Hybrid work models have well and truly solidified their place in our post-COVID economy. And on that note, the best time to fortify your systems to work effectively for a hybrid workforce was arguably two or three years ago. But the second-best time is certainly today.
But what exactly do you need to create an office network that caters to both on-site and remote staff? Well for starters, you’ll need to source some networking hardware like optical fiber cables from WB Networks. Then, you’ll need to consider how you’d like your hybrid workers to access workplace resources like files or business software. For most office spaces, the solution here is by using cloud-based software. And (arguably the most important investment of all) you’ll need a fair few network security measures, which include assets like VPNs.
We’ll be going in-depth with all the facets we’ve outlined above right here. So read on to get to grips with building dynamic office networks that cater to both on-site and remote workers today.
As we mentioned, the first thing you’ll need to source is the actual hardware required to set up your office network. This means investing in a modem, router, ethernet cables, and perhaps even ethernet switches for medium to large-sized office spaces.
When it comes to the local network within the office itself, ensure that your company is taking advantage of ethernet switches. Rather than relying on a LAN network, deploying ethernet switches will expedite the processing of data through your local network in the office – reducing the load of individual computers.
There are basically two different types of ethernet switches: managed and unmanaged. Essentially, unmanaged switches are only used for home networks and small offices. Contrastingly, managed switches are able to directly and more finely be controlled and monitored, which is a functionality that unmanaged switches lack. If you’re interested in ethernet switches, here are some of the best ones.Also read: iPhone 14 Pro Max Is Apple’s New iPhone To Be Launched In September (Know The Release Date, Specification, Rumour & More)
The next thing you’ll want to consider when setting up an office network for a workplace that maintains a hybrid work model is the bandwidth or network signal strength and range you’ll likely require to keep your whole workplace online. This is a common concern for many workplaces today, as office environments may find that their network struggles to perform on days when your entire workforce could be on-site.
The problem with building an office network that caters to a hybrid workplace is that you do have to consider what your minimum required bandwidth should be, and this figure has to be based on estimates of all staff (and all devices) being present. If you don’t estimate based on these figures of maximum attendance, then chances are your network will struggle on those days when all desks are occupied.
There are two solutions here: you can either pay for a heavy-duty broadband plan that only gets used two or so days out of every week (when all your staff is in), or you can rely on range extenders to amplify a weaker signal across a wider and more populated office space.
Whilst range extenders are a relatively inexpensive solution for amplifying weak WiFi signals to the farthest points of your office, you’ll still be working with a weaker signal. If your router happens to be emitting an already poor signal, a range extender can’t miraculously improve that signal. And working with unreliable WiFi can impact your network’s performance, and thus the productivity of your workplace.
Of course, the question of investing in a better broadband plan or opting for range extenders will depend on a few factors, like the size of your office space, your workforce, the arrangement of your employee WFH days, and the number of devices you can expect to be using your office network on any given day of the week.
Now, let’s take a look at how to make sure your remote staff can access all the digital resources and platforms they need when working from home. As we mentioned earlier, the best solution to this novel problem is investing in cloud-based software like Google Suite or Microsoft Office 365 for your workplace. But there are other solutions here, one of which is investing in a cloud-based intranet system for your workplace.
An intranet is very similar to the internet that we know and love, except that it is on a much smaller scale and is only for private access. Intranets can typically only be accessed by device users that possess a username and password that were created (or are managed) by the same organization that hosts the intranet system.
It is likely that you already have an on-site intranet set up for your company. But getting this intranet platform on the cloud and accessible from outside the office may be a whole other story. But it’s worth it, especially for workplaces that are looking to maintain a hybrid work model.
To have the work-from-home experience be as close to on par with the experience of being in the office, the best and most secure way to proceed is by migrating your intranet onto a cloud server. This means packing up your on-site intranet hardware and outsourcing the hosting of your intranet to a dedicated data center or web services provider, but more on this later. Not only will this free up physical space, but it will also make sure that your hybrid workforce can access your company intranet from virtually anywhere in the world.
As we said, your first choice when creating your cloud intranet is to decide which solution is best for you – to host the servers on company premises or to employ a web services provider.
Though it is the less common option, hosting the servers locally does actually have a few distinct advantages. Inherently, it is more secure. It is cheaper to run and will likely allow you to have finer direct control. However, the initial setup is often more expensive than outsourcing to a data center, and it can be difficult to adapt to the fluctuations in the number of employees trying to access the servers at any given time. At worst, this could result in expensive servers being set up which will go largely unused for the better part of the year.
Hosting servers offsite is the much more common solution, with web companies like Amazon having even recently invested $13 billion dollars into cloud computing in Australia. This removes the setup cost and these providers often have the ability to scale up and down depending on the requirements at any given moment.
It’s even possible to take it a step further, as there are companies that will assist in running your entire intranet for you, for a monthly subscription cost. This further removes the need for specialized IT staff and can further increase ease.
As soon as any company data or files are accessible over the internet, then your workplace is inherently going to be facing more security risks. Thankfully, workplaces can mitigate these risks by employing two-factor authentication for employees accessing data remotely, along with regular cybersecurity training for staff, and the use of network security measures like firewalls and VPNs.
Train your staff to be aware and cautious of social engineering tactics online, as these psychological design methods are used to produce a vast majority of the world’s most common forms of cyberattack. Human fallibility can often be the greatest weakness in an IT system, especially when your employees will be regularly accessing company data over the Internet.
That’s precisely why VPNs have become ubiquitous in the past few years. But these security measures can serve an especially important purpose for your business as well. A VPN will foil the plans of any bad actors who may try to access data, should an employee be logging in through an unsecured WiFi network or click on a link to an unsecured website.
Building or adapting an office network in order to cater to a hybrid workforce is certainly not an impossible task, but it is one that will take a tremendous amount of planning and effort. The work is never truly done, as keeping your cloud intranet and office networking hardware secure and scalable will involve constantly patching out any security vulnerabilities and amending your configurations.
However, the goal is ultimately a worthy one – with great potential to increase employee productivity and morale. Investing in a network that caters to a hybrid workforce is ultimately paving the way for your company to enjoy a more connected, flexible, and dynamic workforce and one which will continue to perform well as your business presses forward.
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