Ara Institute – Project 1

Ara Institute – Project 1

The Project

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Services Provided

  • Project Management
  • Telecommunication RFP
  • Help Desk Support

Key Contact

Bob Brown (Business Owner)

How can we help?

Our services simplify your data communications systems, and produce saving through improved efficiency and productivity. Contact us today to start the conversation.

Client Reference Page

Ara Institute

The Project

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Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Services Provided

  • Project Management
  • Telecommunication RFP
  • Help Desk Support

Key Contact

Bob Brown (Business Owner)

How can we help?

Our services simplify your data communications systems, and produce saving through improved efficiency and productivity. Contact us today to start the conversation.

PBX replacement options and considerations

PBX Edge Communications

PBX replacement options and considerations

PBX Edge Communications

As independent consultants we are open to what solutions customers adopt, so long as it is the best one for their organisation. That said, our observation is that organisations are adopting Microsoft Teams faster than anyone had anticipated, due in part to the COVID19 lockdown. Microsoft Teams delivered a platform that allowed working from home with minimal investment in setup time and resources. We have also noted that the success of cloud collaboration tools including Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. for voice calling, has led organisations to challenge why they should continue investing in their proprietary PBX technology. 

Two key insights with respect to PBX replacement options:

  1. Microsoft Teams Calling feature has positioned Microsoft Teams as a contender to replace the PBX, but there are other cloud-based voice/UC options to be considered. 
  2. With PBX functionality moving to the cloud, it’s important for organisations to consider the challenges of integrating Contact Centres and the inherent availability differences of cloud versus on premise implementations.

While many organisations to date haven’t been using Microsoft Teams for Calling, the high level of adoption and a general user comfort level in Microsoft Teams is spurning a demand for these organisations to add the Microsoft Teams Calling feature to their environment.

“In adopting this capability, the challenge now will be to harness the potential and figure out how to retire the legacy PBX/Voice solutions and use Microsoft Teams calling to replace or at least come close to matching the PBX features and functionality.  As Microsoft Teams is more than just a voice capable platform, the thinking must expand to encompass the full complement of Microsoft Teams with voice being just one element of the feature set.”

The challenge will be to harness the potential of Microsoft Teams, including Calling, to replace legacy PBX features and capability and hence retire legacy PBX solutions.  Notwithstanding, as staff, customers and partners adopt the wider array of feature rich digital communication and collaboration tools within Teams, the importance of legacy voice (Calling) will be challenged.  This poses a longer-term question regarding the role of legacy voice in general.

In adopting this capability, the challenge now will be to harness the potential and figure out how to retire the legacy PBX/Voice solutions and use Microsoft Teams calling to replace or at least come close to matching the PBX features and functionality.  As Microsoft Teams is more than just a voice capable platform, the thinking must expand to encompass the full complement of Microsoft Teams with voice being just one element of the feature set.

Before any decision about the PBX replacement solution is made however, we suggest our clients work through a checklist we provide which includes some of the following questions and challenges.

  • Will Microsoft Teams deliver an appropriate level of call handling where complex call handling features are required such as IVR, rings groups, call transfers and receptionist capability etc?
  • Will Microsoft Teams deliver the required level of availability and be congruent with BCP and DR plans?
  • When the PBX based Contact Centre is replaced with a cloud-based solution, how will it integrate with the likes of Microsoft Teams Calling or a hosted cloud PBX?
  • Will a change to Microsoft Teams and another Contact Centre solution result in a change of Telco partner to deliver integration and cost-effective call plans associated with the SIP connectivity? 

The Edge Communications team has observed that where organisations have adopted Microsoft Teams and staff are making peer to peer Teams calls, moving to full Microsoft Teams Calling is a compelling solution.  They are generally prepared to accept a reduced call management feature set over the benefits of the collaboration features inherent in Microsoft Teams.  

Where sophisticated call handling is required, larger organisations have added a cloud-based Contact Centre application to provide this functionality. For those smaller organisations that find themselves needing to replace their aging PBX, a range of cloud-based PBX options provide cost effective call management with the flexibility to scale up or down depending on staff numbers.

