The 3 Key IT Systems You Need To Support Today’s Hybrid Workplace
In the aftermath of the pandemic, hybrid working became the norm – where working from home was standard and trips to the office were rare. But this landscape is changing, with 90% of companies intending to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024(1). Big tech firms – including Google, Meta and Amazon – have asked their staff to spend more time in the office (2), and even Zoom requires their people to be in at least two days per week (3)
But employees like work flexibility. A study by Bankrate found that 68% of full-time workers would support a hybrid working model (4) – but for hybrid working to achieve optimal effectiveness at your organisation, your people need to have the same experience when working in the office as they do anywhere else. This means that people working remotely cannot be disadvantaged and should have access to the same technology as office-based workers (webcams, microphones and shared whiteboards, for example.)
In this article, we’ll look at three key IT systems you’ll need in your business to support both home and office workers:
- Tools to streamline communication and collaboration
- Cloud computing applications to enable access from anywhere
- Cyber Security and Data Privacy solutions to protect your organisation
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1 – Communication and Collaboration Tools
Strong lines of communication are essential when people aren’t necessarily in the office daily. You need systems in place to ensure everyone – wherever they may be – knows what they’re supposed to be doing, without feeling like they’re out of the loop if it’s one of their days at home.
At the same time, your people need to be able to collaborate with each other, wherever they’re working at any given time. Any delays or obstacles to efficient collaboration could lead to drops in productivity.
Let’s examine three examples of communication and collaboration technology.
1.1 – Instant Messaging Platforms
When you roll out an instant messaging platform in your business, you gain several key advantages:
- Your employees can connect with each other wherever they are. You can create rooms for pleasure as well as business, to recreate the social side of the office
- IM is fast, so when someone has a question, they can get an answer quickly. No more back-and-forth emails
- IM works across devices, including mobile, so even if you can’t check your email, you can always participate through instant messaging
1.2 – Video Conferencing Software
Where video conferencing can really make a difference is that it opens up new markets. For example, it’s easier (and cheaper) for your sales teams to make deals across borders, by conducting demos over video rather than in-person. Face-to-face interactions can now be screen-to-screen.
Microsoft Teams is a well-known example of video conferencing software that offers video, audio calls and instant messaging on one platform (5).
1.3 – Document Management and Collaboration Software
Document management and collaboration software combines time management, task tracking, resource allocation, budgeting and other functions into one platform, accessible from anywhere. Whether your people are remote or in the office, you can plan and track tasks, deadlines and resources, ensuring efficient project coordination and seamless collaboration.
Your tool can be the hub of your entire workspace, ensuring everyone knows where they stand as they bring the project to life. Investing in a great project management solution and ensuring widespread adoption can be your competitive edge, helping you to move faster and make quicker changes.
SharePoint Office Online by Microsoft helps teams run projects together in a hybrid environment, allowing teams to create portals for each project, where they can share and manage content, knowledge and applications (6). It can transform workplace processes from simple notifications to complex operational processes. And, of course, it integrates with other Microsoft 365 Business Premium solutions.
2 – Cloud Computing Solutions
The cloud is the infrastructure that enables hybrid working to run smoothly. Before the cloud, your IT system – network, software, storage – sat in physical rooms on your premises. Logging in remotely was possible, but it was often fiddly and unreliable. But today, cloud computing solutions make the hybrid workplace model a reality.
Cloud computing works for business because it’s:
- Scalable – As your business grows and you need to add capacity, the cloud makes it easy
- Flexible – You only pay for the services you need, and you can add or take away services as you go
- Accessible – Whether they’re remote or in the office, employees can access the system and share data seamlessly
Let’s look at three examples of cloud computing solutions.
2.1 – Cloud Storage Services
When you utilise cloud storage services in your organisation, your documents are accessible to your people regardless of where they are. They can create, amend and share files and documents without the need for local servers. But there are other benefits too:
- Security – Cloud storage is more secure than local storage as your data is distributed across a network of data centres. If one goes down, another automatically takes over storage
- Collaborative – The cloud allows multiple users to collaborate on the same file in real-time without fear of version control issues
- Scalable – The cloud is more cost-effective than any physical storage solution, with the ability to add more storage when you need it
Azure Cloud Services by Microsoft, for example, makes managing your cloud applications simple and scalable, allowing you to build and deploy cloud applications and services in minutes (7).
