The IT guide to working from home this summer

Now that the warm weather is upon us, many employees will be off on holiday or making the most of their companies’ flexible working policies, working from home and taking advantage of the summer sun. The Office of National Statistics revealed that in 2014, remote working was at its highest since records began in 1998. So with more people working remotely, how will IT departments cope with a likely increase in infrastructure issues that impact telecommuting? What can IT pros do to prepare themselves for the summer strain on their network?

The key to a robust summer IT infrastructure is preparation. From ensuring employees are sufficiently equipped to seamlessly work remotely, to making sure the network is ready to handle the remote working needs of the business. But with remote working come challenges around connectivity, bandwidth, application compatibility, inaccessibility of shared devices (printer, scanner, etc.) and more. The below tips can help IT pros keep their IT infrastructure from overheating during the summer months.

1) Don’t let the network go down

High network availability is critical, even over the summer period. IT pros need to ensure they have a backup line in place, which is ready to kick in should the primary one go down. For business continuity, it is essential to assess the risks in advance and have recovery plans in place. For fault tolerance, have secondary routers and firewalls on standby. It’s important to think not only of recovery, but also to plan ahead for process and performance restoration. For unplanned network configuration changes and errors, IT pros should have the control and means to restore config settings to earlier states.

Monitoring network device interfaces to identify when typically high traffic occurs allows IT pros to implement network optimization measures. IT pros should also monitor the entire network infrastructure and be alerted for network performance issues and baseline deviations. These are key indicators for detecting downtime. Being proactive can give IT pros the edge to fix issues before they impact the network. Again, if it is the IT pro who is out of the office, make sure to set up mobile alerts on node failures to stay continuously informed about the health of the network.

2) Look beyond the network 

The systems infrastructure, both physical and virtual, is critical to ensuring high business performance. Application and server health performance monitoring is vital and can reduce reports of “email is slow”, “the database is not responsive” and “the website isn’t loading”. Make sure applications are all in good health and not reporting any performance issues. This includes email, database, Web server, domain controller, DNS, DHCP, FTP, etc. Monitor elements across the application stack—from the applications running on servers, physical and virtual server hardware, down to datastores and external storage arrays. Any chink in the systems infrastructure can impact application performance for remote employees.

With team members logging on remotely, it is important to be wary of server workload issues. Regularly check with baselines to predict when the utilization could go up against resource availability and be prepared! Proper capacity planning and load-balancing methods can prevent expected overload spikes from clogging up server and application performance.

3) Be equipped for remote working

As employees take the opportunity to work remotely, IT pros equally need to be prepared to tackle their help desk tickets remotely. Remote IT administration tools are available to allow IT pros to enable screen sharing with end-user computers wherever they are situated—with or without VPN connectivity—and troubleshoot issues remotely.

It is important to be able to remote control computers both inside and outside the network firewall. Whether the end-user is travelling, out on a holiday, or working from home, if there is a business need to provide IT support, then IT pros must find the right tools to deliver on-time support. Remote support tools enable support technicians to not just access the remote computer, but also be prepared with the right set of tools to troubleshoot issues quickly. This includes the ability to manage servers and workstations, reboot systems, start/stop processes and services, view and clear event logs, and unlock user accounts and reset passwords.

There are remote control tools that allow remote access from mobile devices allowing IT pros, should they be out of the office or travelling, to address critical issues remotely and provide on-the-go support. Finally, IT pros should also implement a central alerting system to auto-escalate issues to the right IT personnel providing back up if they’re away.

While the summer period can be busy, both in the office and in the sun, it is important to ensure IT infrastructure is set before the out of office is turned on. A robust summer IT infrastructure takes a little preparation but will avoid challenges of connectivity and business performance in the long run.