Finally, before retiring an existing PBX platform we recommend engagement with your organisation’s user group(s) to understand how they want to communicate with customers and peers before looking at specific solutions.  Defining their requirements and educating them on solution options before embarking on a new communication and collaboration platform implementation will ensure they stay engaged in the process and embrace the required changes to get the most from these tools.

The Edge Communications team is being increasingly asked by our clients to assist them develop a Telecommunications roadmap to guide the migration from legacy voice systems to a cloud-based integrated voice and collaboration platform. If we can assist your organisation with any Telecommunications challenges, we would be delighted to have a preliminary discussion. 

Phone or email 
Dave Gibbon
Dave.Gibbon@edgecommunications.co.nz 
+64 21 331 865

Kerry McFetridge 
kerry.mcfetridge@edgecommunications.co.nz
+64 21 436 559

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Telecommunication Voice and Data Trends 2020

Telecommunication Voice and Data Trends 2020

Telecommunication Voice and Data Trends 2020

Telecommunication Voice and Data Trends 2020

As an independent consulting company, we have the privilege of working with many organisations. This independence means we sit on the customer side of strategy, reviews, requirements gathering, and decisions. There are a few trends we have seen this year.

Firstly, the Covid-19 year – this must be the year of enabling unified communications. No other single event in our careers has ever pushed through as much technology change, at anything like the pace we have seen. Organisations quickly reacted to lockdowns with the need to work away from the office. Most of these changes were made with little change management by IT teams and their suppliers, who did amazing work in an incredibly brief time.

So, what were the highlights from 2020?

  1. Unified Communication and Collaboration is here and being used
  2. Mobile use is dominant and still growing
  3. The internet is becoming more important as remote working grows.

1) Covid-19 has been the year of Unified Communication adoption

The business case for cloud has always been difficult to justify. Purchasing hardware is cheaper, but ensure you are in a position to justify and articulate well (and regularly) the massive operational benefits provider by IaaS and Cloud providers. Automation, scalability and availability are typically the advantages straight out of the box. However, don’t forget to ensure your sponsors are aware of the significant operational and cost benefits that must be factored into any Cloud business case. These benefits include platform and environment redundancy, datacentre security, cooling and clean power, hardware resiliency, as well as operational activities that no longer need to be funded out of your wages budget and the list goes on…

After many years of planning and talk, Unified Communications is here. Outside of complex call control and specialised campus-based requirements, Unified Communications platforms are the only system we see customers putting in. 

Virtually the only Unified Communication system being put in is Microsoft Teams. Whatever you think of Microsoft, they have done a tremendous job of building a set of features that appeal to the commercial and government sectors.

We see plenty of Zoom users too. Almost all of these are in addition to Microsoft Teams’ implementations (at its various stages). Zoom was an easy tool to rollout during lockdown and has many excellent features that have, arguably, led the Video Collaboration market. However, organisations must consolidate systems to save costs and effort, and when it comes time to do this, Microsoft Teams is an easy choice.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Microsoft Teams is a natural extension of Office 365 from a user and technical implementation perspective
  • Many companies had sub-sections of Teams implemented prior to Covid-19. This meant it was easily extended during lockdown 
  • Feedback from customers was that users picked up the platform quickly, it worked and was liked by users. It’s easy to underestimate how much familiarity with the system and “it just worked” has influenced decisions
  • Microsoft has built clever tools to help users work easily between its Office files and Teams. The skills to conference call, video call, and chat are similar to other Microsoft applications, which are almost universally used by organisations
  • Organisations are wary about an unconstrainted Teams channel creation, file sharing, and management of the SharePoint platform. However, the Unified Communication aspects of Teams are well understood and can be rolled out with SharePoint functionality constrained or implemented at a different pace.

From an Edge Communication point of view, we have been a big user of video and desktop sharing for some years. One of the first changes we noticed in lockdown was that people started to default to video being on during meetings. Up until then, most meetings outside our organisation started with a blank screen. Not anymore – it’s great to see smiling faces 😊 

“Firstly, the Covid-19 year – this must be the year of enabling unified communications. No other single event in our careers has ever pushed through as much technology change, at anything like the pace we have seen”.

