Productivity Any Time, Any Place
As we all know, COVID-19 massively accelerated a growing trend toward workforce mobility, commonly known as remote work. Almost overnight, IT leaders were asked to extend network resources into the private homes of nearly every employee. The challenges, daunting. Connectivity issues — some employees just did not have adequate internet access for the job — and a paucity of hardware like laptops, monitors, remote access points, printers, and more amplified the troubles.
Further, the scramble to keep the lights on upstaged critical issues like security and application performance, but it wasn’t long before those issues returned to the spotlight.
Solutions for Application Delivery & Secure Remote Work
Now that we know a significant percentage of our nation’s workforce will continue to operate from home – at least part time – firms need help correcting inadvertent oversights to security and performance made during the rush to go remote. Fortunately, when it comes to a remote workforce, security and performance are not mutually exclusive.
Structured possesses a deep consulting and engineering bench to help customers maintain a secure and productive remote workforce, including the incorporation of Zero Trust principles like MFA and robust application and desktop delivery for every user.
Increasingly, organizations will turn to frameworks like “Zero Trust” to better protect access to applications and data by distributed workers, their myriad devices, and even “headless” devices brought on by the Internet of Things (IoT).
Zero Trust is foundational to successful and secure business continuity and remote work. Before a user or device can access apps and data – regardless of where anything resides — identity must be proven and authorization given. Further, as a governance policy, users and devices are only granted least-privilege access. They only get access to the resources they need to effectively function and no more.
To accomplish this, Zero Trust encompasses technologies such as multifactor authentication (MFA), identity and access management (IAM), policy orchestration and automation, analytics, encryption and more. This framework solves a lot of problems presented by inherently insecure home networks where multiple people share internet resources and even devices – even though they do not have the requisite permissions.
Zero Trust frameworks are also meant to be easier on users – they operate with single sign on (eliminates multiple complicated passwords!) and are built on powerful and automated systems, which means that access decisions are granted or denied very quickly.
Connecting users to data through an application is why IT exists. Although very simple, that concept is the foundation of remote work success. Does the solution provide access to data efficiently, conveniently, securely, and is it performant? Does it provide a good experience or will dissatisfied users try to find a way around it? Politics must be addressed, and collaboration is required, to deliver a solution that is adopted and not abandoned by end users.
Applications are the user interface of the business. They impact user experience and flow. How apps are delivered is critical to productivity, employee satisfaction, connectedness, accessibility and profitability. Modern SaaS-based apps generally deliver a great user experience independent of device or location and are ideal for distributed work environments.
Unfortunately, many organizations – even those that are technologically advanced – still must rely on a legacy app or two for important business functions, typically in accounting or HR. Often, these apps are old, will not be updated, and were never intended to operate over a wide area network (WAN). End users accessing these apps from offsite experience latency leading to a very poor experience.
However, there are several ways to approach this problem. Application virtualization combined with remote PCs or virtual desktops are among them.
DaaS is an excellent choice for organizations that want to quickly provide users with virtualized desktops and applications from a remote hosted location, typically the public cloud.
DaaS delivers much of the same functionality as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). But, it goes a step farther in off-loading VDI infrastructure management from organizational IT teams to third-party cloud providers. As a cloud service, it can be scaled much more rapidly than traditional VDI and can offer resiliency and redundancy that VDI can’t.
With lower barriers to entry, less administrative overhead, and predictable monthly billing, DaaS paints a compelling financial picture for many kinds of companies. And, because these services are delivered via the public cloud, the risk of lengthy business and productivity disruptions are somewhat mitigated.
Still, as with everything in IT, there are dependencies to consider that might make traditional VDI a better choice than DaaS for a particular organization. The decision just boils down to what technology will best serve organizational requirements.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
As a concept, VDI is a platform-agnostic computing model that allows users to access a consistent desktop experience regardless of when, where and how they work. The experience of using VDI is no different from using a local desktop. But with VDI, user programs, applications, processes and data reside on a remote central server that can be seamlessly accessed from anywhere, on any device.
With VDI, IT can mobilize the business, while reducing costs by centralizing control and security of intellectual property. VDI allows IT to deliver full desktops or just the apps to any device through a native experience that is optimized for the type of device, as well as the network.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs are an already well-established technology but made ubiquitous in the wake of “work-from-home.” A VPN leverages public infrastructure (mainly the internet) to extend private networks to end users, often with the help of authentication requirements and strong encryption to keep traffic protected.
A remote access VPN is common when the traffic traverses between a corporate data center and remote users. However, with increased adoption of SaaS applications, more advanced site-to-site VPN technologies or even off-VPN security technologies are becoming more prevalent.
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