experienced Engineers
- Owned & Operated Data Center
- Providing Expertise since 1986
From conceptualization to implementation to training, our goal is to put you in a position to do what you do best: Manage your business. We take the time to understand your business and will provide you with the expertise you need.
Whether you simply want to feel comfortable knowing your support requirements will be met, or just having access to technical know-how whenever you need it – Lanworks will create a customized Managed Services program, just for you!
We’ve Got YOU Covered….in more ways that One!
Sometimes, the network just seems to disappear. Everyone in the office starts to get upset, the Internet doesn’t work, the printers don’t work, accounting software doesn’t work – and when you look in the wiring closet, all the switches are lit up and every light is flashing as fast as you’ve ever seen. What’s going on?
When you see this happen to the entire network, its extremely likely – almost (not quite, but almost) certain – that you have a loop. When an uncontained loop is plugged into a network, a certain percentage of traffic – ‘broadcast, unknown and multicast’ traffic , also called ‘BUM’ traffic – ends up going around a loop, and being copied every time. Every one of these packets, instead of being processed once – has to be processed every time it comes around the loop. Most packets can go around a loop up to 255 times – so if we take a single packet, it goes around once.. then twice, then 4 times, 8,16,32.. if it goes around the loop 16 times, that packet needs to be processed 65536 times… then 130,000 more, then 260,000 more… then.. forget it. We don’t need to count that high to see the problem. And the best part is that every device – every PC, every phone, every printer, every switch – they ALL receive ALL THOSE PACKETS. So the entire network, all at once, gives up.
There’s a protocol called STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) we use to keep this from happening , but.. well, ok, the protocol works – but it only really works works well as long as there is organizational control over all the switches and connections being put on the network.
If someone comes in – a presenter who brings in a switch from a Big Box Retailer because he needs more wired ports in a boardroom; a vendor installing a complicated A/V solution; a VOIP vendor installing a new teleconferencing bridge – and they connect more than one port into your network and make a loop, their equipment must be configured to match yours, or this happens to you. Some equipment, there really is no fixing. If you’re bored and have no one on the network at some point, take an IP phone and plug the ‘LAN’ and ‘PC’ side of it into your network at once, and start a stopwatch to see how long it takes one phone to bring down your network.
Be on top of your network – when people need to connect equipment, don’t just say YES. Find out what they need and be involved in their configurations. Communicate to your users not to bring equipment into boardrooms, or at their desks. Even do audits for unauthorized equipment if you need to.
If you need help, Lanworks is here to assist. Don’t wait for everyone at once to stand up and shout that they can’t even call the helpdesk because all the phones are down.
Be proactive, and be aware.
Is the Cloud Right for you?
Transforming business operations to the cloud, has for some changed the way their data is stored, accessed and secured. With an “Always On”, “Improved Mobility” and “Improved Collaboration” perspective, does the “Cloud” offer real value, or is it mostly hype. Our session will provide you with a personal approach to review your present day business operations and evaluate your needs to determine, if the “cloud is right for you”.
Our workshop will assist you in understanding, if your business can benefit from the “cloud”:
- Do you know how the cloud works?
- Is the data secure?
- Can it simplify your current IT management?
- Where does the data reside? Canada or USA? Does it matter?
- Can it save you money?
Personalized ½ day one-on-one session with our experts, discussing Cloud concepts, practices, scenarios and how it specifically relates to you and your business.
A Discussion pertaining to your current environment will include:
- Cloud/Hybrid concepts, structure and management
- Data Storage Requirements: File storage & sharing
- Data Accessibility – VPN, RDS and VDI
- Resident in-house applications vs. web applications
- Data Security, Backup and Recoverability
- Best Business Practices – tips and industry insights (O365 Backup)
- In-house training requirements
- Cloud Managed Services and Support
- Cloud Costs Comparisons and ROI
Since 1986, our specialty has been the world of emerging technologies, focusing on security and networking. We take the time to understand your business needs and then we go above and beyond to help create innovative solutions designed with your business goals in mind. When you partner with Lanworks, you get more than just a line card of products and services – you gain a professional, hands-on technology partner who is dedicated to giving your business a competitive advantage.