2) Mobile is as dominant as ever

Mobile continues to be popular, and amongst our clients, the dominant and preferred communication tool. Here are some of the reasons we think this has happened:

  • It’s easy to forget the productivity that mobile devices have delivered, especially as apps become more refined. While it’s true that mobiles have led to blurring between work and home life, consider the time saving and functionality these devices have delivered. In short, many people wouldn’t be without their mobiles
  • Except for top-end model hardware prices, operating costs for mobile continue to move down, with more data the top request from organisations. This cost reduction means mobile operating costs compare favourably to other options, especially when all costs are considered
  • In general, pricing is down although we have to say it is difficult to analyse for many reasons. When we work in this area for our customers, we notice there is always a reduction, although multiple factors influence price and it can be difficult to work this out. In general, the Total Cost of Ownership model is the best way of figuring out cost
  • In general, organisations see hardware funding down, per month calling down, data allowances are up 
  • With the improving Microsoft Teams client, the mobile is increasingly able to take on the role of a single device.

3) Data services – Wide Area Networks and the Internet

Continuing a multi-year trend, connecting staff with applications, systems, and data via an organisation’s WAN is evolving from smaller but guaranteed bandwidth MPLS services to multiple high bandwidth Internet circuits. This has several implications for organisations, particularly those with critical up-time requirements. Some of the trends we have seen are:

  • Large increases in bandwidth 
  • Decreasing overall costs
  • Connecting to the internet is becoming more critical as applications and services move into the cloud
  • Organisations may use more than one telecommunication vendor to supply diverse connections
  • Solutions such as SD WAN, can utilise multiple circuits together increasing bandwidth, and improving availability, particularly if diverse connections are used.

5G – not so much…

Without getting ourselves in trouble from telecommunications companies, 5G is still mostly hype. It promises much faster mobile speeds, lower latency and more capacity, but these benefits are largely invisible outside the advertising pitch and a few sites, mostly in the centre of some cities.

We have no doubt 5G will eventually add a lot of value to our organisations, however, we are not sure it is going to be used outside densely packed urban areas where greater cell tower density, needed for high frequency 5G, can be justified. At least in the medium term. 

In rural areas, where low frequency 700Mhz 4G is the workhorse of connectivity, this is unlikely to change for some time to come. We have little doubt that just as the industry developed and then rolled out lower frequency technology for 3G and 4G, the same will happen to 5G. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath.

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What do successful IT projects have in common?

IT project management

What do successful IT projects have in common?

IT project management
Paul Morrison - Edge Cmmunications

The Business is responsible for the success of IT Projects

The thing about IT projects is that they are all fundamentally very similar, they have several phases starting with initiation through to celebrating the outcome at the completion. Most competent Project Managers can recite these in their sleep, so the recipe for success is not just adhering to the process steps; we need to focus in on what makes a great project versus one that limps from crisis to crisis, sometimes ending in total project failure.

We have detailed some points we hope will help ensure your next IT project is a huge success.

1) It’s a business project!

When your project is initiated it must have clear business objectives and its success should be measured in business terms. The Business Case document or Project Charter should identify how the current system or technology is impacting the business – the current state. It should also state how the business will measure the benefits in the new future state when the solution or technology is deployed. If these measurements are not clearly established and in place, the project should not proceed. Project success must be measured by the agreed business outcomes and not just whether the technology or system was deployed on time and on budget.

2) Don’t start the project without establishing a Business Sponsor and Project Steering Group

So we have agreed it’s a business project, therefore logically a business sponsor is essential – the more senior the better, ideally at Executive level. When hard project decisions need to be made, decisions that will impact the business sponsor who should make the call, not the IT project team. Examples could include delaying a project because more testing is required, therefore the flow-on impact to the business customers due to the delay, or a software solution that is missing key functionality on day one, or perhaps a hosted application that has a slower response (latency) that the current in house server-based application.

The project steering group will ideally include several end-users (subject matter experts) to provide perspective and real-time feedback to the whole project team about the solution meeting or not meeting end-user functionality needs throughout the project. They should have the authority to push back if they see fundamental flaws in a solution and must be empowered to speak up for the business user base. E.g. a new phone system being implemented, ideally the business receptionist would have key input into call flow management, or a new CRM project; involving a senior salesperson would be critical to understanding whether it’s workable for the sales team on a daily basis.


