As more organizations continue to strive toward digital transformation, the way in which everyday business is conducted is coming under increased scrutiny. The widespread availability of cloud computing and high-speed, low latency internet connections have led many of them to explore the viability of shifting their workforce out of expensive office spaces and into the virtual workplace of the future.
Remote Workplace Definition
The most simple definition of the remote workplace is a workplace that isn’t located in a single physical location. While remote work is often associated with freelance professionals, it is becoming more common among all types of employees and across a wide range of industries. According to a 2018 IWG survey, 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, with 53 percent working remotely for at least half of the week. Thanks to virtual workplace communication tools, it’s easier than ever for employees to collaborate with fellow team members no matter where they’re physically located.
There are many reasons why organizations have embraced the concept of the remote workplace. Traditional office spaces may have emerged as the normal arrangement for a business in the 20th century, but for many of today’s companies, especially smaller ones, having an office is just one more ongoing expense that eats into revenue without providing substantial benefits. In fact, according to a PGi study, the average real estate savings from shifting to a fully virtual workforce works out to $10,000 per employee each year.
Using remote work also allows organizations to leverage a much broader talent pool. This allows companies based in relatively low-skilled labor markets to gain access to the skilled employees they need to develop innovative products and services without having to physically relocate operations to more expensive markets that might constrain growth. There’s also the added benefit that remote workers tend to be more productive and exhibit higher retention rates.
Given the public health concerns associated with the 2020 COVID 19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s also important to consider the health benefits of the remote workplace. Many companies have been forced to make employees to work from home as a way to reduce the transmission of the virus because working from home necessarily means that fewer employees will be exposed to one another directly.
The Role of Data Centers in the Remote Workplace
Given these trends, it’s important to consider the role data centers can play in the remote workplace. The first question, of course, comes down to what kind of data center solution an organization is utilizing. A private facility that manages a company’s infrastructure on-premises will face different challenges than a colocation solution that offloads much of the responsibility for managing that IT stack to a third-party provider.
In either case, however, data centers are important to the virtual workplace because they serve as a central point of access for data and essential business applications. When remote employees log into the network for the day, they will typically be utilizing assets that are located in a data center environment somewhere. By making that process as streamlined and secure as possible, organizations can get the most out of their virtual workplace arrangements.
8 Ways Data Center Services Can Help You
Colocation data center services provide a number of services that make remote work much more viable for an organization looking to reduce costs and undergo a true digital transformation.
1. Outsourced Data Center Infrastructure Management
Operating a private data center is a major undertaking for any organization. Even if a company is able to shift away from physical office space, it still needs to store its data and applications somewhere. While some businesses have shifted to a purely cloud-based solution, others prefer to store their essential systems on physical servers that allow them to retain control over their assets. Colocation data center infrastructure offers efficient power and cooling that helps control costs over time, especially compared to private facilities that often lack the latest in energy-efficient technology. More importantly, quality colocation providers provide around-the-clock remote hands support, which eliminates the need to keep an IT staff on call at any given moment to troubleshoot problems. These advantages are crucial for companies looking to “cut the cord” and eliminate the infrastructure and support footprint that’s keeping their virtual workplace tethered to a location.
2. Direct On-Ramp Cloud Access
A carrier-neutral colocation environment provides the connectivity options that allow tenants to access the leading cloud service providers. Cloud computing is an absolute necessity for remote work because it allows employees to access key applications and data as well as collaborate with other people in the virtual workplace. Colocation data centers make it easy for organizations to set up the cloud environments that facilitate remote work, whether that means direct on-ramp access to a single cloud provider or shifting between several platforms within a multi-cloud deployment.
3. Uptime Reliability
Data availability is one of the greatest challenges facing the virtual workplace. If remote employees aren’t able to access the data and applications they need to do their work, they’re going to spend a lot of time sitting around waiting. Since the virtual workforce is geographically distributed, losing access to the network means that productivity grinds to a halt. Many companies embracing remote work think they can get by relying on cloud computing, but many cloud providers don’t have uptime SLAs that meet their needs. Amazon’s AWS platform, for instance, only delivers 99.99% uptime, which means it will be down rather frequently. Every moment of cloud provider downtime translates to productivity and revenue losses in the virtual workplace. Colocation data centers with superior reliability records and 100% uptime SLAs ensure that remote employees will always be able to access the servers hosting the data and applications they need to do their jobs.
