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Most managed services revolve around the end point. So any time there is a change to the way PCs and mobile computing devices are employed, the average managed service provider (MSP) will be profoundly impacted. Nothing has made that fundamental fact more apparent than the COVID-19 pandemic. Most organizations might, on average, only have 10 percent of their employees working remotely on a regular basis prior to the pandemic. In the space of a few short weeks almost every employee was working from home, which required a massive shift in how managed services are delivered once it became apparent employees would be working from home for months to come.

Now the issue MSPs are trying to come to terms with is to what degree employees will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. A global survey of 1,077 IT professionals conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of Infoblox, a provider of secure cloud-managed network services, finds 40 percent of companies, twice the pre-COVID-19 rate, are permanently keeping a majority of workers remote. The survey also notes the percentage of companies that had a majority of employees working remotely more than tripled from 21 percent before to 70 percent after the shutdown.

Impact of remote working

The survey suggests many employees will be moving fluidly between home and offices where social distancing is more rigorously enforced. More organizations are also moving employees to smaller offices as part of an effort to reduce overall risk. Many companies have simply decided they don’t need an office.

Not surprisingly, organizations say distributing sanctioned devices (35 percent), building network infrastructure (35 percent), and securing the network (29 percent) are top IT challenges they face when transitioning to remote work. Close to two-thirds (59 percent) said their companies plan on making additional investments in DNS to secure their expanded networks.

More than 90 percent of decision-makers consider digital transformation and cloud-managed services a priority, with 63 percent allowing workers to collaborate using applications such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and Houseparty.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) noted better threat detection and or mitigation technologies would enable more remote work for their organizations. Specifically, respondents are looking for better visibility into devices on the corporate network (65 percent), cloud applications workers are using (61 percent), and compromised devices (46 percent).

Half of the respondents also noted that they are seeing more cyber-attacks since the shutdown began, while a quarter said they are seeing fewer.

Clearly, networking and security are being transformed at an unprecedented rate as the office becomes more of a place to visit for the occasional in-person meeting versus place to work. There are still many people that would prefer to work in an office rather than at home. However, with risks to the workforce and an opportunity to reduce office leasing costs, many individuals will find themselves required to work from home.

As such, it’s now incumbent on MSPs to provide remote employees with the best secure application experiences possible. Using virtual private networks (VPNs) to provide a tunnel into the server in a local office may have worked in the short term, but longer term it’s clear more robust approaches to providing access to secure network services in the form of, for example, a software-defined (SDN) will be required.

The good news is most organizations don’t have the expertise required to deliver network services to potentially hundreds, even thousands, of end users. The bad news is those same organizations are not going to wait very long to identify the MSP that can.

Photo: PowerUp / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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