“When hard project decisions need to be made, decisions that will impact the business sponsor who should make the call, not the IT project team ….. The project steering group will ideally include several end-users (subject matter experts) to provide perspective and real-time feedback ….. They should have the authority to push back if they see fundamental flaws in a solution and must be empowered to speak up for the business user base.”

3) Give time and priority to the critical parts of the project

For most projects, there will be several significant risks identified upfront. These risks should have a high priority and be at the forefront of the minds of the project team from day one. If an application integration is a critical risk to the project or potentially low latency associated with a WAN for an application to be effective, these potential issues should be tackled early, options and workarounds identified and tested rather than having them cripple or derail the project at the later user testing phase or cause unacceptable go live delays.

4) Appoint a Change Manager early

Change Management can be the difference between success and failure. With any project with a go-live date set, if the business and users are not prepared and trained, the project implementation may succeed but the user perception of the project may be a fail. A dedicated change manager will communicate with the users through the project – sell them the benefits of the new systems, process changes and develop training courses for them. Successful change management will ensure end users are prepared for the new technology, new processes and will ensure end-user buy into the change.

5) Benefits Realisation makes sense!

So, the project is being wound up, the technology or solution has been implemented and the users are happy. That’s generally a tick and the project team disband or moves to another project. But the big question remains, has the project delivered to the business goals stated in the business case? Appointing a team member to review the business case against the delivered benefits will help ensure business lessons are learned and therefore improve future business cases. If, for example, the business case was approved on the basis three staff members would be redeployed that’s easy to measure. The staff have been redeployed or they are still in their old roles. Often, benefits take time to be realised, sometimes months, years even, but they should be measured and reported to ensure constant Business Case improvement.

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We are action-focused IT consultants with technical expertise. Contact us today to start the conversation.

Why Microsoft’s new NZ DataCentre makes cloud migration more compelling

Microsoft's new Datacentre opens up options for the next generation of cloud migrations

Jason Fazackerley - Edge Cmmunications

Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, it has become apparent that the way we use many of our in-country cloud deployments are still fairly “mantronic”.  Service activities slowed as platforms were placed into brown-out or black-out change windows and service prioritisation limited to those few “Essential Services” organisations. Here are some reflections on recent developments that may be useful for your organisation.

Start preparing your environment to allow for automation

I don’t doubt that there were many heroic efforts to spin up environments urgently to meet the emergency needs, but surely if the toolsets used to deploy and manage infrastructure components, and also the overarching principles of automation are not appropriate, well established and well understood within our organisations the dependency on third parties will remain. Our heroes should be those preparing the environment now for automating scalable, on demand infrastructure and networking.

Now add Microsoft into the equation

Furthermore, with the recent announcement that Microsoft is planning on establishing an Azure Datacentre in New Zealand, the two significant constraints for adopting cloud services from the multinational cloud Hyperscalers have been removed.  The age old question on data sovereignty and  security classified data with regards to the Hyperscaler providers can hopefully be put to rest with the introduction of in-country storage… and the even older question on the limitations of the speed of light has also been partially addressed with latency decreasing and improving the closer you are to the proposed Azure site.

The benefits of adopting cloud continue to be compelling and irrespective of which model you choose to pursue, whether pure cloud in a Hyperscaler like Microsoft Azure or hybrid cloud with workloads operating on premise and / or in an established IaaS provider with legs into Hyperscaler services, there are a few considerations that if taken into account will make the step to cloud easier.

