How To Ensure Remote Offices Don’t Become The Redheaded Stepchild of IT

Is it time to upgrade your company’s remote offices? It wasn’t that long ago that organizations had very few options for connecting these faraway sites, aside from sinking a lot of money into expensive legacy server and database infrastructure, as well as MPLS capacity for traditional WANs. But now, with the emergence of software defined WAN solutions like Talari’s THINKING WAN, supporting employees in remote and branch offices is more feasible than ever before. The remote office no longer has to be the redheaded stepchild of IT that rarely, if ever, receives much attention.

Remote workers: A growing group in need of more reliable connectivity
The everyday tools for working remotely have improved dramatically over the last decade, thanks in large part to the rise of cloud computing, broadband Internet and applications like VoIP, video and virtual desktop infrastructure. Workers have capitalized on the new opportunities opened up by these technologies, with the U.S. workforce in particular having become much more mobile since 2005. An American Community Survey estimated that telecommuters alone now account for almost 3 percent of the country’s entire working population.

Remote offices come with their own set of logistical challenges, though. For example, productivity depends on reliable connectivity to services such as email, enterprise resource planning and voice, making a strong connection to the corporate data center or the main office paramount. Moreover, collaboration with colleagues elsewhere is suboptimal – e.g., choppy video quality and dropped calls – without a WAN that effectively handles traffic spikes and prioritizes traffic.

It is not surprising that many remote workers still see room for technological improvement at their sites. One study from 2014 revealed that:

  • Thirty-seven percent of these employees in the Americas felt that working in remote offices reduced their access to company information and activities.
  • Nevertheless, more than half of them wanted the ability to collaborate and network even when not in the main office.
  • Corresponding percentages for respondents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as in the Asia-Pacific region, were even higher in both categories.

There are many possible causes of trouble for the WANs that make or break these branch and remote office activities. For starters, bandwidth may be constrained due to the cost of adding MPLS capacity and the need to reserve broadband Internet connections for backup systems. Insufficient bandwidth leads to poor user experiences and suboptimal failover situations.

“Productivity depends on reliable connectivity.”

At the same time, investment in each branch office’s network services has traditionally been determined by the number of people that work there. This model, however, is becoming less useful as the cloud and mobile enable important functions to be completed by anyone, from anywhere. The takeaway is that some small remote offices may not have been getting the resources and attention that they need to support UC, VoIP, video and other increasingly central applications.

The SD-WAN: The upgrade that remote and branch office workers deserve
As we can see, it is easy for remote and branch offices to be left out of upgrade cycles, considering their size and distance from HQ, plus the price tag associated with, say, over-provisioning MPLS capacity just to be safe. Fortunately, SD-WAN provides a better way forward.

Remote office workers depend on services like VoIP and videoconferencing, supported by an SD WAN, to stay in the loop.Remote office workers depend on services like VoIP and videoconferencing, supported by an SD-WAN, to stay in the loop.

The Talari THINKING WAN ensures predictable performance and ongoing availability for the applications that keep remote office workers in the loop and productive. MPLS and broadband Internet links can be aggregated for extra bandwidth in a hybrid WAN and instilled with real-time intelligence for prioritizing critical traffic by finding the best path available. Alternatively, an all-Internet WAN can be similarly improved with better than MPLS QoS by making the network smart and responsive to evolving network conditions. Each path is then constantly analyzed for performance so employees no longer notice the network, it just works.

Organizations now have the opportunity to improve the branch office experience and in light of the growing number of remote workers and the pivotal role that remote sites play in extending company operations, it’s a must-do. With a reliable WAN infrastructure in place, organizations can even save money by centrally hosting applications and having each remote office connect via an intelligent SD-WAN using low-cost Internet broadband. Far from being left out, remote and branch offices can be the competitive advantage when supported by an SD-WAN.

Categories: Hybrid WAN, Internet as WAN (MPLS Alternatives), IT Challenges, Network Reliability, Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN)