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Challenges for IT network in making remote collaboration a reality

The pandemic of 2020 has made the concept of remote teams and remote work collaboration a reality. Previously used by digitally mature and advanced organisations, like high-tech companies, the requirement of enabling mobile work triggered by the need for social isolation across much of 2020, has forced all organisations to adapt to this new reality. Transformation of the physical workplace has been a logical consequence, whether at home or at the office. Team members whether they are part of the family working at home, or employees when they are working from the office by rotation, will usually not sit at any one physical location. They need to be able to work equally well from any place in the office work area. 

Wi-Fi network connectivity and power over the Ethernet networks, PoE, need to be ubiquitously available and scalable across such places of work. Flexibility and scalability of the Wi-Fi network access points, access to the Ethernet, and availability of Power over the Ethernet, are now prerequisites to support teams working in the new normal. While places of work, whether they are supporting the family working and schooling at home, or employees at the office premises, are transforming, on a much wider scale, networks within buildings themselves are also transforming. 

Just a few years ago, the convergence of voice into IP based, LAN data networks, was a high point of disruption and innovation. Since then, there has been a relentless trend into converging siloed networking systems into IP networks. Today, these include security systems, building management systems, access entry systems, biometric systems, digital signage, low voltage power, LED lighting.

This has spawned the term, Everything over IP or an all-IP approach in the convergence of isolated networks. The benefits of this convergence of networks are many, fuelling continuous industry innovation and end user adoption. Such, Everything over IP networks, offer significant benefits ranging from savings in power, cost, time for installation, activation, modifications and upgrades of networks. Such types of networks also reduce the chances of network failures and downtime and because of their ability to rapidly scale up or down, match today’s requirements demanded by agile organisations.

However, all these innovations and transformations are also putting pressure on the design and architecture of networks. There should be more network points and connectivity, wherever there is more employee activity. Working areas with a high density of people and devices should also have the provision to provide higher network connectivity and power usage. Creation of consolidation points allow the network to support an unlimited number of devices in theory. 

In practice, it means it should be possible to create additional network points on demand. Fibre To The Office, FTTO, is a centralised LAN cabling technology that combines passive fibre cabling with active switches and requires no floor distributors or technical rooms. Combining fibre and copper offers the advantages of a fibre infrastructure, while end user devices can be connected with a standard copper connection, guaranteeing no changes in usage and comfort for the end user. 

The benefits of such, single converged networks, that support the connectivity requirements of agile organisations, are being realised every day. Hot-desking and smart desking are now logical and functional solutions realised in the office workspace. For network administrators, managing a single network for operations, performance and efficiency offers huge time and cost savings.

By Arafat Yousef, MD, MEA, Nexans Data Network Solutions.

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