“Automation, scalability and availability are typically the advantages straight out of the box. However, don’t forget to ensure your sponsors are aware of the significant operational and cost benefits that must be factored into any Cloud business case. These benefits include platform and environment redundancy, datacentre security, cooling and clean power, hardware resiliency, as well as operational activities that no longer need to be funded out of your wages budget and the list goes on”

The Cloud Business Case Conundrum

The business case for cloud has always been difficult to justify. Purchasing hardware is cheaper, but ensure you are in a position to justify and articulate well (and regularly) the massive operational benefits provider by IaaS and Cloud providers. Automation, scalability and availability are typically the advantages straight out of the box. However, don’t forget to ensure your sponsors are aware of the significant operational and cost benefits that must be factored into any Cloud business case. These benefits include platform and environment redundancy, datacentre security, cooling and clean power, hardware resiliency, as well as operational activities that no longer need to be funded out of your wages budget and the list goes on…

An opportunity to grow your team’s skills

Throughout any cloud transformation project, your engineering teams move from being hardware specialists, to business specialists.  Their roles need to adapt and operate “further up the stack”, looking at how the business needs can be meet by the possible solutions available from Cloud providers.  Furthermore, the Service Delivery Management role becomes increasingly important ensuring that SLA’s are met, and performance is as contracted.  Preparing the team with training and a determined focus on your business solutions and how technology can support it is important and it is too late to begin when you are already in the middle of a cloud migration.  

Your Service Catalogue will ensure service delivery accountability

But if there is one thing that helps with preparing for a cloud migration more than anything else, it is identifying infrastructure components as they relate to Business Services. Identifying your business services in a formal business service catalogue brings the structure and clarity necessary for cloud migrations and assists in identifying the areas that can benefit from re-architecture.  

A service catalogue will allow you to better define your recovery and availability requirements per business service allowing you to have confidence in any backup or resiliency design being defined. Assigning business owners, technology owners and potentially data owners to each service enables accountability and agreement to be established within both the business and the technical teams. Finally, identifying infrastructure and application components that relate to each business service begins to build the picture of what services and components are related and how these need to be managed for future changes or any cloud migration activity.

Choose your migration strategy carefully – costs can escalate quickly

Finally, when planning your cloud adoption, one key decision that needs to be considered early on is whether you plan on undertaking a “lift and shift” or a “re-architecture onto” migration. A lift and shift has all your current infrastructure components simply moved to a cloud provider.  You see immediate operational benefits with this strategy and likely a reduced migration timeframe.  The intention of the “re-architect onto” strategy looks at provisioning new services in the cloud and then migrating the services not the servers.  It is more of a cloud purist model as it adopts the latest cloud services but runs the risk of stalling as complexity is introduced.  The worst outcome is to have started incurring costs for cloud services without decommissioning your legacy infrastructure essentially increasing cost but not yet releasing you from the legacy burden.

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We are action-focused IT consultants with technical expertise. Contact us today to start the conversation.

5 tips to help your PMO successfully manage project and teams with remote working

5 tips to help your PMO successfully manage projects and teams with remote working

Helen Marginson - Edge Communications

How greatly is COVID-19 affecting the way your teams work and communicate?

COVID-19 is not only having a devastating impact around the world but it’s affecting how teams work and communicate. With isolation rules in place worldwide, organisation’s staff, including Project Managers, are being forced into working from home – whether they are ready or not. PMOs are having to re-evaluate ways to successfully manage their remote projects and teams.

Here are a few suggestions for your Project Management Office to help teams stay successful and connected.

COVID-19 is not only having a devastating impact around the world but it’s affecting how teams work and communicate. With isolation rules in place worldwide, organisation’s staff, including Project Managers, are being forced into working from home – whether they are ready or not. PMOs are having to re-evaluate ways to successfully manage their remote projects and teams.

1) Trust your team

If you are not used to working from home or managing a team remotely, it will require transitioning yourself away from being a hands-on leader. For some project managers, this can be difficult especially for those who tend to micromanage. Remote project managers understand that they need to develop a strong sense of trust in their teams and each member’s capabilities. The key is making sure you hire highly disciplined team members who have strong communication skills, are self-motivated and are empowered to drive and perform tasks. You must also possess these skills and be able to take a step back to allow team members to do their work.

Timely and clear communication is key when working as a remote leader trying to keep up with project tasks and ensuring everything is on track.