4. Enhanced IT Security
With so many companies emptying out their offices to shift to a remote workforce, IT departments are having to rethink security as it pertains to their physical infrastructure. This is especially critical for organizations that rely upon on-premises data solutions. With no one on-site to manage servers and other equipment on a day-to-day basis, it’s hard to know who might be coming or going at any given time. That’s why migrating assets into a colocation data center makes sense for many remote businesses. Rather than developing new policies to manage access and make sure no unauthorized users are accessing servers, IT departments can instead place their equipment in a highly secure colocation facility that already has extensive physical and logical security measures in place. This also has the benefit of freeing the company from legacy infrastructure as it considers whether to remain remote, return to the office, or move into a different workspace post-pandemic.
5. Backup for Business Continuity
Data availability and redundancy are critical aspects of any IT infrastructure. In the event of system downtime or other disaster situation, organizations need to know that their essential data and applications will not be lost for good. Thanks to data center backup solutions and disaster recovery capabilities, colocation providers can help companies put the redundancies in place to keep their remote workplace up and running no matter what happens. Whether it’s a fully hot site backup or a disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) solution through a cloud service or managed service provider (MSP), colocation data centers have the versatile backup solutions to help organizations ensure business continuity under any circumstances.
6. Compliant Infrastructure
Compliance requirements remain one of the key sticking points for many IT departments when evaluating data solutions. The transition to remote work arrangements has made this more complex than ever before because distributed employees can vastly complicate security considerations for any network. By migrating their technology stack into a colocation environment, organizations can be sure that the foundation of their network is built upon a completely compliant infrastructure. This can help them to avoid uncomfortable questions from clients and customers wondering how the transition to a remote workplace has affected their compliance status.
6. DDoS Mitigation
Cyberattacks are the number two cause of data breaches for today’s organizations. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote work has caused cybercriminals and hackers to exploit newly exposed weaknesses and unseen vulnerabilities to steal valuable data. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks remain one of the common forms of cyberattack because they are relatively easy to carry out. In fact, more than four million DDoS attacks were launched in the first half of 2020, a 15 percent increase over 2019. Colocation data centers can help organizations protect themselves from this growing threat with DDoS mitigation services like vXchnge’s vX/defend, which leverages blended connectivity from multiple ISP providers to reroute network traffic in the event of an attack.
8. Zero-Trust Network Access
The remote workplace poses a number of security challenges when it comes to network access. Employees working from home are often connecting to data and applications through vulnerable WiFi connections with unpatched devices that lack the security controls found in most offices. An employee’s laptop could pick up all manner of malicious software just from typical internet activity, any one of which could provide a hacker with access to passwords or other credentials. Thanks to their interconnectivity options, colocation data centers can help organizations route network access through zero-trust security platforms that prevent remote users from actually connecting directly to colocated assets. Even if a remote employee’s access credentials are compromised, zero-trust network access ensures that they won’t be able to simply jump laterally to other parts of the network.
Overcome the Challenges of Remote Work with Colocation
For companies looking to explore the potential of the remote workplace, colocation data centers should be considered a necessity. Leveraging a secure, reliable data center infrastructure with robust cloud connectivity allows them to step away from making (or maintaining) the capital investment in their own facility while also making it easier to do away with a physical office. If everyone can log into systems hosted on servers in the data center, there’s no need to have them come to a centralized location.
As organizations seek to realize more virtual workplace benefits, the services provided by colocation data centers will likely become more central to their IT strategy. Colocation offers the flexibility they need to achieve a true digital transformation. With the incentives for shifting to remote work growing each year, companies that align their IT networks with those needs will be in a strong position to remain competitive in the future.