Yesterday’s professional network solutions aren’t working for working from home
Eight months into New Zealanders’ work-from-home experiments, what’s next for corporate network design?
Tucked away from the scary realities facing the world across shores, New Zealanders almost have full freedom back in their working set-ups. In the bygone days of pre-Covid, remote working was an interesting idea flirted with by some of the quirkier tech companies – whereas now, most businesses – small, large, local, global – reassigned a weighty number of their workforce to home work.
With all non-essential businesses closed in Alert Level 4 in April, most New Zealanders worked from home than from other locations, such as office premises and other workspaces. At the same time, less than a third were working in the office or in other premises
At the same time as these sweeping changes to the office workflow were happening, the big question marks were about policy and expectations. Working from home requires significant changes to the technical infrastructure, too.
The clearest tech problem businesses were facing with increased number of remote workers was the size of the company’s internet connection. If you have more of your workforce were remotely interacting every day, you need the right amount of bandwith to contain them.
(When working from home, most people connect to the office via a virtual private network (VPN) – a private network connection between your device and the internet. Your internet usage comes from the VPN, rather than your computer.)
On the global list, New Zealand’s average internet speed puts us in the 27th place. In the Asia Pacific Region, New Zealand is 7th in internet speed with an average internet speed 14.7 Mbps faster than the Australian average of 11.1 Mbps. Our highest peak average internet speed is at 70.8 Mbps.
Our quick entry into lockdown on 25th March 2020, two telecommunications trends were clear – demand for data was rapidly rising, voice calling was surging. Unsurprisingly for the uptake of remote work as businesses closed their doors, the critical time of data use was during the workday.
Chorus usage statistics during Alert Level 4 show an increase in daytime traffic across its networks by up to 85%, with an increase in evening traffic reaching 40%.
The graph below shows upload traffic and use of productivity applications such as video conferencing. The lines are jagged because of half hour breaks, how typical video conferencing calls are usually scheduled.
Though digital activity surged during the lockdowns falls in telco pricing could limit the investment this industry could make in the future. Telco communications industry organisation the NZ Telecommunications Forum warns of challenging economics ahead in our current path with sharps drops in telco prices, now averaging “lower than ever”. Costs for other key services – think electricity, gas, local authority rates – has at the same time grown steadily.
“While this has been great news for consumers, the current industry economics are challenging the ability of the industry to keep investing at the rates required to ensure New Zealand can benefit quickly from the best technology the world has to offer,” TCF CEO Geoff Thorn said upon releasing the report.
“We want to continue to build world class networks that make New Zealand competitive internationally,” he said.
“That means we can’t get taxed by government on spectrum or levies to a point where it becomes unaffordable or difficult for us to roll these networks out and to invest in these applications.”
Although we’re no longer in lock down, remote work itself looks to be here to stay. Networking and network providers, alongside virtual and telecalling tools, will continue to be the sought after features of the coming decade.
Looking at the stats, it appears the safest thing businesses will do is adapt to an increasing presence of virtual work. If this kind of expertise isn’t available in-house, bringing it in on contract is the best idea. Most full-time IT professionals are skilled to help companies make this switch, and are able to offer recommendations and strategy to C-levels bespoke to each company’s unique and real-world needs.
Like many other countries around the world, working from home not only has helped us ward off a dangerous pandemic, but also to accelerate a more flexible setup and get us thinking about what’s now possible with working arrangements.