WAN (Wide Area Network) optimisation is one of the key drivers behind the increase in remote working, enabling networks to speed up bandwidth-hungry applications, relieve traffic congestion and reduce latency across remote branch offices.
The number of workers who will work part of the time from home will increase to 30% of the UK population by the end of 2012, prompted in part by the expected increase in travel congestion caused by the London Olympics and rising cost of transportation. The ability to use ‘dead’ time which is often lost through travelling can improve productivity.
Furthermore, remote working can improve business continuity, should the normal workplace become unavailable. These are just a few of the drivers for the increase in working remotely.
I have successfully completed a large number of optimisation projects for multinational IT organisations and believe that the use of WAN optimisation has made it much easier for companies of all sizes to extract the best possible performance from their existing infrastructures when it is not feasible for them to upgrade equipment or bandwidth.
From my experience, I am seeing more and more employees being encouraged to work from home to reduce traffic congestion and their carbon footprint. Indeed, many offices are now becoming ‘virtual’ offices with the majority of staff being home-based for better efficiency and to provide an improved work-life balance for the individual. Transport costs are also a major factor as fuel prices and train fares continue to rise relentlessly.
Whilst many companies have their head office based in well-serviced areas such as London, they often have many branch offices located around the country and some of these areas are too remote for high speed internet access to be financially viable.
This means that local users must tolerate low bandwidth connections to access resources from their head office or data centre. WAN optimisation covers many areas which are of significant interest to companies with remote branch offices and who are struggling with performance.
These areas include:
1. Application Performance Monitoring
You must first baseline the end-user experience for each of your sites and understand the performance of applications before you can make an informed decision on how to improve them.
2. WAN Governance
Performance sensitive applications such as voice, video and Citrix remote desktop require a minimum level of bandwidth in order to provide an acceptable level of service. WAN Governance can ensure these applications are protected from other traffic flows.
3. WAN Acceleration
Large bulky traffic such as file transfers, e-mail and web-based applications can significantly benefit from WAN Acceleration. This technique allows data to be sent much faster across existing WAN connections through data reduction and acceleration techniques, overcoming some of the limitations of TCP/IP which can often restrict traffic flow on high latency links.
Whilst these techniques can significantly improve remote offices with low bandwidth links, they are also highly effective at improving larger sites as well. Companies which rely on accessing centralised resources and/or use sensitive applications such as Voice over IP and Video see great benefits in employing these solutions, even when their bandwidth usage does not appear to be excessive.
Most of us are used to having access to a high speed broadband connection at home, but often it can be difficult or cost prohibitive to provide high speed reliable connections to remote offices due to distance from local access points and variations in line quality.
WAN optimisation can increase application performance significantly and make optimal use of your existing bandwidth, however restricted. It can help to improve the end-user experience of a remote user to be more alike to the performance they would experience where they connected to the local area network (LAN), and that has to be worthwhile investment.