How COVID-19 Pandemic Is Boosting Home-Based Business Networking

eWEEK ANALYSIS: A Masergy study finds that businesses struggle with network and security issues when moving communications to the cloud.

Work.from.home

The COVID-19 pandemic hit businesses quickly. Government mandates and trying to protect employees caused companies to scramble and dictate that all employees work from home. One of the byproducts of this action is that organizations have embraced software as a service (SaaS) faster than ever before. Cloud-delivered applications are accessible from everywhere and can be used easily anywhere that a worker has an internet connect.

This is a stark juxtaposition from the complexity of extending on-premises applications, which requires additional VPN licenses, firewall upgrades and dedicated hardware.

Cloud Communications Has Exploded

One of the areas of biggest areas of cloud growth in this pandemic era has been communications that includes unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS). One proof point for this came from Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins, who stated in a CNBC interview that in the first 11 days of March, its Webex product was used to run 5.5 billion meetings.

Survey Finds UCaaS and CCaaS Services Add Agility, but Challenges Do Exist

Managed service provider Masergy recently funded a survey conducted by IDG to take a look at recent UCaaS/CCaaS adoption trends and challenges customers are having. The survey asked about motivations for UCaaS and CCaaS adoption, and the top investment driver is increasing IT flexibility and agility. This should be no surprise, given that businesses have been looking to get people set up to work from home quickly, and this requires agility.

If ever one needed a proof point for the power of the cloud, it was the impact of COVID-19 as businesses that leverage “aas” (as a service) offerings are able to turn up users quickly. The second driver is increasingly productivity and collaboration. The ability to collaborate remotely becomes increasingly important when people are not in the same physical location, and no one is today.

Data Security Is Top Challenge

The survey also took a look at the challenges of deploying UCaaS and CCaaS services. The top three were:

  • Data security (70%)
  • Global service consistency (63%)
  • Network performance management (57%)

All of these are factors that UC and CC buyers should take seriously. Security is often overlooked with communications, but working from home opens the door to a number of new security threats. Workers will be using consumer devices on home broadband that has little or no security integrated into it. Also, the costly firewalls and other appliances that act as a hard shell around the enterprise do nothing for remote workers, so I understand why data security is the top concern.

You Can’t Manage and Secure What You Can’t See

Global service consistency and network performance management are related. It is hard to deliver a consistently good experience if one can’t manage the network, and that’s not easy when over-the-top internet services are used for transport. The internet is great and lets anyone connect anywhere instantly, but internet connectivity can vary greatly by time of day, load on the network or where a person is located.

The survey also investigated the appetite for a bundled solution, where UC/CC services are purchased with networking and security. The study found that a staggering 93% of respondents say network and security service bundles are critically or highly important. There are many reasons for this; there’s the obvious “one throat to choke,” but I think that’s overplayed as a benefit. If the bundle isn’t working, customers will decouple them and buy services that do work.

Bundled solutions provide deep visibility into application experience, making the troubleshooting process simpler. There’s an axiom with network and security professionals that paraphrased says, “You can’t manage or secure what you can’t see,” and the bundled services let you see more. On the topic of security, the packaged solutions enable the right security to be delivered where it’s needed through network integration. This is significantly simpler than running security as an overlay. Lastly, it makes integration with other technologies easier, because there’s a single integration point versus multiple ones.

Managed Services to the Rescue

One other area the survey investigated was the evaluation criteria for selecting a network service provider for UCaaS and CCaaS. A whopping 90% of respondents want to use an MSP (managed service provider) that offers an SD-WAN that is monitored 24/7. I’m a former network engineer who had hard-core “do-it-yourself” tendencies. However, in today’s environment, with the criticality of UC and CC combined with the complexity of SD-WAN, I would offload the operations to an MSP in a second.

Everyone is working from home, and even the smallest disruption in service can mean big dollars from lost productivity. Cobbling together network, security and communications is a disaster waiting to happen, and managed services, like the ones Masergy offers, can certainly de-risk that.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.