2) Help your team to connect

Working at home is not the same as being in the office. The environment throws up new challenges, such as family members and pets being around. Instead of becoming frustrated with interruption to business, embrace the unique opportunity this unprecedented situation has given us. Enjoy getting to know more about your colleagues and see a different side to their personalities. This all helps to get to know people, understanding what makes them tick This new insight into team members, can be leveraged to help teams work better together.
Another thing to consider, working from home starts to break down the daily connections between people. Where normally colleagues would connect at the start, or during the day, in a lockdown situation, this connection is lost. Allow time at the beginning of meetings for people to catch up or share a joke, to re-establish connections. Time ‘lost’ on connecting, usually is repaid tenfold by having a team who work and connect well together, which in turn translates to a successful project and business outcomes.

Use online project-collaboration tools to stay in touch

Remote project teams must have access to the right cloud-based tools. Here are some of the things that online project management, conferencing, or work-collaboration tools can help you and your team handle, especially as to face-to-face meetings and in-person collaboration.

3) Virtual meetings:

Video conferencing tools help team members stay connected to each other, not just for projects, but also to discuss the general company-wide topics and events. Some tools that offer video conferencing, video chat, real-time and private chat, presentation streaming, and screen-sharing, include Microsoft Teams and Zoom Meetings.

4) File sharing:

Sharing files online will become a necessity, and luckily this has never been easier or more affordable. Cloud-based tools like Google’s G Suite, Box, Dropbox and OneDrive, offer your teams peace of mind with access controls, audit trails, messaging, and collaboration. Some of these tools also provide encryption, search filters, and workflow management. Your teams can share files from anywhere around the globe in seconds.

5) Project status tracking and reporting:

Many cloud-based tools give remote teams around the globe the ability to communicate, track, collaborate, report project status, share files, video chat, and do all of the regular face-to-face activities required. Many project management tools including Trello and Clarizen, also offer apps to facilitate on-the-go activities to help remote teams get their projects completed on time from anywhere and from any device.

Summary

  • Working from home can be challenging
  • Ensure you make time for your team to connect online
  • Provide project and collaboration tools to ensure teams remain productive
  • Implement Policies your team must  adhere to around document storage and cloud security

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We help IT departments get more done at a lower cost through enhancing operational efficiency.

We are action-focused IT consultants with technical expertise. Contact us today to start the conversation.

Where’s the coffee and muffin?

Online meetings - Microsoft Teams

Where's the coffee and muffin?

Online meetings - Microsoft Teams

Save time, reduce cost, and ensure business continuity with remote working

What changes in the way we collaborate are we likely to see, as a result of current events? Sure, video conferencing has been widely available and was adopted to various degrees by organisations. However, there’s no doubt that how we communicate has changed. The required cultural shift that has long been expected (promised) has finally arrived, and the general consensus is that it’s here to stay.

The benefits include reduced costs and time due to less travel and a move away from needing building real estate for meeting rooms. To fully take advantage of this, ensuring the user has all of the necessary equipment is key. Secondly, infrastructure should be reviewed – changes in network traffic flows, the application used as part of the wider system and business continuity. The change also presents an opportunity to take advantage of the powerful toolsets now available for collaboration workspaces which offer significant improvements in productivity.

The immediate benefits of the shift to this new operational mode, has seen little impact in business as usual (when it comes to productive meetings!). Beyond this, the longer term benefits are substantive. Firstly, the ability to meet  without the time, effort and cost of travel. This benefit has long been promised, but I’ve seldom heard of it delivering the return on investment indicated in the supporting business case. Second is, the freeing of building real estate i.e. meeting rooms. Aside from the increased social connection of coming together in a meeting room, an online meeting can be arguably more productive from your desk than a short walk to a meeting space. There’s always one more thing to fit in prior to a meeting, running into someone in the corridor for a “quick question” or grabbing that last minute coffee to find that the beans have run out!

Avoiding headaches with your remote working tools, systems, and networks

Key to supporting the shift, is to ensure that careful consideration is given to the solution chosen.  Weighing up the feature set, interoperability, ease of use, cost and most importantly security is key. The former considerations make for a better user experience, and hence adoption. Having the supporting infrastructure from a user perspective (computer, web cam, speakers, sufficient connectivity and of course workspace set up) ensures the user is productive and not prone to technical problems that can plague meetings. The same applies for the person working remotely, whether at home, out of another office or on the road.

