First off, I’m going to make an assumption: I’m going to assume you—like me—have spent a lot more time online in 2020 than you ever have before.

Thanks to COVID-19, we were all at home with nowhere to go. Many people started working full-time from home, and kids were out of school for months as springtime lockdowns extended into summer holidays.

These swift and sweeping changes resulted in all of us spending a lot more time in front of screens which, in turn, has significantly changed the way we connect to and use networks.

Infinera, a network connectivity company, reported that many households have joined the “4 Comma Club” since the first quarter of the year. That means they’re using more than 1,000,000,000 bytes or 1 terabyte of data per month. It’s safe to say that’s a lot of traffic.

Take a look at what makes up the 1 terabyte of data a month, and join me at the bottom of this post for some IT takeaways.

4 Comma Club

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How does a change in COVID internet habits affect IT pros?

While the data in the infographic focuses primarily on home users, it’s important to remember who many of these home users are: They’re the end users you’re responsible for managing who are now working from home.

While you don’t control their home network, your company or your client’s end users are still looking to you to ensure they can access the applications and resources they need to do their jobs. You’re also responsible for securing that end user no matter where they are.

So let’s break down how the growth of the “4 Comma Club” affects your responsibility into two buckets—operational challenges and security challenges.

Operational challenges

In many households, you can have three, four, or five virtual meetings online at the same time. Say, for example, you have two virtual Zoom classrooms for your kids, a Microsoft Teams meeting in progress for one parent, and a Cisco WebEx meeting in progress for the other.

The bandwidth requirements of each of those sessions adds up quickly. Add in a kid who’s home from college playing Fortnite online, and a home can quickly overwhelm its available bandwidth.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard teenagers being kicked off the Xbox or PS4 because mom or dad had to finish up that Zoom call.

Security challenges

On the security side, 2020 now officially marks the end of the firewall being the perimeter of your network. It’s been in the works for a long time, but if it wasn’t official before, it is now.

You’re now responsible for the security of a user who’s sitting in a network you don’t control. And if your end users weren’t mixing business and pleasure on their corporate assets before, you can bet they are now. So how are your device usage policies evolving? What have you done to improve your security posture in an increasingly remote world?

If we turn our eyes to the corporate network, some of the changes in internet use outlined in the infographic are evident there as well.

If your organization has already fully embraced a cloud model, there’s likely next to no traffic traversing the corporate network these days. If your organization is still fully on-premises, you’ve probably experienced a rush to embrace VPN access. Is your network designed to support that?

For most organizations, you’re likely somewhere in between these two extremes, looking to support end users connecting to a mix of SaaS and on-premises resources, which you control to varying degrees. Has the toolset you use to monitor, troubleshoot, and manage this changing workforce evolved with it?

One thing’s for certain—2020 has definitely increased our reliance on the network that connects us all. Whether it’s the home network or office network, IT pros are being stretched to solve challenges that—while we could have seen coming—came at us much faster than expected.

That begs the question: How long until we make it into the 5 Comma Club?

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