Collaboration and Connectivity Considerations for an Increasingly Dispersed Global Workforce

By R. Leigh Hennig | November 18, 2020

Eight months into the pandemic, organizations are still establishing best practices for collaboration and connectivity with their increasingly dispersed workforce. Prior to transitioning fully remote, companies were comfortable tunneling all of their traffic from remote workers back through the VPN. They embraced this method because it enabled enhanced security by passing all remote user traffic through their corporate firewall appliances, ensuring the integrity of all data leaving a user’s device, whether it was work-related traffic destined for the company network, or personal use. When traffic that is not destined for the corporate LAN (such as generic Internet traffic to destinations like streaming services, news outlets and social media) egresses the remote user’s WAN interface instead of being backhauled through their VPN, the traffic model is referred to as split tunneling. With only a few employees working remotely, the impact of forcing all traffic across the corporate VPN connection was insignificant. However, as organizations continue to evolve and extend remote work, they are seeing their uplink pipelines crushed by the increased volume of data, as the corporate WAN handles all the traffic for all of their remote workers.

With remote work here to stay for the foreseeable future, now is the time to reevaluate your connectivity options. At the onset of the pandemic, most companies navigated through workflow restrictions and adjusted their processes because they were locked into contracts that were not structured for long-term, fully remote work. As these agreements expire and companies begin to negotiate renewals or modifications, it is important for them to recognize what their updated requirements are to support their dispersed workers, the most cost effective way to meet those needs, and how to position themselves for success both now and in the future. 

At a time when remote workforces are growing at a rapid pace, companies must ask themselves if they really need to backhaul all their traffic over the VPN, or if they can identify an alternative that reduces bandwidth constraints and provides the same level of security.

An effective and efficient augmentation to conserving bandwidth (like split tunneling) is the use of Internet exchange points, or IXPs, which allow companies to come together and peer directly with each other. By directly connecting devices, users are no longer subject to the use of third-party networks or intermediaries, which results in increased speed and security. Organizations can leverage these connections to alleviate the strain on congested WAN uplinks, while eliminating multi-hop traffic paths that may be subject to Internet weather (latency, packet loss, jitter).  Sending traffic directly to IXP participants also reduces the number of attack vectors as traffic no longer needs to transit across third party networks, improving a company’s security posture.

Internet exchanges are also an attractive option because they provide organizations with a higher quality service at a lower cost of operation. While 10G or 100G WAN connections may be cost-prohibitive for some, these speeds are commonplace on IXPs given their reduced cost. IT cost savings are further realized through decreased consumption of WAN uplink bandwidth, a significant reduction in packet loss,  latency, and jitter, and the incentive of other participants to join and peer with as many other participants as possible, since they all share the same benefits -- a rising tide floats all boats.

Along with the largest, most comprehensive multi-tenant, mission-critical data centers, Markley operates of one of New England’s largest Internet exchanges and is its lone carrier hotel. In addition to enabling access to the Boston Internet Exchange, Markley Network Services is able to help companies negotiate and obtain the best deals on wholesale WAN connectivity (while providing the deep technical expertise to help you design it), which is more important than ever as organizations are faced with expiring contracts and in need of establishing long-term solutions to support a dispersed workforce. 

To learn how Markley can help support your implementation of lasting solutions for your dispersed workforce, please reach out to our team:

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