How to Meet IT Challenges in a Hybrid Work Environment

David Turcotte
About the author: David is a product manager with a winning track record in telecommunications and managed services. He leverages technology to drive efficiencies, then scales these using Agile methodologies—all while improving the customer experience across Acronym.
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It's time to find new solutions to a new reality

Hybrid work is dramatically impacting the way we do business. It is no longer business as usual, and we should not treat it as such. In fact, it is being viewed as a great disruptor (Work Trend Index Annual Report), causing us to re-examine many of our past assumptions and more readily embrace those emerging technologies that were previously thought to be a bridge too far. IT professionals are now undeniably confronted with a widely dispersed workforce that requires secure, uninterrupted connectivity and collaborative tools to seamlessly perform their jobs—at home, in the office, and everywhere in between. The challenges of this new reality make it necessary for us to explore leading-edge solutions.

The stats show a steep rise in hybrid work

We can learn a lot about the current and future work trends from employees’ actions and words, as well as expert predictions. A recent article on The Shift to Remote Work reported results from an Employment and Skills survey, indicating “skilled workers are increasingly choosing to work where they have more hybrid office opportunities.” And a Gallup survey in June of 2022 found that 8 in 10 people are working hybrid or remote, while only 2 in 10 are entirely onsite according to Forbes. This data follows the upward trend line according to an AT&T study that projected the hybrid work model to grow from 42% in 2021 to 81% in 2024.

Legacy solutions are becoming obsolete

Legacy systems and methods alone are not adequate for this blended work style that breaks down old silos and traditional layers of protection. However, some will inevitably remain in place as companies progress through their digital transformation at varying rates of speed. We are moving toward more automation and integration than ever before, along with higher volumes of data calling for high-performance networks and computing. So, along with a paradigm shift to working in a hybrid work environment, there is a parallel shift to practicing hybrid IT management to unify and optimize the various systems, apps, and services that comprise your evolving IT landscape.

What is hybrid IT management, and why does it matter?

Today’s prevailing hybrid work model calls for a “hybrid IT management” or “hybrid IT infrastructure” approach. Hybrid IT management refers to the processes and tools used to manage and operate a hybrid IT infrastructure, which combines on-premise, data center, and cloud-based operations. This involves managing and coordinating hardware, software, network, and data storage repositories anywhere they reside to ensure they are compatible—providing a consistent and reliable user experience. Effective hybrid IT management requires an understanding of both locally installed and SaaS cloud-hosted applications, as well as the ability to integrate them into a single, cohesive environment transparent to users. It also involves monitoring and optimizing performance across the entire enterprise, meeting cybersecurity and compliance requirements, and effectively managing costs. The ultimate goal of hybrid IT management is to help your organization maximize its investment in hybrid IT infrastructure while mitigating potential challenges and risks of adopting new technologies.

The main benefit of this approach is increased flexibility, as a hybrid IT infrastructure allows you to run critical workloads on-premise for improved security and control and leverage the cloud’s scalability and cost-effectiveness for less urgent tasks. One can see why the hybrid model is gaining popularity in organizations seeking to balance their IT needs in response to the new reality.

Charting your IT modernization journey

As change rapidly progresses, IT organizations are constantly rethinking how to operate in the face of a disappearing network perimeter with increased vulnerability to cyberattacks, yet still providing users with a seamless, safe work experience—confidently going from the office to the home and neighbourhood café. Next-generation technologies continue to appear as companies move towards modernizing their infrastructure from the edge to the cloud, and it doesn’t stop there. Heavier reliance on the cloud and increased multi-cloud adoption will dominate the future, making it more important to remotely monitor system health and resource utilization for all assets in all locations. The questions remain how to chart a path to success, and what will you need on your IT modernization journey?

The must-have tools for success

No one wants to add more complexity or have to find qualified people in a tight labour market to solve today’s challenging IT problems. An essential step in your journey is choosing the right technology and tools, embracing automated systems that accommodate the unique requirements of the hybrid reality, and subscribing to services that simplify rather than complicate how things are done. Depending on your current state—with applications and data residing on-premise, hybrid, or entirely in the cloud—all or parts of your IT infrastructure may be due for an upgrade.

The solutions we discuss below range from cloud collaboration tools to remote network access, sophisticated infrastructure monitoring systems, and end-to-end cybersecurity—all contributing to a protected, smooth-functioning operational and user experience anywhere in the world.

