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What Do Successful IT Leaders Identify as Their Top Remote Work Challenges?

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Network security is our expertise at Perimeter 81. With this in mind, we are excited to announce that we have released our State of Network Security report for 2020. The purpose of the report was to get a better understanding of the different secure network access challenges, facing IT managers from companies of all sizes and industries. We sought to determine the key IT and security insights they encountered since the shift to remote work, and the result provides insights into the IT landscape and how its leaders think during these transformative times.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerated Remote Work

2020 has proven how important network security truly is. Due to COVID-19 health concerns, businesses were required to enforce company-wide work-from-home policies overnight. For many organizations, this new reality found entire teams working remotely for the first time ever. It was common for employers to focus the first two months of quarantine on ensuring that employees were healthy, devices were connected and projects continued to move forward, all while adjusting to the home becoming the new office. Now, with no real end in sight, businesses are facing the possibility that they will be managing their remote teams permanently, at least for some portion of the traditional workweek.

More than ever remote work is now considered a key element of effective business operation due to results including greater agility, employee satisfaction and productivity, and reduced costs. This incoming shift has created an unprecedented set of challenges for IT managers, however, who may not have experience leading their businesses’ networking and security remotely. 

With more employee devices and endpoints, IT teams are experiencing the challenge of lower visibility and potential network exposure, as their legacy security infrastructures can’t cover an increasingly dispersed and cloud-reliant workforce. With each passing month, IT and security teams are implementing more cloud-based SaaS vendor solutions on top of their network. While this may help businesses gain agility and boost productivity, it comes with security and networking challenges that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Key Takeaways From The Report 

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Majority of Organizations Poised to Adopt Cloud-Based Security Solutions

As technology advances by the day so do business networks. Thanks to the cloud, networks are now faster and more accessible than ever. However, as more devices connect and transfer large amounts of data between off-premises resources, it puts a massive obstacle in front of IT and security teams.

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These obstacles exist because until now, IT secured remote workforces with legacy technology, which creates bottlenecks and limits network visibility in situations where workers exclusively connect from home. Legacy solutions like VPNs – currently in use by 66% of IT managers – and firewalls make security difficult, because they are unable to scale to many different connections, each with various characteristics and risks.

To ensure that their growing number of remote employees are connecting securely to their hybrid-cloud network, no matter where they work from, IT and security teams are overwhelmingly looking to adopt secure information access solutions to replace or complement their legacy tools. This has meant an embrace of cloud-friendly security for a multitude of reasons.

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According to IT managers, their organizations are now more likely to invest in modern, secure information access solutions to support the remote workforce. With it they can complement their existing cloud infrastructure and replace old solutions that limit agility, security, and cost-effectiveness.

Increased Remote Worker Productivity But Network Performance Presents Obstacles

With remote work further ramping up investment in the cloud, companies are now concerned with making their hybrid-cloud networks as efficient as possible. The cloud is already beneficial in terms of reducing infrastructure costs and boosting accessibility for remote workers, but to maximize ROI, organizations want to help employees using the cloud perform as best as they can. For many, this has meant achieving the same low latency conditions that workers used to experience when they accessed resources that were hosted nearby.

In a network that’s accessible to remote workers, a wide array of different connections occur simultaneously across multiple resources. Unsurprisingly, for the majority (43%) of respondents, latency is sometimes experienced across these networks. This comes in the form of lag time when users connect and input data or commands into applications.

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Scalability, Budget Top Challenges for IT Leaders as Remote Work Becomes Permanent

A corporate network that is optimized for remote workers is crucial for satisfying operational goals and ensuring business continuity in the “new normal”, but these aren’t the only concerns for a growing company. The survey results reflect this idea well. Because new resources (such as SaaS applications) and users are added to the network as the organization matures, the scalability and visibility of user access enters the picture.

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With time, it’s possible for IT to make any remote access solution work well for a static number of apps or users. If they don’t do it in a scalable manner, however, the team must invest similar effort every time the network changes slightly. Accordingly, when asked about obstacles in the way of a secure remote workforce, most companies agreed that difficulty finding a scalable technical solution will likely loom the largest.

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Another interesting takeaway is that scalability and budget availability are neck-and-neck regarding secure remote work challenges, at 39% and 38%, respectively. In many ways, this makes sense: What’s the point in finding a scalable remote access solution if there’s no room in the budget for it, or alternatively, what’s the use in a non-scalable yet affordable solution?

Ultimately, workforces everywhere are already embracing the remote work status quo, and organizations have added tools that help them do their jobs from anywhere. The issue has then become how to increase the efficiency of the remote work security apparatus now that it’s in place.

Final Thoughts 

Remote work is here to stay, during and after COVID-19. The change it’s had on the business world, or more specifically the information technology supporting the business world, has IT managers thinking differently than they once did. Data gathered on various topics posed to these managers, surrounding remote work and networking trends, gives us a glimpse into how decision-makers in the industry see things moving forward.

Read additional valuable takeaways from this research and access the full report 

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