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How to Rapidly Scale IT Infrastructure For Remote Workers

Rapid IT infrastructure scaling is always challenging. In March 2020, the coronavirus caused a surge in remote workers as organizations switched overwhelmingly to work-from-home policies. 

Scaling IT infrastructure to support this sudden shift proved to be a struggle for IT teams, resulting in a migration to cloud-based applications and solutions, a rush on hardware that can support a remote environment, and challenges scaling VPNs to support remote worker security. Here are some of the insights and lessons learned from IT professionals. 

Cloud Scaling

Cloud-based apps and storage have little trouble scaling to demand. Since cloud-based storage is abstracted from hardware, it can scale up and down rapidly as it needs. 

“Cloud delivered and cloud-managed options have a clear benefit in situations like these,” said Brad Casemore, IDC’s research vice president for data center networks, “where you don’t necessarily have to get to a physical location in order to manage and make changes to your infrastructure. You’re able to access the console and the management controls through the cloud.”

Cloud allows for remote access to applications and data from a variety of internet-enabled devices, ensuring productivity even if workers can’t be on site. Cloud providers can also ensure that what is stored on the cloud is kept secure, though organizations must follow a shared responsibility model with their cloud providers in order to keep their data secure on both ends.

Many organizations have been turning to the cloud in order to support off-site workers. Cloud service providers have been hiring more workers in order to support this demand.

Hybrid cloud, in particular, can be an option for organizations. They can still host their data on-premises, since the hybrid cloud model supports both private and public clouds, giving organizations a combination of flexibility and security during IT infrastructure scaling. 


Scaling Up VPNs

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a good way to ensure workers have a secure connection to their work networks, especially if the data they’re working with is highly confidential.

More workers on VPNs, however, can cause stress on the connection, and result in outages and disconnects. 

In order to ensure that an organization’s VPNs can scale correctly, Stack Overflow recommends increasing bandwidth availability, performing 24-hour stress tests when choosing a vendor, and managing licenses in order to get the maximum number of users for the best cost. 

As well, security is paramount to managing VPN scaling. Stack Overflow recommends strong encryption policies and two-factor authentication in order to ensure security on both ends of the connection. As well, organizations should follow the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s list of best practices for VPNs, which includes:

  • Updating VPNs, network infrastructure devices, and remote employees’ devices with the latest patches and configurations.

  • Implementing multi-factor authentication on all VPN connections or otherwise use strong passwords.

  • Testing VPN limitations in preparation for mass usage.

  • If possible, using tools like rate limiting to prioritize users requiring higher bandwidths

The Rush for Hardware

In times of a sudden spike in remote working, organizations may have to scramble for devices that can support their employees in their new working environment, such as computers, and VPN wireless access points and routers that ensure a secure connection to the organization’s network.

Therefore, it’s important to ensure that an organization can effectively go remote by making these devices available from the start. Some organizations are able to work entirely off of laptops and other portable devices, while still being able to perform the same functions as a desktop. Even if this is not the case, having such portable devices on hand for an emergency can help prevent bottlenecks in times of crisis.


The Aftermath of Rapid IT Scaling

When IT infrastructure needs to be scaled up, what happens when it scales down again can be a challenge. While this is no issue for cloud and software-defined infrastructure, which can scale up and down easily, the question remains: What will organizations do with leftover hardware, such as laptops and VPN wireless access point devices?

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic is a case in point, as many organizations that rushed to buy hardware for their suddenly-remote workforce are left with a surplus in the aftermath. 

“It’s hard to say,” Casemore said. “Some of [those devices] may be put into long term or temporary storage, in case something like this happens again. And some of it may be repurposed or [resold].”

Ultimately, undergoing rapid scaling is about being adaptable, and understanding the priorities and needs of a business. 

“One thing that it is showing is that human beings are adaptable in ways we probably couldn’t have anticipated,” Casemore said. “And we’re getting through this. It’s not our preference. This is not the way we want to do things. But we’re adapting as best we can, and that’s commendable.”

Key Takeaways: IT Infrastructure Scaling

  1. Rapid scaling to support a remote workforce puts stress on IT departments as they attempt to scale VPNs and hardware in time. 

  2. Cloud solutions are much easier to scale than traditional data centers and servers.

  3. VPNs need to be scaled strategically, with security in mind. 

  4. Hardware can present a bottleneck for a remote workforce.


Source: Lessing, M. (2020, April 11). How to Rapidly Scale IT Infrastructure For Remote Workers. Retrieved May 1, 2020, from https://www.sdxcentral.com/security/definitions/it-infrastructure-scaling-for-remote-workers/

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