Remote working is here to stay: but can you ensure it’s safe, effective & productive enough?

Remote work is becoming the norm post pandemic.

A remarkable four in ten work at home to some degree according to the latest UK Office for National Statistics 2023 data — but how does today’s hard-pressed enterprise ensure effective employee collaboration and higher productivity, while securing their file assets from cybersecurity risks across locations?

After two years of upheavals, and even as some companies ask their employees to return to the physical office, new hybrid ways of working are nevertheless here to stay — 53% of US employees expect hybrid work to become a permanent fixture according to Gallup research while a staggering 80% of higher-earning UK workers expects to work in a hybrid way.

Can collaboration platforms meet expectations?

Multiple problems still afflict today’s remote work and teamworking at scale though, as remote work remains a work in progress. Hybrid teams and distributed workforces encounter inherent problems as they aim to share and collaborate on data on an ever-greater scale. Vendors’ collaboration platforms have raised employees’ expectations of physical and digital environments, but arguably without actually showing how they will deliver next-level digital experiences for users that lead to greater individual and team productivity.

After companies’ enforced use of proprietary collaboration tools mid-pandemic to enable remote working, IT teams have found that these approaches place new, higher demands on networks’ database and storage — adding to operating costs. Meanwhile, vendors’ inexorable drive to include audio and video elements in collaboration will likely intensify such strains on networks.

File sharing issues

The collision of pandemic and ageing file access capabilities has created lasting file sharing issues for hybrid workforces. Even before the shift to remote working, many companies had permitted bring your own device (BYOD) policies and started investigating Internet of Things (IoT) policies to move knowledge workers closer to business-critical data. As a result, however, many organisations — especially those with on-premises infrastructures — are finding that data is indeed everywhere but not always easily accessible: while four in ten people in the UK use VPN each week this option can lead to application performance issues and excessive costs over time.

New environments affect application performance

Furthermore, there is growing anticipation over new Metaverse and extended reality (XR) environments, with their promise of new possibilities, especially in creative, learning, and testing environments. But, as network managers are finding, these new applications are already profoundly changing existing data use and distribution patterns, undermining core application performance and the overall user experience.

As companies collaborate at greater depth and scale and criminals exploit weak links in distributed working and extended supply chains with sophisticated ransomware attacks, ensuring the integrity of, and access to, company data remains problematic. Even before the pandemic around half of UK companies permitted remote access to applications through personal laptops or mobile devices, while our data suggest more than one in ten (11%) does not use multi-factor authentication or other safeguards for their end users.

In their willingness to give teams wider collaboration options to gain competitive edge, firms could be exposing themselves and their partners to increased security risks: the UK National Cyber Security Centre found in 2021 that more than a quarter of workers had at least four more password-protected accounts than the year before. It’s ironic that many firms falter on remote applications’ security policy but so dread lost workforce productive time from cyber-attacks that they will pay the criminals’ ransoms just to keep their operations going.

In these circumstances, IT teams need to mitigate risk and improve productivity of their employees as they become part of larger and more complex collaborations and data sharing, to achieve enhanced productivity. So, how can enterprises ensure safe, effective and productive remote working globally?

File data platforms enable productivity 

Cloud-based file data platforms can resolve the storage conundrum. These innovative solutions enable integration with proprietary tools like Microsoft Teams while providing limitless low-cost storage and additional protection for files. Using these platforms, there is no need for additional file backup expenditure while they ensure built-in backup and immutable file copies.

By providing secure, resilient, VPN-less access to files from any location for remote users, cloud-based platforms maintain connectivity even in high latency environments ensuring higher file sharing performance. Meeting the specific collaboration needs of knowledge workers operating across boundaries, cloud platforms can now deliver file sharing up to ten times faster based on streaming technologies, keep end users’ local files updated with core cloud data, and ensure effective desktop synchronisation for offline work. Other innovations that incrementally boost remote workers’ productivity include SaaS tools that allow simpler file search across local and remote sites as well as the ability to move large data volumes as a drag and drop action.

Faster recovery from ransomware attacks

Cloud file data platforms’ capabilities are transforming CIOs’ cyber-attack response and recovery options. Ransomware attacks are regarded as almost inevitable in 2023, particularly for federated businesses with complex technology stacks. However, advanced cloud-based file data platforms now provide edge-level detection of malign activity and can ‘turn the clock back’ on affected file systems to the point immediately before the ransomware attack. As a result, companies under attack can quickly identify compromised file systems and restore them without having to organise costly file system damage assessments, accept workforce downtime, or pay the ransom.

Boosting productivity 

Hybridised workflows will continue gaining momentum, with employees increasingly working across project, company and geographical boundaries. But organisations need to better equip employees for today’s larger and more complex collaborations, and harness the different gains offered by next-stage file data infrastructures, if they are to maximise their teams’ productivity.

About the Author

Russ Kennedy is Chief Product Officer at Nasuni. Nasuni is a leading file data services company that helps organizations create a secure, file data cloud for digital transformation, global growth, and information insight. The Nasuni File Data Platform is a cloud-native suite of services offering user productivity, business continuity, data intelligence, cloud choice, and simplified global infrastructure. The platform and its add-on services replace traditional file infrastructure, including network attached storage (NAS), back-up, and DR, with a cloud-scale solution. By consolidating file data in easily expandable cloud object storage from Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and others, Nasuni becomes the cloud-native replacement for traditional network attached storage (NAS) and file server infrastructure.

Featured image: © Gorodenkoff