Is the Online Workplace Here to Stay?

Delivering the best collaboration experience to remote workers is now business-critical

Daniel Ong

The global COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the world into the ultimate working from home experiment. With governments and companies imposing shelter in place mandates around the world, online collaboration has become business as usual. According to a recent PwC survey of U.S CFOs on their stance toward re-opening business, 49% of the respondents said they would make remote work a permanent option for those roles that allow it.[i]

Working from home – a new way of life

During the pandemic, we’ve seen Equinix customers liberally leveraging unified communications (voice and video) conferencing platforms such as Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet to enable their workers to communicate and collaborate from home. Business teams are working to embrace the shift and connect with each other in new ways, including holding friendly competitions to see who can come up with the most inventive virtual background. These days it’s not uncommon to see people joining meetings from virtual beaches, luxury townhouses or even outer space!

Most companies are enabling home workers to access online collaboration services as part of their enterprise licenses, while many service providers are making it easier and more cost-effective for at-home users, educators and healthcare providers to access their services for free or via special limited time offers.[ii] At the same time, unified communication, network and cloud providers are ramping up to support increased internet and private voice and video traffic. These businesses are reporting dramatic user spikes, for example:

  • Cisco Webex reported that on average, free sign-ups in impacted countries are up 7 times over pre-outbreak sign-up rates.[iii]
  • Google Meet is seeing more than 2 million new users connecting every day, spending over 2 billion minutes together.[iv]
  • More than 200 million Microsoft Teams meeting participants in a single day.[v]
  • Zoom announced that it has surpassed 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants.[vi]

This increase in collaboration traffic is also driving up the demand for network bandwidth capacity to support the level of voice and video traffic now traveling over the public internet and via private interconnection. Network ops firm Kentik said it has “seen roughly a 200 percent increase in video conferencing during working hours” in North America and Asia amid the Coronavirus spread.[vii]

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49%

A recent PwC survey of U.S CFOs reported 49% would make remote work a permanent option for those roles that allow it.

Managing today’s surge in collaboration traffic

Our customers are deploying proactive strategies on Platform Equinix to manage the influx of collaboration traffic from remote users and keep things running smoothly. For example, we’re seeing multiple internet service providers (ISPs) leverage internet peering via Equinix Internet Exchange™ to achieve greater internet scalability on-demand.

Businesses requiring private connections to cloud-based collaboration platforms that bypass the security challenges of the public internet are leveraging Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) to gain direct and secure software-defined interconnection to network and cloud/SaaS providers. ECX Fabric sits adjacent to cloud-based collaboration platforms, moving video and voice traffic over high-speed, low latency connections to improve the end user experience.

Most VPN networks were designed for traveling employees and the occasional after-hours employee logins, not the full-time activity that a remote workforce demands. Companies requiring greater virtual private network capacity (VPN) to accommodate the growing population of remote workers are turning to virtual firewall services, such as Palo Alto Networks and Fortinet, with Network Edge from Equinix. These joint solutions enable companies to extend and scale their VPN capabilities to support a greater number of remote users.

Preparing for tomorrow’s permanent remote office

You’ve probably already experienced the impact of escalating collaboration traffic on your network and user experience. The reality: many of these shifts are likely here to stay. Ready your organization for this new future by talking with your ISP and reviewing the performance metrics for your collaboration application performance, including latency, jitter and packet loss. Explore ways with your ISP to scale your internet traffic capacity, such as using an IP peering exchange. At the same time, speak with your collaboration platform provider about how to implement private interconnection to improve latency and end user experience, and gain greater security and compliance.

Working from home can be a tough adjustment, but by strategically leveraging IP peering, private interconnection and virtual firewalls to deploy your collaboration apps, you can create a virtual way forward that you can work and live by.

Check out the Kentik Webinar with Equinix, Zoom, Dropbox and Netflix.

 

[i] PwC COVID-19 U.S. CFO Pulse Survey, April 22, 2020.

[ii] ComputerWorld, “Update: Coronavirus prompts collaboration tool makers to offer wares for free,” April 7, 2020.

[iii] Cisco Webex: Supporting customers during this unprecedented time, March 2, 2020.

[iv] Google, “Helping our customers navigate COVID-19 and build for the future,” April, 21, 2020.[iv]

[v] Microsoft 365 Blog, “2 years of digital transformation in 2 months,” April 30, 2020.

[vi] Zoom, “90-Day Security Plan Progress Report,” April 22, 2020.

[vii] Data Center Frontier, “Internet Exchanges See Record Levels of Network Traffic,” March 11, 2020.

 

 

200%

The increase in video conferencing during working hours in North America and Asia amid the COVID-19 spread.

Daniel Ong
Daniel Ong Principal Solutions Architect at Equinix