While Remote Work is Here to Stay, Temporary Solutions Must Go

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For many organizations, empowering employees to continue to work from home after the pandemic, at least part of the time, is part of their new normal. There are plenty of reasons for this. First, employees overwhelmingly prefer the flexibility and work-life balance that work-from-anywhere (WFA) provides. And second, a new study from Stanfordshows that productivity increased a jaw-dropping 47% YoY in 2020, with most of that gain led by remote workers. And at the same time, many organizations have realized significant savings due to reduced costs associated with a dark physical campus.

Two critical WFA challenges

However, two critical WFA challenges cannot be ignored. First, user experience at the home office can be pretty unreliable. According to one recent survey, 84% of remote employees reported suffering from an unreliable internet connection. And nearly nine in ten said they wasted over 30 minutes a day due to connectivity issues. To truly maximize productivity in a hybrid work environment, user experience needs to be consistent whether working on-campus or from home. This can result from many things, such as inconsistent bandwidth from a service provider, other home workers and remote learners needing to use the same network, or entertainment and gaming systems crowding out things like video conferencing.

The second is closing the security gap left by the sudden inversion of the network. Enterprises went from 20,000 employees working in five offices to 20,000 employees working in 20,000 offices almost overnight. And IT teams are struggling to protect their organization from the spike in security threats introduced by home networks, including ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks. The latest Global Threat Landscape Report from FortiGuard Labs showed ransomware activity jumped tenfold between July of 2020 and June 2021. And according to IBM’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report, one in five organizations have acknowledged that remote work has played a factor in recent data breaches. 

Enterprise IT teams need a better option to secure and connect home networks

Because home offices are usually the weakest link in the security chain, cybercriminals aggressively target the greatly expanded attack surface built around undersecured home networks. Enterprise IT teams desperately need a simple plug-and-play solution that delivers the connectivity and security users enjoy on campus to replace the temporary workarounds put in place to maintain business continuity during the early days of Covid. They need a solution that provides consistently high user experience and the same level of enterprise-grade security whether an employee is sitting at their on-premises desk or working from their home office.

The market needs a hybrid device that combines the power of an enterprise solution with the simplicity of a consumer-based product. It needs to bridge the gap between where the enterprise ends and the consumer market begins. In this world, everything is blurred. Organizations want reliable connections, fast access to applications and critical resources, the ability to collaborate without delays or jitter, and protections against criminals wishing to bring the company to its knees.

This new solution must provide a seamless and open enterprise mesh network that is easy to monitor and manage. It must combine the best of SD-WAN, SASE, and zero trust approaches with simple, phone-home deployment and unified management. And it must be able to prioritize critical business traffic, such as collaboration tools, without severely impacting other essential activities on the home network.

But at the same time, home users want a private network free from corporate oversight. So, any new solution must draw a hard line between the corporate-managed home office and the personal home environment. Corporate and personal networks need to be fully separated, with no visibility or access to personal information granted to corporate IT teams. This allows remote workers to enjoy the benefits of a secure corporate work environment, the home user must have complete control over every aspect of their personal space. Even security rules that affect the private network must be managed locally.

Of course, there have been some SoHo (small office/home office) solutions on the market, but they generally only focus on carving out a secure enterprise space. And they also usually involve a fair amount of heavy lifting from IT, which may be acceptable when supporting a handful of executives or remote workers, but not when you need to deploy one in the homes of nearly every employee.

We need to rethink the Home Office

What’s needed today is a zero-touch solution that can be deployed ubiquitously, installed automatically, and seamlessly integrated into a remote management and orchestration system so IT can finally see into every edge of the corporate network—while at the same time, being completely isolated from the remote worker’s personal environment.

To do that, any new solution must blend enterprise and consumer-grade technologies, connectivity and security functions, and the needs of employees and private citizens into a single, easy-to-deploy-and-manage solution. It’s a tall order, but if today’s hybrid workforce experiment is to succeed, organizations need a hybrid network solution that extends directly into the home networks of their WFA employees. Because while cloud-based solutions may provide some of the functions organizations require, they cannot address that last-mile between the home network and the cloud, where connectivity can falter, and threats can target gaps in protection—especially when vulnerable devices are all connected to the same home network.

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To help organizations ensure enterprise-grade security and high-performance connectivity for remote and hybrid workers at home, check out the new joint enterprise solution from Fortinet and Linksys: Linksys HomeWRK for Business | Secured by Fortinet.

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