Cloud collaboration / unified communication

The most obvious, but also the most crucial thing hybrid workers need is an easy-to-use cloud collaboration tool that allows them to freely cooperate on projects as if they are sitting in the same conference room. Many software applications deliver the sense of close collaborative activities over the web or via the cloud, and these tools can be accessed virtually from anywhere with an internet connection. Examples of cloud collaboration tools include Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Slack, Webex, and Trello. They offer convenient functions like document editing, task management, real-time communication, file sharing, and more to help teams work efficiently and effectively. Acronym’s Unified Communications as a Service is another option for unifying enterprise-wide communication via tools specifically designed for the modern, hybrid workforce. This cloud-hosted solution supports digital meetings, safe messaging, and workstream collaboration in a secure environment.

Remote network access

As more companies go “cloud-first,” the flexibility, performance, and security provided by a software-defined, wide-area network (SD-WAN) solution are becoming critical to the hybrid IT infrastructure. Switching to SD-WAN can deliver higher performance, network/carrier redundancy, and reliability. The traditional model of backhauling traffic from branch offices to the data center for robust security inspection is no longer optimal, as it wastes bandwidth and adds latency, ultimately impairing application performance. There is a real need for a better way to send traffic directly over the internet from branch locations to trusted SaaS and cloud-based applications while maintaining compliance with enterprise security mandates. Like the one Acronym offers, a comprehensive Secure SD-WAN package integrates network connectivity with built-in security to guard against ransomware and other threats to data and applications across your IT assets.

IT infrastructure monitoring

Now is the time for more advanced IT infrastructure monitoring (ITIM) services that provide full visibility into the hybrid IT architecture so that real-time data can be captured on the health and resource utilization of all servers, networks, storage, applications, and devices in any location. This is typically achieved through the use of monitoring tools and technologies, such as network monitors, system monitors, application performance monitors, and log analysis tools. ITIM provides actionable insights to resolve problems before they become a more significant issue and prevent breaches that could potentially cause interrupted service or complete outages. Acronym’s full-service offerings, Manage IT and Monitor IT, provide management, 24/7/365 monitoring, and troubleshooting of all your IT systems and devices—even though they are spread out across multiple offices, remote workstations, and the cloud.

Hybrid cybersecurity and next-gen firewalls

The growth of public cloud computing and remote workforces is leading to concerns about security gaps as workloads and employees migrate to offsite locations. A hybrid cybersecurity defence model typically includes network security appliances, cloud-based security services, and security software running on local devices. It provides comprehensive protection against cyber threats while taking advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness of cloud-based security services and the control and performance offered by on-premise security systems.

Three key elements to ensure hybrid cybersecurity:

  1. Securing on-premise network access with next-generation firewalls.
  2. Providing endpoint protection is vital to protecting remote workforce devices.
  3. Continuously scan for threats and vulnerabilities, so you’re always on the lookout for weaknesses in your defences.

Today’s cybersecurity solutions go well beyond guarding networks with firewalls. Acronym’s Secure IT is a managed security solution designed to protect your entire network and IT infrastructure against cyber threats and attacks.

Adapting to change is key to survival

Change is a constant in life, particularly in the realm of technology. To stay ahead of the game and not be left behind, start taking steps toward IT modernization for your hybrid workplace and be open to what lies ahead. During this ever-evolving transition, hybrid IT management is expected to support on-premise legacy systems alongside new automated systems running in the cloud for a while to come. Adaptability is a good mindset as you explore cutting-edge solutions, consider risks, and make bold decisions to implement the tools and services that best support hybrid worker security and productivity. Acronym is at the forefront of this movement with solutions and services to help you survive and thrive through the transition.

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About Acronym

Acronym Solutions Inc. is a full-service information and communications technology (ICT) company that provides a range of scalable and secure Network, Voice & Collaboration, Security, Cloud and Managed IT Solutions. We support Canadian businesses, large enterprises, service providers, healthcare providers, public-sector organizations and utilities. We leverage our extensive network expertise to design and build customized, fully scalable solutions to help our customers grow their businesses and realize their full potential. With more than 20 years’ experience managing the communications system that enables Ontario’s electrical grid, Acronym is uniquely positioned to understand the mission-critical needs of any business to deliver the innovative and reliable services that respond to the changing demands of businesses, and support rapid growth and digital transformation initiatives.

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