Wireless networks have never been more critical to business. And yet, most WLAN solutions were built before smartphones, the modern cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and the latest wireless technologies even existed.
To give modern businesses a Wi-Fi solution that’s in sync with the digital era, Mist built the first AI-driven WLAN platform: the Mist Wireless LAN.
The Mist platform is the breakthrough, truly innovative approach to wireless that combines AI, machine learning, and data science with the latest cloud technologies. It delivers a smart, agile, and scalable solution that optimizes the wireless experience and brings insight into the network.
The Mist platform encompasses the following key elements.
Mist CloudMist combines AI automation with microservices agility.
- Delivers feature velocity with seamless upgrades that take minutes instead of months.
- Provides full programmability via open APIs for proactive automation.
- Adapts in real time to changes in user, device, and application behavior for predictable,
reliable Wi-Fi and accurate location services.
- Monitors network trends in real time and sends alerts when service levels degrade.
- Makes recommendations for troubleshooting and proactive configuration changes.
Gartner has release two very good reports recently. It has been a while, but finally, the 2019 Magic Quadrant report for Wired/Wireless LAN is out. Gartner also released their wired/wireless buyer’s guide, or as they call it, The Critical Capabilities for Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure
Over the past three or four years, Juniper/Mist has risen in Gartner’s opinion and is now showing as a strong contender in the wired-wireless enterprise marketplace. It was not too long ago that many analysts, including Gartner, had essentially written Juniper off.
Through strong leadership and acquisition strategies, Juniper has re-built a very strong enterprise portfolio of wired and wireless access solutions to complement its market leading carrier/ISP product lines.
It is looking more and more like MIST wireless is becoming the outright leader in next generation wireless AI technologies. Mist’s artificial-intelligence-based wireless platform that makes Wi-Fi more predictable, reliable and measurable. Mist’s cloud-based system features an AI-driven virtual assistant called Marvis which brings patented dynamic packet capture and machine learning technology to automatically identify, adapt and fix network issues
I have included excerpts from the two recent Gartner’s reports. I hope that this information helps with your organization’s technology decision making.
If you have any questions, or would like to receive either of the full Gartner reports, please give Lanworks a call.
Magic Quadrant for Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure
Published 24 September 2019 – Gartner, Inc.
Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure
Juniper Networks (Mist Systems)
Juniper Networks is a public vendor based in Sunnyvale, California. In April 2019, Juniper acquired Mist Systems, which is based in Cupertino, California. The combined organization has a broad access layer portfolio that includes multigigabit EX switching (from Juniper Networks) and prestandards-based 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) with a third radio for spectrum monitoring and security threat detection (from Mist). The vendor also offers a patented 16-element BLE antenna array access points. The acquisition addresses Juniper’s lack of in-house Wi-Fi domain expertise and provides Mist with an established access layer switching portfolio.
The new organization is expanding on Mist’s historical market message of the “AI-driven enterprise” that has been gaining significant traction for the last two years in major enterprise access layer decisions. Mist’s cloud-native, microservices-based architecture provides guest access, network management and policy applications, as well as analytics, IoT segmentation, hybrid cloud and AI-driven behavioral analysis at scale. Organizations will need to assure that Juniper-Mist can effectively add the Juniper switching portfolio into the Mist architecture at the level needed to achieve the differentiation that Mist has been able to provide to the wireless community. This will include integration in terms of proactive operations and predictive recommendations to provide network assurance and automation.
Juniper was the No. 6 global campus switch vendor in 2018 but ranked below the top 10 in market share for enterprise WLAN equipment, according to Gartner figures. Juniper-Mist should be evaluated globally for all wired and wireless access layer opportunities.