Considering the kind of working environment many of us are in these days, it’s no surprise that secure remote access solutions based on a Zero Trust model have been receiving an incredible amount of attention. As the rightful successor to the VPN’s crown, these solutions show enormous potential for reducing the risks faced by remote employees, while helping IT and security teams understand and control what is happening outside their own networks.
According to a June 2020 study, 80% of organizations were currently more likely to consider adopting a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution, otherwise known as a Software Defined Perimeter (SDP). This sudden increase is, of course, due to our shift to remote working. Legacy VPNs simply cannot support the expansive security and bandwidth needs of such a large remote workforce, with hundreds or even thousands of employees suddenly working in dispersed locations and using a variety of Wi-Fi and cellular networks. All of this has effectively increased the attack surface and risk of exploitation and intrusion.
As a result, SDP solutions have been thrown into the spotlight, becoming a viable, modern alternative to VPNs while delivering better network performance, greater visibility, and precise control. This is true all the way to the device level, whether applications are running in the public web, hosted in a private cloud or stored on-premise.
There’s no question that for most remote working teams today, SDPs are a more fitting and comprehensive solution. But what about when workers start going back to the office? Will SDP still be relevant? Absolutely.
Companies are committed to WFH
Nobody really knows when this pandemic will be over, and some are even questioning whether it will ever be safe to return to offices again. With so much uncertainty, we’ve seen countless large organizations such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon extend their WFH mandates to the end of 2020 and beyond. Some tech companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, are taking it a step further and have announced permanent work from home. More surprisingly, Nationwide, a 94-year-old insurance company, has announced shutting down 5 of its regional offices and allowing thousands of employees to work from home indefinitely, due primarily to how well employees have performed so far.
How have Nationwide and others been able to justify this shift away from brick-and-mortar offices? The answer is simple: money. The price of office space has always been a burden that companies took for granted as a cost of doing business. But as we all know, the opportunity to reduce expenses will always be an attractive option, especially during a downturn in the economy. According to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace analytics, money will be the driving force for boards, CEOs, and executives to implement the shift to remote working. Organizations will save millions on commercial real estate, utilities, and related expenses, hopefully without impacting productivity. Some companies have even reported an increase.
Still, it’s unlikely that all businesses will go fully remote in the near future. Some companies will see disadvantages, such as lower collaboration and engagement. Without any in-person communication, employees can start to feel detached, isolated, and poorly aligned with the company’s goals and their coworkers. This is why most businesses look to pursue a partial remote working schedule after Covid. In fact, a PWC study showed that 55% of executives expect to extend options for at least one remote working day per week. This isn’t an overwhelming majority, however the trend seems to be moving upwards. By some calculations, employers that choose to allow just half of working days to be remote can typically save $11,000 every year per employee (or $1.1 million for every 100 employees), which, for many will be enough of an incentive in itself.
Employees are even happier about WFH
There are certainly appealing financial benefits for companies to switch to a partially or completely remote workforce. But what about the employees? Surveys have shown that employees may have an even higher preference for remote working. According to a Wall Street Journal report, 75% of workers said they would prefer to continue working from home at least part of the time, while 40% of respondents felt strongly that they should be given the option to opt-in to remote work.
Not only is working from home a popular preference for the overwhelming majority, but studies have shown that those who work from home full-time reported being satisfied in their job 22% more than those who worked full-time in an office. These statistics make sense, as most workers pre-Covid were burdened by long hours spent commuting and higher costs of living in large cities. Taking that time back allows for more sleep, more time to spend with the family, and happier employees.
WFH is here to stay, and so is SDP
Working from home has many benefits; from higher employee satisfaction, better quality of life, more time, and more money saved. Before Covid, remote working was already an increasing trend, as research by IDC in 2015 predicted that roughly 75% of the workforce in the US would be mobile by 2020. The pandemic has undoubtedly helped to surge past that number for many non-essential workers, and moving forward, a large percentage of organizations will still favor a partially remote workforce at the very least.
This is why having a flexible remote access solution such as an SDP is so important for our modern working environment, as it allows companies to protect their users, protect their critical resources, and ultimately raise network security and performance to meet the increased risks of remote working. Work from home is here to stay, and so is SDP.