The Cloud Journey: How to Create Secure and Affordable Remote Workplaces in the Shortest Terms

The difficult situation in Russia and worldwide has become a true test for businesses. Striving not only to survive but also to maintain the given development vector, the enterprises from all sectors of the economy learn to operate efficiently in new realities. Today I will share with you the experience of Softline in quickly organizing secure and affordable telework of employees by using cloud technologies.

A month ago, hardly anybody could have imagined that the borders would be closed, planes would cease to fly, resorts and office centers would go empty, and people would have to leave their homes and apartments only in case of emergency. But life, including business, never stops even for a minute. Companies actively transfer employees to telecommuting wherever possible. Organizing a remote workplace entails solving problems associated with the load on communication channels. Here, from my point of view, there may be two optimal scenarios.

Everybody get out of office!

The first involves using the VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) services. In this case, enterprise employees get virtual workplaces with the operating system, necessary documents, and applications that are not available to other users. For several weeks in a row, Softline has been seeing a huge demand for VDI services from our corporate clients. The popularity of such services will only grow over the years, as well as the demand for the second option, the implementation of which is associated with the transfer of IT infrastructure to a cloud data center.

Once the scenario of organizing remote workstations has been chosen, the business will need to solve the security issues. Yes, on-premise infrastructure is equipped with powerful cybersecurity tools that successfully block external and internal threats. But how to secure corporate resources if home-office employees can connect to them from anywhere? How to identify such employees? How do we know that their accounts have not been hijacked by cybercriminals who want to steal confidential information and make the company go bankrupt? Without an answer to these important questions, it is impossible to transfer specialists to remote work.

Clouds save the day

The specialists of Softline, which has many years of experience in implementing Russian and foreign cloud projects, are sure that the most effective way to streamline teleworking is to use cloud services only. A lot has been said and written about their wide functionality and ability to solve almost any IT issue. However, the unprecedented trials and challenges of the present day, which we have never faced before but will certainly overcome, will demonstrate all the advantages of cloud services to businesses. Yes, today it is unlikely that anyone will be able to predict, forecast, and plan for tomorrow. No one knows how the situation will develop. Therefore, companies that lack resources to create remote jobs will not buy expensive computing power to support their business. Investments are unlikely to be feasible because once the epidemiological situation stabilizes, additional hardware will become unnecessary. 

Clouds are another matter. Instead of buying and installing its own servers, the company leases them from a provider and manages them over the Internet, paying only for the data processing and storage equipment actually used. Vendors promote cloud services on a lease basis, which implies monthly payments without significant upfront costs. 

A highly demanded solution 

At Softline, we have analyzed our customers' requests over the last month and came to the conclusion that one of the most popular remote workplace solutions is our branded cloud powered by VMware virtualization platform. Connecting to it does not require solving any organizational tasks: just send the request to the provider. The user will get access to the service in the shortest possible time. 

The customer can choose from several methods of connecting to the Softline cloud. The first option offered by the provider is that the client can publish its applications using the built-in platform tools. The second way is using an L2 VPN. If the client for some reason is not ready to organize a cross-connection to our data center, we will do this ourselves. Finally, the client can organize an L3 VPN tunnel to connect to the service. 

I have encountered cases when a customer that already used VMware virtualization required additional resources. In my opinion, the Softline cloud is the best choice in such a situation. We have a special add-on, Cloud Availability, that integrates the cloud resources you get directly into your own IT infrastructure and migrates virtual machines to it.

What are the guarantees?

Most businesses have long since realized the benefits of cloud services. But some companies still ask: "What tools will ensure reliable and fail-safe operation in the cloud?” Having worked for many years in Softline's cloud department, I can confidently say that the most important provider selection criterion is its data center. 

For example, Softline uses TIER III data centers equipped with uninterruptible power supply, fire suppression, and HVAC systems. Customers can rest assured in the reliability and safety of services provided by Softline. The company's regional sites are located in such cities as St. Petersburg, Kazan, Ekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. In Moscow, virtualization clusters are distributed into two TIER III-certified sites: Ixcellerate Moscow One data center and DataLine data center.
Customers can host their virtual machines at both Softline sites in Moscow, linking two parts of their infrastructure with one L2 network. Thus, they have everything required to create not only a fault-tolerant but also a disaster-resilient geo-redundant solution. 

Now it's time to say a few words about the geo-redundant cloud by Softline. Its architecture enables the customer to distribute clustered services into two data centers. Moreover, those services that are not clustered or duplicated in the client's network can be hosted in a special cloud zone. If one physical data center fails completely, the High Availability mechanism will restart the virtual machines in the second data center. This approach will minimize system downtime. 

On the legal side, the client receives maximum guarantees from Softline. Every agreement strictly regulates the requirements to service availability and continuity. The company concludes a service level agreement with the customer and provides financial guarantees for compliance with it. This is the only way to confirm our position as a market leader.

Outlook for the future: the further, the better

Market analysis shows a very important and interesting trend. The whole world has been enjoying all the advantages of telecommuting for a long time. For example, it eliminates or reduces office rental expenses. In addition, the level of responsibility and independence of employees increases. In our country, the challenges of the present day have literally forced the business to take a fresh look at organizing the work of its employees. Telecommuting today is not just in plans and cautious pilot projects of individual companies, but the reality in which entire industries live today and will continue to live in the future. Like I said earlier, this will result in further growth of demand in teleworking services.

Another trend that will be particularly relevant next year is the adoption of distance learning technologies in the educational process. Schools and universities across the country are switching to remote education. Pupils, students, and teachers have already appreciated the convenience and accessibility of this format of learning. And, of course, there will be a growing need for new information security technologies capable of effectively protecting end-user devices and communication channels.

Finally, my personal opinion is that the coworking format will be developed even more actively than before. Of course, after quarantine is lifted, many companies will switch to telecommuting. However, this does not mean that employees will not need to come together to solve the most complex or creative tasks. Time will tell.

 

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Vladimir Alexandrov
Head of Direction vCloud

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