For more basic cloud storage, save files to OneDrive Sharepoint, where authorised team members can easily access files, collaborate and share (8).
2.2 – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a cloud solution that allows users to access their work desktop and all their applications, so they can work easily wherever they are, receiving a consistent user experience across their devices.
VDI helps your employees work in a hybrid way without losing productivity. It’s faster, more cost-effective and more secure than locally stored desktops. It’s also easier for your IT team to manage, as they’re not fixing individual desktops as often.
Azure Virtual Desktop is Microsoft’s VDI solution (9). It takes minutes to set up, allowing your teams to access the apps they use daily, wherever they are. It also has built-in smart security to keep your business applications secure and compliant with regulations.
2.3 – Cloud-Based Collaboration Platforms
When teams work on local files, only one user is typically allowed to open the file at a time. This slows down collaboration. You also get version control issues as users make their own saved files, but no one knows what the latest version is supposed to look like. Cloud collaboration eliminates this, as all changes are instantly incorporated into the file and stored in the cloud.
Microsoft 365 is an excellent example of a cloud collaboration platform, bringing together the suite of solutions we all know (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), but with real-time collaboration accessible from anywhere (10). For example, two of your employees could build a PowerPoint deck together, one in the office and one on their sofa. For a broader range of Microsoft solutions, including SharePoint, Exchange and Defender, you can upgrade to Office 365 Business Premium (11).
3 – Security and Data Privacy Solutions
Hybrid working means a greater dependence on technology, bringing new security risks. Cyber attackers know that companies rely on the cloud-based solutions discussed in the previous section. They play a cat-and-mouse game with software vendors to exploit vulnerabilities and breach defences. In addition, keeping hybrid work secure requires your employees to be more responsible for keeping passwords safe, not falling for scams or opening files containing malware. While you can educate your employees on cyber safety, you can never guarantee total adherence.
To protect sensitive information and maintain compliance in a hybrid workplace, organisations must employ robust security and data privacy solutions, including:
- Endpoint security
- Virtual Private Networks
- Data Loss Prevention
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
3.1 – Endpoint Security Solutions
Endpoint security solutions protect your business from unauthorised access or data disclosure at the points where your devices connect to your network and can be used by your employees.
These solutions safeguard your devices, protect your data from being lost or stolen and stop people who should not have access from infiltrating your system. They’re especially important for remote employees who might be logging on to your system from public Wi-Fi on their phones or tablets, preventing data loss, whether deliberate or accidental.
3.2 – Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Platforms
DLP systems monitor data transmission in your business, preventing sensitive data from leaving your organisation. They help ensure compliance with data protection regulations and reduce the risk of breaches.
Either on purpose or inadvertently, your employees may try to share or use sensitive data in a way that would compromise your security and compliance. Your DLP system is there to flag this up and stop it from happening. In a hybrid model, a DLP system works seamlessly on your premises, in the cloud and on endpoint devices.
Utilise integrated platforms to take DLP up a level. With data auditing, tracking and labelling capabilities, these platforms enable you to track everything that’s happening across all your systems. By sharing intelligence between solutions, you get coverage of your entire IT estate on one single pane of glass, presented with context and detail.
As you can see, there’s much to consider when implementing a hybrid working model in your organisation. Each one of the aspects we’ve discussed so far should be considered, as it’s not about the individual tools you use but the whole network you create. Optimise how you integrate your hybrid work tech stack, so your teams can work together effectively and reduce repetitive manual tasks.
An MSP – like Doherty Associates – can help set up and upgrade your systems for today’s hybrid workplace, delivering significant productivity and collaboration benefits across your workforce. Unlock the power of the hybrid workplace with these essential systems and revolutionise your business.
- Forbes – Nine Out Of 10 Companies Will Require Employees To Return To The Office
- The Guardian – ‘Never again’: is Britain finally ready to return to the office?
- BBC.com – The CEOs drawing a hard line on return-to-office policies
- CNBC.com – 90% of companies say they’ll return to the office by the end of 2024
- SharePoint Collaboration
- Azure Cloud Services
- OneDrive Sharepoint
- Azure Virtual Desktop
- Microsoft 365
- Office 365 Business Premium