While the workplace of the future has long been possible, few businesses were adequately prepared for the speed and urgency at which they would need to develop such an environment — until the global COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked digital transformation.
Seemingly overnight, organisations were faced with two choices: they could either rethink their traditional ideas on productivity and ultimately rely on new technologies and infrastructures to create a productive remote-working environment or they would need to cease operations.
Many embraced the challenge and chose the former, marking a mass work-from-home migration. Of course, reinventing the traditional office presented its obstacles, but one thing was made abundantly clear: the virtual workplace of the future can be anywhere that is sufficiently connected.
Here are five reasons why connectivity will underpin the workplace of the future:
1. Emerging technologies are highly reliant on connectivity
Organisations depend on emerging technologies to complete day-to-day tasks. These devices and software all need reliable, high-speed connectivity to communicate.
Vino Govender, Executive: Strategy, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Innovation at Dark Fibre Africa, believes that the mix of access technologies organisations will rely on to service end-users, even where fibre is how they directly access the connectivity, the backhaul and core will default to fibre owing to the capacity and performance capabilities.
“Emerging and maturing technologies, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and machine learning applications that use big data sets and run on cloud applications are bandwidth-intensive and often require ultra-low latency”
5G will definitely have a role to play, but DFA has a saying: “as networks become more wireless, they become more fixed”. This is true for 5G as well when considering the fronthaul requirements.
2. Cybersecurity solutions are continually evolving and can be scaled to address risks at all layers
Reliable cybersecurity across all layers – platform, application, connectivity, and device – is critical for the adoption and use of digital services. This is because employees who now have to work from home may need to access sensitive company information from a whole new range of devices, like smartphones, tablets, or computers, that were previously intended for personal use.
Cybersecurity platforms and applications now provide a more scalable approach to unified threat management at all layers in a technology-agnostic manner, improving their resilience against attacks and enabling organisations to meet mandatory regulatory and internal policy and audit requirements. There will always be attacks, but what is important is reducing the probability of and vulnerability to intrusion by hackers and malware.
3. Increased accessibility to big data is possible with sufficient connectivity
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that many people live in and interact with the world. This means that organisations of the future are going to need to rely on big data to examine how their consumers’ needs have changed.
But often this information is so large and so complex that it would be almost impossible to analyse without the help of AI and machine-learning-enabled applications that are built in the cloud. Hence, connectivity to the cloud is imperative.
To spot new growth opportunities, get a clearer idea of customer preferences, or create more targeted solutions, businesses increasingly rely on these capabilities to develop new digitally enhanced operating models.
4. Connectivity increases the potential for scalable, cloud computing
The cloud has enabled organisations to scale enhanced security and tools quickly to a suddenly remote workforce as part of efforts to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery.
Virtual businesses can use the cloud to roll out new tools to employees, keep their networks secure, and even improve operational efficiency from anywhere in the world thanks to the agile nature of the connected cloud.
However, working with the cloud would not be entirely useful unless employees are able to gain reliable access to the information, processes, and applications that they need to complete their daily tasks, which is why investing in the right connectivity infrastructure is so important.
5. Connectivity can blend the physical working world with digital innovation
“Connectivity has enabled the blending of the physical world with the digital world into a single entity that is going to thoroughly change the way we work and do business,” says Govender. This will evolve as the world further adopts emerging and maturing technologies.
The kind of high-speed connectivity that fibre provides enables the workplace of the future to seamlessly integrate the physical world with the digital one via technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. This could spell the end of physical offices as employees increasingly default to virtual meetings, host virtual conferences, or interact with one another from remote working locations
“Emerging technologies and the applications that they enable are bandwidth-heavy and dependent on ultra-low-latency connectivity, which requires robust infrastructure,” says Govender. “The capital-intensive nature of digital-infrastructure investment is a challenge that can be addressed through network-planning optimisation (physical and active), technology choice, business models, funding structures, and a strategy that drives efficient scale.
The wholesale open-access business model – which eliminates the duplication of infrastructure – aggregates common demand on common infrastructure and enables connectivity to scale in South Africa. Luckily for virtual offices of the future, fibre to the business (FTTB) deployment in South Africa is on an upward trajectory and network stability and high-speed connectivity is better than ever.
Govender continues to say that fibre will be behind of a range of access technologies (including fibre-based metro Ethernet, GPON, and NG-PON as well as wireless mediums, such as 5G and other fixed-wireless-access technologies) that will ultimately enable businesses to effectively use cloud-based services and a growing number of intelligent and Internet-enabled technologies. Quality of services and broadband access will be the de facto choice for business access, and these unprecedented times have proven that fibre connectivity is critical to the longevity of a company.