As organisations switch to remote working, perhaps for the first time, there is a growing need to improve connectivity. From connecting home-based colleagues to work collaboratively, to connecting your employees to the apps and services that will enable business continuity and even connecting your organisation to its end users.

For all these scenarios cloud-based virtual infrastructure is key. Cloud or hybrid infrastructure minimises the dependency on your on-premise datacentre, delivering a seamless remote connection to your corporate apps and services.

But what are the steps that need to be taken and the practical applications that can help organisations now?

Neel Dev, Trustmarque Cloud Practice Lead, reveals some key considerations when adopting cloud and some current examples of how Trustmarque is supporting customers who are making the move to remote access of apps and services.

What are the key challenges and considerations when moving to a remote-enabled business?

This will largely depend on the objectives of the organisation, but there are two broad areas where organisations are looking to mobilise:

1. Enabling staff to work from home

Many organisations are having to fast track their use of remote working. However, in some instances this presents certain challenges, particularly if you haven’t done so before:

  • Difficulty to resource or provision laptops and mobile devices quickly enough, particularly for large organisations.
  • Many organisations still have corporate applications and workloads located on private on-premise datacentres or in datacentres managed by their software providers that cannot be accessed remotely.
  • Connectivity can become an issue as more and more users work from home on VPNs and remote sessions, which can max out corporate connectivity and bandwidth.

What are the practical solutions available?

Utilise VPN (virtual private network) technology to allow home workers to access corporate resources via a secure tunnel that can be accessed anywhere.  However, be aware that using a VPN will in most cases involve IT staff and the use of corporate devices.

Leverage existing Citrix, VMware Horizon View and RDS environments on-premises where available. They may simply need to be bolstered for resilience to handle higher loads, which may impact connectivity.

Browser-based VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) is the fastest way to set up secure remote working using cloud technologies such as Windows Virtual Desktop. These cloud-based solutions can be spun down when not being used, or when the use case is no longer there. Also because the solution is browser-based, there is no requirement for the installation of VPN software or for corporate devices.

Improve connectivity through technologies such as ExpressRoute and Direct Connect which can be used a way to increase bandwidth to cloud providers and mitigate any connectivity issues caused by increased usage. Using SD-WAN technologies can also help in these scenarios.

Deployment of cloud-based productivity tools like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint can allow employees to collaborate remotely and be accessed from any device.

2. Delivering end-user services and interaction

Many organisations are using digital channels to interact with customers. From commercial organisations leveraging online transactions and web-based customer services to education organisations delivering teaching online. However, this transition to a virtual business model is not without challenges:

  • Organisations need to ensure web-based services are robust and resilient. Failures in online services could lead to lost business and damaged reputation.
  • Services need to be secure and compliant. For example, taking payments online requires due diligence to ensure that industry best practices, compliance and governance is followed.
  • Connectivity can become a bottleneck in the same way as scenario 1, i.e. increased demand.
  • Services often need to ramp up quickly to deal with demand

What are the practical solutions available?

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can help organisations to bolster, automate or secure their web presence. CDNs leverage cloud resources to move content closer to end users, based on demand. For example, if a web-based business discovers high demand in Japan, they can use CDNs to ensure a better web experience for users by automatically moving static content to a cloud datacentre in this geographical area.

Web-app and mobile-app as a service allow organisations to deliver web-based content and mobile apps quickly and easily and also allow customers to scale up and down with demand.

Load balancing via technologies like Traffic Manager, provides global load balancing between regions. Again this helps with improving the user experience.

Tools like logic apps and API Management allow the integration of websites and mobile apps with other industry standard applications. Using these technologies, businesses can quickly stand up web pages that have chatbots, online shop windows, payments and other web services.

How is Trustmarque supporting customers on the rapid transition to remote working?

We have been working with customers across our portfolio, from health organisations and local Government to corporate customers. We’re helping customers to quickly leverage hybrid cloud technologies. Some of the recent scenarios we have helped customers with include the following:

Working with healthcare providers to quickly develop a secure, cloud-based VDI environment. We’ve been working in collaboration with healthcare organisations to build a virtual desktop solution that enables GPs and other staff to work from home during self-isolation.

Providing rapid solutions for network and connectivity challenges. Where customers have had their internet pipes overwhelmed by remote workers, we have deployed technologies like SD-WAN, Firewalls-as-a-Service and ExpressRoute to provide optimised network connectivity to facilitate home working.

Mobile, web and integration services facilitated via the cloud. We are working with software providers to allow them to deliver cloud-based services to their customers. This means that they can spin up services to meet current demand, then spin them back down when suitable.

Support to deliver third party VoIP and telephony solutions from home, utilising Citrix cloud.

Photo of Neel Dev

About Neel Dev

Neel has been working IT since 1999 in various roles including VDI Specialist for several years at Hewlett-Packard. Since 2012, he has been heavily involved in the areas of hybrid datacentres and public cloud, having worked for Pulsant, Misco, Insight and now Trustmarque. Neel joined Trustmarque in September 2018 as Azure Practice Lead but his role evolved to Cloud Practice Lead to meet the customer demand for alternative cloud providers including AWS, Citrix and Azure. He heads up a team of cloud solution architects who support customers to achieve their modern datacentre goals.

Responsive solutions to support your remote working

We know that the rapid transition to home working is placing pressure on IT teams, as increasing numbers of employees work remotely – perhaps for the first time.

That’s why we’re offering a range of responsive tactical remote working solutions including infrastructure services, software and hardware procurement and expert consultancy to help get your virtual office off the ground. We can provide quick, secure options to help maintain your business continuity and advice to overcome any immediate issues you’re facing.

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By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast