In response to COVID-19, many companies have been forced to adopt a new work-from-home environment that was completely absent from their strategic plan prior to the emergence of the pandemic. In order to support this objective to keep their employees, customers and partners safe, companies need to adopt, or at least optimize, communications infrastructure and IT capabilities to serve a widely dispersed group of people. In addition, home networks (typically DSL or cable modems) must have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate those desired applications, including audio and video. Of course, everything must be done with the level of IT security necessary to keep data properly protected. To that end, 85% of surveyed IT professionals are somewhat- to extremely worried about cyberattacks that can be launched against home users.

As the need for employees to work from home shows essentially no sign of abating, here are a few things to consider, based on feedback from AVANT professionals as well as guidance from our vendor partners.

For companies with older on-site systems, it’s imperative to consider the consequences of granting access to remote end-users, particularly when you’re managing a toolkit of applications that isn’t universally cloud-based. According to Heather Riley, the director of channel marketing at contact center solutions provider Talkdesk, the best way to stay resilient and adapt to work-from-home routines is by implementing digital solutions that work well with systems you already have. Companies should have a thorough understanding of how new applications will integrate with existing ones, or risk wasting money on ineffective solutions. She said, “Augmenting existing on-premises systems with modern, intelligent cloud contact center applications will accelerate a company’s digital transformation and quickly increase their flexibility to offer the option of working from home.”

According to Greg Franzen, regional vice president of strategic partners at Vonage, “Employees working from home should have stable and fast internet” and have access to secondary connection options via 4G hotspots enabled by SD-WAN appliances.”

Cloud VPN is an option worthy of consideration. This technology allows users to securely connect to data center applications over the public Internet. In the midst of the pandemic, 43% of surveyed IT professionals rank VPN-related issues as their largest concern.

Laura Bassett, the senior director of product marketing at NICE inContact, warns that VPNs come with their own challenges if you’re trying to accommodate too many employees, and “performance considerations based on bandwidth (throughput) of your VPN,” and can require expanding capacity or software. “Failure to consider these items may result in your organization having to choose which employees can access the network, and which cannot.”

Where bandwidth from home WiFi networks is lacking, mobile connectivity allows users to connect to the Internet using a cellular data plan. This connection is done via a mobile hotspot, a dedicated, carrier-supplied device (ex. Verizon, AT&T) that provides an ad hoc wireless access point. WFH users can then connect to the device using their laptops or mobile devices, without relying upon their home Internet connections.

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is a technology offering that combines collaboration (chat, presence, file sharing, video calls); conferencing (audio, video, web, screen share); and PBX services (voice, SMS, fax, and more) – all from a single cloud platform. Users can access UCaaS from corporate handsets (desk phones), mobile phones, and desktops/laptops/ tablets. It truly allows employees to work from anywhere and carry out meetings as if everyone was in the same room.

Dan Connell, the chief strategy/revenue officer at Dialpad, pointed out that the “WFH experiment” places voice, video, text and mobile use at the forefront of working life, and companies need to know the best tools to create effective communication.

Mitel’s Regional Vice President of Channel Sales Jim McGarry said, “It’s amazing how much human interaction you can facilitate through a video conversation — it’s a way to have a connection without being there … If a kid or dog pops up on video, embrace it!” Cloud-based tools like UCaaS centralize collaboration from video conferencing to instant messaging and are now essential to everyday operations. With centralized communications and proper onboarding, working together becomes as seamless as it was in the office.

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) delivers all the separate parts that comprise a conventional contact center – including interactive voice response (IVR), automatic call distribution (ACD), computer telephony integration (CTI), email, text, chat, social media channels, and quality management – delivered through a cloud-based service that supports remote call center agents.

Secure Email Gateways provide pre-delivery protection by blocking email-based threats before they reach a mail server. This is accomplished by scanning all email communications for signs of malicious or harmful content. This is especially relevant now, as cybercriminals are leveraging coronavirus to support a wide variety of phishing schemes. Security awareness training is an important countermeasure, as well.

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) allows business to virtualize their desktop experience, and deliver all the applications employees need to be productive and available on any device, including laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, etc. It’s also more secure since no sensitive data is actually stored on the end device.

Leveraging their deep knowledge of systems and applications and access to tools like AVANT Pathfinder, your Trusted Advisor can recommend a safe, cost-effective solution for navigating new challenges, ensuring that your company is on the proper path forward to success in this new paradigm.

Drew Lydecker is President of AVANT Communications