How to build an IT network that will support the new nature of business

Business Insights

Top tips for businesses to create an IT infrastructure designed for hybrid working

Matt Jones, Chief Operating Officer at NetSupport Group, draws on his 30 years of experience in product development and close collaboration with organisations to co-produce solutions that can be adopted worldwide, helping improve productivity, security and flexibility. Here, Matt shares his expert tips for how organisations can create effective policies to support home working and remain adaptable to these changes in the business landscape.

Despite the many proclamations of the ‘return to normal' post-pandemic, many aspects of the everyday will remain irrevocably changed in the aftermath of Covid-19, the workplace being one of the starkest examples of this. Whilst initially introduced to keep businesses running, working from home, at least part-time, remains a commonplace feature of most company models beyond the end of the pandemic.

It can safely be said that hybrid working is here to stay, with numbers from the Office of National Statistics finding no "clear upward or downward trend, indicating that homeworking is resilient to pressures such as the end of restrictions and increases in the cost of living". In addition, most employees have now come to expect the freedom to work remotely at least some of the time with a 2023 report from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development finding that almost half of employers have seen the number of people wanting to work from home has increased over the last 12 months. Therefore, even those companies that favoured a return to full-time working in the office have been forced to reconsider to remain attractive to both potential and current employees.

It has been almost four years since working from home became a staple in many of our lives, and yet many businesses' networks and operations are still not fully compatible with a permanent hybrid working model. Hybrid working and working from home present numerous challenges to employers, particularly when considering IT operations.

When working from home, digital devices are a vital lifeline; not only are they crucial for completing work tasks but also for communicating with colleagues and clients. With employees working remotely – sometimes permanently based in entirely different countries – employers must ensure they have an IT infrastructure in place that is flexible and secure enough to support day-to-day digital functionality, protect company and customer data and provide solutions when things go wrong.

Developing a clear IT framework to support hybrid working is critical for businesses and organisations to guarantee their operational efficiency and avoid compromising the bottom line. To achieve this, there are several essential features businesses should consider implementing to fully optimise their hybrid working models.

    1. Cloud-based solutions: With more and more companies, even small-medium enterprises, becoming multinational or regionally diverse, the ability to wirelessly connect, communicate and share data or resources is essential. Having a cloud-based infrastructure allows flexibility in working location, removes barriers to connecting and allows companies to scale more ambitiously – even internationally.

    2. Decentralised regional infrastructure to maintain data protection: Ensure you are utilising a solution that will keep both company and customer data alike secure. This is a particular issue for companies working remotely as data in transit is most at risk. By choosing a solution that incorporates a secure network of regional data hubs such as Microsoft Azure, businesses can transfer data quickly and securely from anywhere in the world without the risk of data theft and ensure protection from other cybersecurity dangers.

    3. Maintain workforce productivity with stable network traffic: Hybrid working models are inherently reliant on the efficiency of the underlying systems of technology. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the network has enough capacity to cope with the amount of traffic it will have to process to ensure there are no interruptions or delays to workflow.

    4. Secure remote access to servers and devices: The circumstances of remote work can often necessitate the need to remotely access a server or device. This can be useful for employee collaboration when working jointly on projects or supporting a peer with their work by allowing another employee to take remote control of the other's device. However, remote access is essential for facilitating effective IT support from remote locations. The ability to allow IT support technicians to remotely access devices allows the quick diagnosis and fixing of technical issues which can prevent employees from continuing with their work. It has the additional benefit of demonstrating to employees how technicians go about fixing problems in real-time so that they can learn quick fixes for some commonplace issues. By selecting a solution that enables IT technicians to quickly, remotely access a device and troubleshoot issues, companies will reduce the amount of company time lost as IT issues can be resolved quickly.

Whilst the factors named above are all essential components to building an effective, flexible IT infrastructure, companies must remember to prioritise ease of use over all other factors. All the advantages of IT solutions cannot be realised if users are left at a loss of how to use it or a lack of functionality impacts performance. Keeping user experience at the heart of all IT infrastructure strategies is the key to a truly successful hybrid working model.