The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a trial run for remote workers at a grand scale. What companies learn over the next several months will likely shape the future of the workplace. Today, the number of Americans working from home has more than doubled to 62% compared to pre-pandemic times.[i] And many experts believe the health crisis will accelerate this telecommuting trend for the long term.
Among the wide array of collaboration and productivity applications playing essential roles in business continuity during these uncertain times are cloud-based platforms such as Cisco Webex, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Dropbox. To earn end-user loyalty and keep the number of customer support tickets from overwhelming IT help desks, these apps need a robust network presence at the edge ̶ one that can reliably fulfill the constant need for speed and ward off an ever-present performance threat: network latency.
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VPNs alone can’t handle the increased traffic load
Today’s corporate VPNs were designed for a low percentage of remote workers who may be traveling on business or logging-in from home after hours. They were certainly not architected to handle a large majority of a company’s employees, in some cases 100% are accessing VPNs remotely. As a result, network administrators are finding themselves on the front lines, adjusting to an extreme shift in workforce distribution and changing data patterns across public and private cloud platforms. To satisfy end user demand, they are being forced to stretch their network capabilities out to the edge, where the majority of their employees, contractors and partners now conduct daily business.
Latency is an app killer
With unified communication and collaboration (UCC) apps suddenly revving at full throttle and surging demand for more online services, virtual events, streaming content and media, job number one for IT organizations is to defeat network latency. Cloud networks must provide lightning quick responsiveness for apps to fulfill their mission. Latency is measured by how fast data is transferred from one location to another and it’s clocked in milliseconds (ms). When it comes to passing latency-sensitive workloads back and forth over a network, every single-digit latency is the goal. For example, adding 30ms of network latency can reduced data throughput by a factor of 8x on a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) network.[ii]
By leveraging the power of direct interconnection to clouds, organizations can significantly optimize their network throughput and productivity. According to the “Forrester Total Economic Impact™ of Equinix” report, a study commissioned by Equinix (April 2019), “Low bandwidth and high latency can chip away at user productivity by seconds or even minutes each time an application is used.” For those organizations interviewed in the study, they affirmed that “interconnectivity with Equinix has helped reduce latency by at least 30% across impacted users.” Said a professional services company that compared their network environment before and after implementing Equinix interconnection services, “We used to have offices in Latin America that could barely make a phone call, and now they are all doing video calls.” [iii]
Network latency checklist
Below are a few suggestions and methods to improve network performance for your remote workers:
- Network speed and application performance thrive when cloud services and users are proximate to each other. Provision private connectivity to numerous cloud and SaaS providers over multiple virtual connections via a single physical port on Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) to enable low-latency (< 10ms) performance at scale.
- IP peering among internet service providers (ISPs) reduces the number of hops between them as they “share” moving IP traffic between their networks. Global internet exchanges scale network traffic, reduces latency and improves round-trip time. Consider using a global internet exchange to expand your public internet reach and capacity.
- SD-WANs dynamically prioritize traffic among workload processing demands or differentiate security settings based on sources of network traffic or the sensitivity of the information being accessed. Deploying an SD-WAN solution via Network Edge services also enables quick access to your cloud-based UCC and worker productivity platforms.
Industry experts agree, how we work has changed for good. We are racing forward into a brave new world where enterprises and service providers will be expected to provide faster and more reliable QoS at the network edge. Businesses that have transformed many of their critical network capabilities (e.g., SD-WANs, firewalls, cloud-to-cloud routing) from physical to virtual are already reaping the benefits of their digital transformations. And just as importantly, they stand ready for whatever lies ahead.
Learn more about Equinix’s Cloud Optimized WAN ROI Workshop to develop a customized SD-WAN strategy with a focus on improving latency, performance, security and flexibility.
[ii] Techtips Blog Series, “What is network latency and how does it affect you?”