Remote Workers – Technology, Applications, and the Demands on IT

sd-wan helps remote workersIn our previous blog, “Coronavirus Has Been Devastating Business – Time to rethink Your Connectivity and Consider Video Conferencing?” we discussed some of the immediate impacts the coronavirus pandemic was having on businesses and the stress this was placing on IT systems in general. We suggested SD-WAN with broadband bonding as a technology ideally suited to make sure your IT connectivity was supercharged. Remember that SD-WAN with broadband bonding combines multiple WAN transports (MPLS, T1, DSL, Fiber, Cable, 3G/4G/LTE) from (preferably) multiple Internet Service Providers to create one (or more) super-fast, super-reliable internet pipes that is immune from any single line having performance issues or going down completely.

In today’s blog, we will look at technology and applications specifically tailored for remote workers. Working from home has traditionally required that companies do very little to support remote workers. A simple way to login to the work computer and/or data center and a simple way to teleconference once or twice a week is all that was needed. But the global pandemic we all find ourselves in adds significant strain to company Internet resources as suddenly a majority of employees may be telecommuting. Let’s take a closer look at some technology and applications that are relevant in telecommuting environments.

VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows for a private company network to be extended, using the Internet, to remote users or other networks. A typical use case would be to allow remote workers to access their company’s private network where they could easily access needed resources, such as proprietary files, data centers, shared printers, and applications that reside on the company network. There are several different protocols that VPNs use, depending on the use case. Check our blog here for some of the key differences between various types of VPNs.

The VPN software that forms the internet “tunnel” (direct connection between the two computers/networks) encrypts and decrypts all data coming to/from either computer by routing it through the VPN server. This provides a highly secure, highly flexible connection where user access and privileges can be tightly controlled.

Similar basic functionality can be achieved by using SSH (Secure Shell) to connect to the remote terminal, but SSH is a significantly less robust solution, and is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s VPN”. SSH operates at the application layer and each application must be configured to use SSH, while a true VPN acts as part of the operating system. A nice discussion comparing the two techniques can be found here.

Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop software/applications allow for a remote user to completely take over control of a remote computer, including interacting with the remote screen and mouse, essentially allowing the user to interact with the computer as if they were sitting at the terminal. This provides additional capability over a simple VPN as it allows for interacting with the local terminal screen and mouse. More on the differences between a VPN and a remote desktop can be found here.

Also, don’t confuse remote desktop with screen sharing. Screen sharing simply displays your screen to one or more remote users and is used typically for presentations. Remote users cannot directly interact with your computer, although there may be some interaction allowed via the screen-sharing application.

Typically, remote desktop software is not highly secure and best practice often routes the remote desktop sessions through an actual VPN. Both Microsoft and Apple have their own remote desktop software included as part of their operating systems, and there are also many 3rd-party solutions, including Citrix XenApp, GoToMyPC, LogMeIn and many others.

Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) refers to integrating the many ways businesses communicate, including IP phones, web and video conferencing, voice mail, instant messaging, desktop sharing, and others. The UC solution is either on-premises software, partner-hosted, or cloud based (UCaaS).

In order for a company to effectively utilize a largely mobile workforce, having a robust UC system is essential. The mobile worker should be able to natively tie into the corporate UC system without requiring hard IT actions, such as custom configurations of apps or users.

One simple and seamless way to achieve this is by using an SD-WAN solution that extends the corporate LAN to the remote worker securely, allowing for easy access to the office phone systems and other critical IT assets.

SD-WAN

SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network) refers to using software to intelligently combine and manage disparate Internet WAN transports such as MPLS, T1, DSL, Cable, fiber, satellite or 3G/4G/LTE from any service providers. When you add in broadband bonding, you have an extremely flexible and robust solution to many of the normal WAN performance issues that manifest themselves very clearly in each of the above areas. For example, as we all see more and more TV journalists and newsmakers broadcasting/interviewing from their homes, WAN performance issues such as latency and bandwidth allocation become hard to ignore as the video feed stutters and stalls, and the journalists constantly talk over each other because of too much lag time in their conversation.

SD-WAN with broadband bonding combines all your WAN resources into a single internet pipe and allows you to use the combined bandwidth and intelligence to optimize application-specific performance. Specialized virtual-overlay IP tunnels perform packet-by-packet routing decisions to ensure your application is always using the most efficient combination of WAN link resources possible. If your video/teleconference app is struggling due to bandwidth issues, more bandwidth can be allocated. Similarly, if your VoIP calls exhibit too much delay, a lower-latency path can be chosen to improve the MOS score.

Conclusion

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses and workers to rethink their daily operations and struggle with the very real strain placed on their IT systems. Remote workers and companies now, more than ever, are critically dependent on applications and technologies that support telecommuting.

Applications such as VPNs, Remote Desktop, and Unified Communications including VoIP and teleconferencing, are all critical for the mobile workforce. As companies’ IT systems become more and more strained, it becomes even more important to also introduce an SD-WAN broadband bonding router into your network to ensure a maximally flexible and robust connection to the internet.

 

Rob Stone, Mushroom Networks, Inc. 

Mushroom Networks is the provider of Broadband Bonding appliances that put your networks on auto-pilot. Application flows are intelligently routed around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss. Network problems are solved even before you can notice.

https://www.mushroomnetworks.com

 

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