“Implications (opportunities) exist in terms of network traffic flows, the continued shift to cloud-based solutions (whether in-house or an on-shore provider), business continuity considerations, and the demand for traditional fixed line services. In each case the services in these areas can be reviewed or trimmed, allowing resources to be put into areas being used more.”

At Edge, we’ve settled on and used Microsoft Teams extensively for some time. It’s core to how we function. It offers us the ability to meet productively without the time and cost that goes with travelling, allowing us to pass on those savings and productivity increases to our customers. 

However, beyond just the video conferencing aspect, we’ve harnessed the  benefit of tight integration with the Microsoft suite and our SaaS project management tool. This provides one place for all project information with manageability of data ownership, that is also easy to access and use. This extends to securely publishing key project management information so that our customers can see first-hand project schedules and other key project information. 

The features of these platforms are only going to increase as the competition heats up. The time to take into account the longer-term impact of this technology is now.

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The WAN just moved to the internet

The WAN just moved to the internet

The WAN just moved to the internet

The WAN just moved to the internet

COVID 19 has overnight moved the user base from the office to the home office

While many organisations have been grappling with how their MPLS and datacentre centric WANs will support the move to utilise a greater range of public cloud applications, and how an Internet-based SD-WAN might deliver low costs, more flexibility and local Internet breakout, COVID 19 has overnight moved the user base from the office to the home office.

Working from outside the WAN, users are now placing huge pressure on VPNs and remote access solutions that were typically designed and dimensioned for a subset of remote users.  From a bandwidth demand perspective, there has been an explosion in the use of collaboration and bandwidth-hungry applications as organisations adopt media-rich tools such as MS Teams and Zoom.

Home Office workers are now also suffering local access contention from within their bubble with spouses, partners and children all demanding bandwidth from the domestic broadband connection and their chosen ISP.

Industry commentators are predicting that the home working mode will continue even after restrictive lockdowns have abated.  The predictions suggest that working from home will become the new norm as individuals and organisations become more comfortable with the mode of working.  At the very least a hybrid working mode will likely become more common as staff work in a more fluid mode between the home and the office.

For the WAN and Networking, this is an interesting development and one that organisations will need to ponder so that they can deliver a consistent user experience and limit cost as they focus on the need to support underutilised office-based networks and a dispersed worker base.

For optimising access to cloud-based applications, the Internet SD-WAN offered tools to support direct internet access and hence remove the reliance on a single internet ingress.  However, working from home has taken this to a new level where access to tools such as Office 365 would be better served by allowing break out or VPN split tunnelling via the home internet service rather than clogging the VPN.  Both Microsoft and VPN providers are providing guidance around such a concept to help organisations de-load the VPN and better support the remote users.

“While the adoption of SD-WAN is still low, the generic attributes of the SD-WAN now need to be extended to the remote and home user where workers will be subject to a host of variables.  This could even extend to the adoption of SD-WAN edge appliances being utilised at the home to better manage security, optimise traffic and provide a greater level of analytics.”

In a broader context, the widespread adoption of home working requires a rethink of the WAN architecture, security, support models and performance analytics.  Compared to MPLS, the SD-WAN promised a greater level of manageability, analytics and optimisation up to the application layer to ensure better performance and user experience.  While the adoption of SD-WAN is still low, the generic attributes of the SD-WAN now need to be extended to the remote and home user where workers will be subject to a host of variables.  This could even extend to the adoption of SD-WAN edge appliances being utilised at the home to better manage security, optimise traffic and provide a greater level of analytics.

From a business perspective, these variable conditions will impact on productivity, the user experience, the cost of support and moreover the customer experience.

The radical change presents a compelling opportunity and demand for organisations to adopt remote working as a norm and with this, adapt the WAN and connectivity infrastructure and environment to be more resilient, more flexible and to be granularly managed despite the reliance on an array of working styles and access mechanisms.  

In this model, the influence of the Telco as a key partner in the delivery of ‘managed networks’ will diminish as workers utilise best-effort connections across multiple service providers.

By being able to flex bandwidth up and down, manage traffic flow and analyse performance to the user and application level, organisations will be better placed to ensure users and customers can be supported and that costs can be contained.

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