What companies should be doing for their home workers
We are living in strange times. Locked down to our homes, thanks to COVID-19.
Hundreds and thousands of office workers have suddenly started working from home. Not only work from home but school from home, buy from home, meet from home. Everything is done remotely from home. Not surprisingly, our homes have become offices, schools, and entertainment areas. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind.
With all this, our main way to interface with the outside world is through our home’s broadband network. However, there is a sudden surge in network utilization everywhere. Networks are stressed and congested as everyone needs the bandwidth. COVID-19 has challenged and stretched networks to the maximum.
Expectation of Efficiency
Despite the conditions, companies still expect seamless business productivity from employees when working from home. Employers consider it business as usual. Employees must attend meetings, do sales calls, and run product demonstrations efficiently.
But this is not always smooth. The home networks are shared. The kids need bandwidth to attend their classes and play their online games. Congestion is common, so too are latency and packet loss. Poor application experience for employees, therefore, can translate to business and time loss.
So, what can a company do to provide a better user experience to its employees working from home? Apparently, the first step every company may think of is increasing the bandwidth. But this would not help, how?
Two Ways WAN Optimization Can Help
Some applications have a chatty nature. They communicate back and forth, which creates latency during the transaction. For example, a file transfer could involve back-and-forth communication at an application layer that could affect the completion of the transfer of the file. This will give an impression of lower speeds. Add to it the distance latency because of long links, the situation becomes worse. No amount of bandwidth can solve this kind of issue.
WAN optimization solutions, on the other hand, can considerably reduce or eliminate the latency coming from the application chattiness. This considerably reduces overall latency and improves user experience.
TCP retransmission usually happens because of network congestion. TCP provides reliable and ordered delivery of packets. TCP slowly increases the window size for transmission. As any packet loss or high latency happens, and the sender does not receive the acknowledgment from the receiver, the sender will reduce the window size to the minimum which will affect the overall throughput. Increasing bandwidth in such cases would not help.
WAN optimization, on the other hand, is intelligent enough to avoid the restart of the TCP session. It looks for the optimal packet size and sends packets only in that size. This means that bandwidth is not dropped because of the sliding window size. Along with these two issues, WAN Optimization solutions traditionally help in data de-duplication which avoids sending redundant data thus increasing the effective bandwidth a lot.
WAN Optimization for Remote Workers
When we think of WAN Optimization, we think of a dedicated appliance at our offices/data centers.
However, coming back to the COVID-19 example and the situation we are in, we must ask if WAN optimization is an option for the remote worker also? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a WAN optimization as a software agent that sits on the laptop of the user, so that they can enjoy the same benefits as the WAN optimization office appliance but from the comfort of their home?
Luckily, there are solutions in the market. Riverbed is one such company. And I came to know about this when I attended one of their webinars.
They talked about a solution called Client Accelerator that sits on the remote worker’s laptop and connects back to the WAN optimization node at the head-end node.
Client accelerator can solve all the issues associated with the congestion in the network we discussed earlier, for example
- Transport Optimization: Reduces TCP round trips and data per trip through optimal packet sizing.
- Application Acceleration: Reduces application transactions/chattiness
- Data Optimization: eliminates redundant data transfers, which can result in bandwidth saving up to 99%
Riverbed WAN optimization solutions can sit anywhere. Client Accelerator for the home user, Steelhead for the head office and for the IaaS environment, and SaaS accelerator for the SaaS cloud. This means a home user can access applications hosted anywhere and get the same experience as if sitting in the office. While all the solutions provide WAN optimization (all the above three factors), The SaaS Accelerator is a special SaaS premium service provided on top of the traditional WAN optimization to further enhance/ accelerate certain applications (for example Office 365, salesforce, etc.)
Fig: Riverbed solutions for all locations.
COVID-19 Means WAN Optimization is Indispensable
With thousands of employees working from home, companies need to think out of the box on what they can do to increase employees’ productivity and users’ experience. A poorly performing and clogged broadband network can seriously affect employees’ performance and their communication within the company and to their customers. This loss in productivity can potentially translate into lost sales opportunities.
Smart WAN optimization solutions can help solve these problems. They are already available. Companies just need to explore more.
- Scalability of Riverbed’s SD-WAN – Some Thoughts - June 5, 2020
- SD-WAN Should Simplify the Network, Not Make It Complex - May 18, 2020
- COVID-19 and Bandwidth Bottlenecks - May 11, 2020