The office network has been in a near-constant state of evolution since dumb terminals and token rings. MPLS unlocked the ability to connect LANs. VPNs allowed end-users to work remotely while still being behind the firewall. Wi-Fi made intra-office travel easy and lessened reliance on extensive cabling. The WAN is slowly giving way to SD-WAN. New software and cloud-based networking componentry are allowing vendors to reimagine firewalls and routing. These things have marked significant steps in the evolution of last-mile network infrastructure.

But with the advent of SaaS applications, and a global pandemic pushing workers out of their offices, ITOps teams are facing an entirely new type of network evolution. One that is forcing them to confront the realities of the work-from-anywhere movement that is here to stay. And rising to meet this challenge will require a new focus on the end-user—and keeping them productive regardless of their location.

What is the Office Network?

Given the advent of virtual and cloud networking, it’s probably easiest to start by explaining what the modern office network isn’t. What the office network isn’t, is the DevOps network. The office network is built for end-users, whereas the DevOps network is built to support the strategic goals of an organization. For example, all of the network infrastructure required to maintain an e-comm storefront for a large retailer is the DevOps network. All of the network infrastructure required to keep that large retailer’s workforce productive is the office network.

There has been a push in recent years by network management vendors to think of the two somewhat interchangeably, but they serve vastly different purposes and are more often than not supported by different teams with different goals.

The office network is where collaboration happens. It’s where productivity happens. It’s where work gets done. So it makes sense that the most important stakeholders on the office network are end-users, and this is where things get a little dicey for ITOps teams.

Because the latest evolution of the office network isn’t about what it is, it’s where it is.

A young woman hold a baby while working on a laptop with her free hand.

The Office Network is Where?!

Once comfortably behind a firewall, and well under the purview and control of ITOps teams, the modern office network is now anywhere end-users are, and they are increasingly somewhere else. Anywhere else. And often on infrastructure that’s beyond the teams’ control. We’re talking about home networks, coffee shops, 4G & 5G hotspots, campsites, beaches, and so on. In the telecom/ISP world, this part of their infrastructure is often referred to as “the last mile” of the network—basically from the trunk line to the destination—so we’re calling this modern work-related equivalent “the last mile of the office network.

If the most important stakeholders on the office network have decided to move to this new iteration of the last mile, how does the ITOps team continue to do their job? How can we ensure a remote workforce remains safe, connected, and productive? How does a team troubleshoot a network they can’t see and don’t control?

The answer is for ITOps to focus on the things they can control—the major drivers for end-user productivity. These fall into three major categories:

  1. Network connectivity
  2. Software and application usage
  3. End-user hardware

These three categories comprise the bulk of end-user experience outcomes. Luckily, monitoring and managing these areas, regardless of end-user location, isn’t as difficult as you might think. So long as you have the right tools.

Managing the Last Mile with Auvik

Auvik has been investing in the development of tools that will allow network management to evolve alongside this changing landscape and that will lead to new ways of managing and enabling positive end-user experiences. Auvik’s platform is evolving to meet the needs of ITOps teams dealing with distributed, hybrid, and remote workforces.

We’re excited to be able to bring a series of product releases over the next year that will reimagine Auvik as a single platform for ITOps teams. These features will include:

  1. Monitoring and managing networks better than ever
  2. Discovering and managing SaaS applications and shadow IT in play across your remote workforce
  3. Unlocking end-user device visibility and management.

These new additions to Auvik will enable ITOps teams to ensure the end-users they support remain productive and happy no matter where they are, while also ensuring businesses aren’t wasting money or exposing themselves to risk through unsanctioned or unwise additional software and hardware.

IT is constantly evolving, and our tools must as well. As the need to enable new methods and locations for work and productivity continue, so too must the definition of network monitoring and management. We won’t reach the last mile of the office network with the same technology from yesterday. It’s time to enable ITOps teams to keep the workforce connected, no matter where.

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