April 15, 2024

How hybrid work patterns change end-user computing

As part of the slow return to office work after Covid-19 lockdowns, IT leaders have had to address hybrid work patterns. How does IT support people who choose not to be in the office full time or who work primarily remotely?

Hopefully the idea of ​​someone coming into the office to replace or fix a PC will be a thing of the past. While IT previously had a relatively good idea of ​​what software and hardware users needed, hybrid and remote working means there is now more emphasis on collaboration and conferencing tools.

An example of how this affects IT buyers is illustrated in a recent article on Computer Weekly’s sister title, Microscope, by Neil MacDonald, HP Channel Director for the UK and Ireland. MacDonald discusses a collaboration between HP and Poly to create a “hybrid by design” product portfolio, which aims to improve the quality of peripherals for hybrid work setups.

“Our collaborative effort offers cutting-edge video conferencing solutions, cameras, headsets, voice technology and software, all designed to empower customers to achieve equitable meetings between remote and in-person participants,” he says.

An example is the Poly Voyager Free 60 headphones, which are designed to ensure clear and uninterrupted communication by effectively minimizing background noise.

Hybrid workplace safety

While there is a new focus on collaboration tools, IT teams still need to give users access to the business software they need to get their work done. Remote and hybrid working means there is a need to ensure teams can easily communicate and connect to corporate IT systems no matter where individual team members are located.

All of these things must be accomplished as IT security chiefs address enterprise data leakage and ensure that employees do not import corporate data into unvetted applications or connect to the corporate network in an insecure manner.

User education and security awareness programs have an important role to play, as Olivia Rofe, cybersecurity expert at PA Consulting, explains: “We must ensure that all employees receive relevant cybersecurity training on how to work securely. from home or away from home. out-of-office locations.

In Rofe’s experience, regular training should be used in a way that allows for continued development of cybersecurity skills and should include phishing simulations. “Gone are the days of leaving security to the IT or cyber team. “It is important for people to understand the role they play in the broader security of an organization, both in their behavior and how they do their work,” she says.

This training should work in conjunction with security policies and a strategy designed in a way that reduces the risk of user error leading to a security breach.

Lionel Garacotche, IT Cybersecurity Architecture Technical Office Leader at Airbus Protect, describes three main security scenarios that IT teams must manage. The first is “trustless,” whereby IT assets can only be used with a virtual private network (VPN) and no lateral communication is allowed. This, he claims, must be properly controlled and tightened.

Second is “partial trust,” which offers a way to provide the user with a secondary activity controlled by a cloud access or endpoint detection and response (EDR) security agent.

The third scenario is what Garacotche describes as “whatever,” which envisions bring your own device (BYOD) or uncontrolled IT assets. Here, access is only available for “public” applications or through a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to provide access to internal applications.

The challenge for IT security leaders is that hybrid work does not work the same way as office work. Rowland Johnson, president of Crest, the international nonprofit body that represents the global cybersecurity industry, warns that IT leaders cannot rely on a security operations center (SOC) to detect anomalies and threats coming from of remote workers. SOCs, he says, work on data sets about what normal traffic and behavior look like. Any deviation from this can be quickly identified.

“With working patterns so different and flexible now, there is no clear ‘new normal’, making it increasingly difficult for SOCs to identify normal/abnormal behaviours,” he says.

computer modernization

Beyond the security implications of hybrid work, IT leaders must also consider the IT equipment in the physical workspace needed to support users and the hardware and software needed by employees who may spend only part of the job. of your working hours in an office environment.

Many companies upgraded their PCs during the pandemic and have not yet replaced them, or are upgrading them at a much slower pace. This has caused a decrease in the purchase of new desktop and mobile computing hardware. But remote and hybrid work patterns have led manufacturers to modify and adapt products to address increased use of online conferencing and collaboration tools that have quickly become key to employee productivity.

Upgrading older PC hardware is also aided by the need for more powerful processors to run artificial intelligence (AI)-based business applications.

Supporting hybrid work

Ericsson, a global provider of telecommunications equipment, is one of HP’s largest customers. The PC maker supports a hybrid workforce through a global agreement that covers more than 90% of Ericsson devices, spanning some 130,000 users in 140 countries. Employees can choose from several laptop models tailored to their functions. Once selected, the devices are prepared and shipped to your home or office. The user provides their email, completes multi-factor authentication, and, according to Lee Elliot, head of offering execution for HP Workforce Solutions in Northwest Europe, the device is ready in 10 minutes.

HP EliteBook models are equipped with 5G capabilities and military-grade encryption to support staff who need to work anywhere. Applications are accessed through the cloud and there is an HP repair and repair agreement, so staff uptime is protected with devices that are simply swapped out for new replacements if necessary.

Kieren Jessop, research analyst at Canalys, believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will increase demand for more powerful PC hardware: “Roadmaps for the integration of AI capabilities into devices have already been outlined, and several products are being launched. exhibited at the HP Imagine event. [in October] and other providers will follow suit. Canalys predicts that adoption of AI-enabled PCs will accelerate from 2025 onwards, and that such devices will account for around 60% of all PCs shipped in 2027.”

For example, the new Chromebook Plus devices are equipped with more powerful hardware that supports features such as AI-assisted background noise cancellation and video enhancement technology for video and audio conferencing. Premium PC makers have also been boosting the AI ​​capabilities of their devices to support hybrid working.

Printers in a hybrid world

The latest research from analyst Quocirca shows that the changing purpose of the office will continue to focus on collaboration and connection. The one from Quocirca Future of worc The study found that 37% of participants consider in-person collaboration as the most important benefit of the office. One obvious conclusion is that IT buyers will need fewer office printers.

Louella Fernandes, an analyst at Quocirca, believes that one of the challenges of creating a hybrid work environment is configuring printers so that anyone who enters the office can easily use them. Cloud printing offers a way to simplify printer setup.

In the past, office space would have been organized around large multifunction devices, providing central access to printing, scanning and copier functions. While they still exist, some office spaces are now making greater use of workgroup or A4 printers that better suit hybrid work patterns.

While printers may be visible on the corporate network, it can often be difficult for users to determine the location of the nearest printer. Fernandes says that 60% of corporate data loss occurs because paper is left in printer output trays. In one case, she says, someone brought confidential printouts to a school as waste paper for children to scribble on.

While Quocirca found that only 11% of organizations currently operate in a paperless environment, 75% are accelerating paper digitization initiatives. Although back-to-office policies will help print volumes recover in some sectors, Quocirca believes there is an opportunity for print providers to develop products and services around delivering workplace technology that supports hybrid workers.

Evolving challenges in the hybrid workplace

The pace of innovation means that new products and services are constantly being developed. Some of these will inevitably gain traction among hybrid workers, especially if the new product provides functionality superior to IT-approved corporate software. AI aimed at employee productivity is one such category of software.

Quocirca research shows that 56% of organizations plan to use AI and machine learning. Whether they work in an office full-time or are hybrid workers, AI is likely to create a risk that organizational data will be leaked or that employees may use data in a way that violates data protection laws. .

“It is always difficult to determine what the future will look like, but we know for sure that remote work will remain. We need to focus on making sure employees are aware and understand the increased level of threat we face,” says Garacotche.

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