When employees work from an office, the network team is responsible for application access and delivery. The network team is responsible for identifying issues where employees can not access applications or application performance is degraded due to network performance.
In a remote work or work-from-anywhere environment, the responsibility of identifying and troubleshooting access and performance issues still falls on the network team. When it comes to remote workers, Level 1-2 techs need to be able to identify network access and performance issues for end users accessing business applications.
They need to be able to:
- Understand the scope and severity of the issue so that they can prioritize appropriately and understand if they need to escalate to level 3.
- Understand the impact on end users so that they can document and communicate the incident to the affected end users.
- Understand the cause of the issue so they can know which resources to call (ISP, CASB supplier, application owner, Security team, device issue, etc.) and understand when the issue might be resolved.
However, the problem space has changed. There are several environmental challenges that limit NetOps visibility into application performance.
Remote work visibility challenges for NetOps teams
In modern remote work environments, it’s common to have three different routing options for traffic: direct to internet (no tunnel), corporate VPN, and a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB). There are often routing rules in place where specific applications use one route (such as the CASB) and other applications go direct to internet. The routing or tunnel being used can have a significant impact on application performance and end user experience.
CASBs are widely adopted and create a bottleneck for performance while optimizing for security. CASBs are often implemented by the security team. They make it more difficult for the network team to troubleshoot as the tunnels add complexity and reduce visibility through encryption of traffic. In a few ad hoc tests, CASB bandwidth is as low as 3Mbps and there is added security scanning time for an additional slowdown.
There are typically multiple gateways being used by each type of tunnel. For example, users in the northeast united states may have CASB traffic tunneled to gateway X, while users in central US are connecting to gateway Y. If only one gateway is causing problems, it’s difficult to determine that. This gateway issue is also applicable to corporate VPNs.
SaaS vs Corporate Applications
The percentage of companies using SaaS to meet their software needs is steadily increasing, with 80% of companies relying on SaaS apps in 2022. Whereas the remaining corporate applications are usually hosted in a data center. Remote user traffic traverses a physical network which can cause additional slowdown. This is still the responsibility of the network team to diagnose.
Remote workers typically use their own ISP. This variability is an additional challenge when trying to identify root cause.
Home Network Variables
Remote workers are also responsible for their home network. Variables such as poor Wi-Fi or congestion on the home network is an additional challenge when trying to identify root cause.
Finally, in remote work environments, location is less specific than with on-premises users. There may be users in a general geographic area that are having issues due to an ISP or gateway, but it is not as easy to use a specific site or location to identify problems.
Alluvio IQ brings visibility to remote work
By adding Alluvio Aternity end user experience metrics to Alluvio IQ, Riverbed’s SaaS-based unified observability solution, NetOps teams gain basic visibility into traffic that leave the home computer and goes to a data center or SaaS application.
IT teams can now answer problems such as:
- Which applications are having network performance issues?
- How many users are impacted? And how severe is the impact?
- How are the impacted users accessing the application? (CASB, VPN, Direct to internet)
- Which locations are affected?
- What’s causing the problem? Is the CASB / VPN causing the problem? Or a specific gateway? Is it an ISP problem, a VPN problem, or a problem with the user’s device itself?
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