Traditionally, employers struggled to accept work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. However, there is now a growing acceptance that WFH is the new norm. Employers are warming up to the benefits of working from home, such as cost savings in terms of office rental, as well as increased productivity by reducing time spent on commuting. By incorporating WFH into their corporate strategy, businesses can also future-proof their operations should there be a second wave of infections.

In a Dec 14 press conference following the Singapore government’s announcement on Phase Three of reopening, Minister Chan Chun Sing said: “The changes in technology, geopolitical uncertainties, the search for resilience besides efficiency, and the significant increase in remote working possibilities will reshape the global economy, and competition for jobs. As such, we will not return to the pre-Covid world. We should pivot to seize new opportunities and overcome current challenges, starting now.”

In a survey by Wakefield Research across 11 countries, 91% of correspondents were in favour of new digital changes such as remote working.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics estimates that by 2025, some 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. “I think the percentage of people with compatible jobs will expand as knowledge-based work continues to edge out jobs that require a physical presence,” says Lister.

“The idea of anyone needing to work from one location every day 40 hours a week will seem even more antiquated than it already does today,” she adds.

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To facilitate WFH arrangements and the digitalisation of businesses, organisations need to ask themselves some serious questions about ensuring secure, resilient and reliable connectivity. How can IT managers extend the same corporate security and network performance to the home? How will IT managers support and troubleshoot for those working remotely? How can end-users cut down the hassle of multiple log-ins and VPN timeouts?

As companies start to move towards a new era of working, they should also expand their views on where the corporate network ends and start thinking of homes as branch offices.

The solution: SDWAN supported by Software Defined Networking

SDWAN technology is currently being used by IT managers to gain insights into corporate network traffic behaviour, set network access rights and to prioritise workflows to ensure mission-critical applications are allocated more bandwidth to support their functionality. By extending this solution to homes, it essentially expands pre-existing corporate security and network settings to home offices, creating a seamless business network.

Employees will be able to transition between work and home networks easily, without the hassle of multiple VPN log-ins or timeouts, and IT managers will get insights on the network utility at home, allowing them to prioritise network traffic, restrict access, configure cybersecurity solutions and troubleshoot remotely should an issue arise.

However, having a clear view of network activities, traffic and performance alone is not sufficient. CIOs and IT Managers need to be able to take necessary actions to ensure network performance is optimised for different applications and job functions. End-users should also be assured of maximum network availability and reliability with a dedicated, enterprise grade network supporting them so that they can work effectively at home.

Enter Software Defined Networking (SDN), a programmable network that allows companies to push network requirement changes virtually according to the needs of various applications, enabling real-time responsiveness. It allows operations to be more agile, helping businesses address network issues and bottlenecks faster. It also enables network self-healing with AI to reroute traffic to critical applications before issues arise, as well as pushing and enhancing cybersecurity measures as needed; thus improving network stability and reliability.

With SDWAN and a dedicated enterprise grade SDN working hand-in-hand at home offices, companies can have better control, visibility and total cost of ownership without sacrificing performance. They can also gain increased agility to react to changing market needs and threats.

This is where SPTel comes in. An ST Engineering and SP Group JV, SPTel is the only provider in Singapore with an end-to-end SDN for enterprises, offering flexibility, scalability, resilience and “everything-as-a-service” capabilities.

By pairing this business-class digital network with an SDWAN solution, they enable enterprises to better manage their entire corporate network, down to home “branch locations” and react rapidly to changing needs.

Giving IT managers more control

SPTel’s Business Class Digital network offers companies versatile, on-demand services including bandwidth and network security. This is because their SDN is enhanced with a front-end customer portal with digitalised order and provisioning processes. This means faster turnaround times with instant quotations, real-time updates and changes, such as re-configuring bandwidth, completed in hours, instead of days.

By provisioning services on an “as-needed” basis, businesses pay only for the bandwidth and services required, instead of overprovisioning capacity for occasional peak usage and thereby improving the total cost of ownership for their entire network.

An added benefit is the SDN’s “Clean Pipe” capability that comes with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) detection as a default. This provides real-time alerts so that users can respond quickly to such threats and opt for on-demand DDoS mitigation when necessary. Other just-in-time network protection services include virtual firewall, virtual web application and virtual secure email protection.

For reliability and resiliency, AI is layered on the SDN so that it can self-heal once disruptions are detected and auto-reroute traffic to ensure maximum uptime for end-users.

Susan Loh, SPTel’s vice president for sales, marketing and business development, says: “Working from home is here to stay and IT managers need to start looking at home locations as the new branch offices. With SPTel’s SDWAN Work From Home solution supported by our Enterprise Internet Connectivity on a Business Class Digital Network, we’re putting visibility and control of the entire network back into the hands of the corporate IT team, for an improved connectivity experience and enhanced security.”

It is clear that the future of work is now trending towards more remote working and WFH arrangements, and office spaces will likely decrease as a result. Hence, companies should quickly look into solutions that can enable their employees’ homes to function as “branch offices” for optimised workflow and increased productivity.