The Internet played a greater role than ever in supporting enterprise productivity over the past year-plus, as newly remote workers logged onto the job via residential links that, it turns out, left much to be desired in terms of enabling work.
According to the results of the 2021 Future of the Internet Outlook from AppNeta, internet issues have been rampant for work from home users over the past year and a half, as users across roles, departments, and industries wrestled with common connectivity issues.
In the survey, which focused on issues beyond the "last-mile" (ie. the connectivity linking residences to the enterprise network edge), 37 percent of respondents dealt with freezing screens or poor audio quality over the past year, forcing them to hop off video calls and lose productivity as a result. While this may seem like a fairly routine nuisance on its face, this inability to maintain consistent communication can derail productivity in the long-term in a remote setting.
Freezing video may also be a symptom of a larger issue bubbling below the surface, even if users (or even enterprise IT) generally think they can point to "low bandwidth" as the cause, up their spend on internet capacity, and wait for video performance to improve.
That said, 28 percent of respondents had to upgrade their internet-related equipment over the course of the pandemic because their residential connections weren't equipped to handle the upload and download speeds of enterprise-grade applications. To that end, 23 percent of respondents had to actually change locations (ie. go to a neighbor's house) to access performant connectivity.
But the root cause of performance issues aren't always hinging on internet capacity at a remote location. While this may seem like the most obvious culprit when it comes to bad performance, IT teams never want to assume and then miss the root cause of the issue. Instead, IT teams require comprehensive visibility into the specific workstation users are accessing to truly understand how users are experiencing the network, and to ensure that experience is consistent wherever users log on.
Users may be leveraging crowded WiFi connections, for instance, requiring them to hop onto a wired connection if they can't complete work. Performance issues may even have to do with the devices users are leveraging themselves, calling for visibility into metrics like CPU utilization that may give users the impression of a slow connection when really it's weak or old processing power.
Going forward, however, it's become abundantly clear that expanded access to well-performing internet is not just a wish but an expectation of workers, which puts unique pressure on IT to understand local network performance of each end user.
According to the findings, 65 percent of American adults think if the internet becomes a public utility (meaning un-privatized) it will be a positive step toward a better-connected society.
When it comes to what the "table stakes" are for this newly connected future, 23 percent of respondents were eager for "new levels of speed and connectivity," while a quarter of those surveyed expect global internet coverage within the next 5-10 years.
While the report found that 18 percent of respondents were unable to complete work tasks due to poor internet connectivity and 14 percent experienced issues connecting to business applications, these are only the perceptions of end users. When IT looks at the larger business impact of poor connectivity across a whole network of individuals, the collective impact can be shocking — and have serious implications to a businesses bottom line.
With the future of work continuing to be an evolving prospect for many businesses, enterprise IT teams need to future-proof their networks for whatever conditions may arise. While IT had a crash course in pandemic-induced digital transformation over the past year, it's high time for network ops teams to firm up their network strategy to support end-user experience wherever users get the job done.
This includes not only rethinking how companies can support end users at home or in the field — whether that means working with users to upgrade connectivity or even providing a WFH stipend — but also firming up the office connections for when users do ultimately return.
Remote work isn't going away, and realistically will represent a large share of IT's management focus going forward. As a result, IT leaders need to ensure that they are arming their network teams with the necessary management solutions to ensure a well-connected remote workforce well into the future.