Enterprise data center teams; colocation providers; and networking, Megaport, and cloud platforms all experienced the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will create change in data center protocol and the remote workforce forever.

Most companies have said having their employees work remotely has been more successful than expected. Executive teams are looking into how they can measure employee productivity, so IT teams are collecting data to find a metric. AI software will analyze the results to help companies benefit from the lessons learned.

Areas that were under pressure at the onset of the pandemic and need more attention in the future are network/connectivity/bandwidth, remote access to the data center, physical data, and operational security.

The biggest stress on the network appeared to be limitations on bandwidth. In-house corporate data center teams rushed to build out their ability to support more remote workers than ever before. The number of Zoom calls caused access issues, dropped calls, or lagged conversations. Because of this strain, companies have learned they need to upgrade their networks, bandwidth, and virtual desktop infrastructure. But upgrading enterprise data centers involves calling the fiber provider, meeting IT at the site, and overseeing the project; however, getting vendors on-site during the pandemic was delayed, and calling in IT staff was a risk.

But, typically speaking, for traditional in-house enterprise data centers, the corporate owner/operator orders the network from the carriers to build in a new line, which can take days to weeks depending on the importance of the company and the demand/traffic on the line or the location.

In a colocation or cloud site, this could be done in hours — a few days at the most. Colocation sites also have Megaport, Packet Fabric, or similar in-house services that provide connectivity to more than 300 cloud providers, so a new connection can happen in less than one hour. 

Access was also an issue. To address it, users logged onto the operator’s portal to receive remote assistance, which is a basic service. Some provide managed services with a highly trained IT staff that can perform more of the technical tasks. This allowed users to complete almost any task without having to visit the site.

If data was already in the cloud, then users could make changes even easier than a colocation site. Cloud providers have seen a massive surge in new demand. This caused some problems spinning up services, but most big cloud providers did not experience any significant disruption with clients. Most users found they could turn up services within minutes and adjust the network/telco connections within hours. This is possible because large cloud providers have resilient, scalable, and robust fiber providers on-site.

Creating a secure site was critical considering so many users were working from home. Most businesses hadn’t set their networks up to provide private, secure access to the corporate networks from remote locations. Virtual private network (VPN) capacity increased tenfold as a result. IT also expanded remote access to internal dashboards so CTOs could get updates on the performance of the network and IT infrastructure. These changes allowed companies to continue to operate from home at peak performance.

Maintaining physical security and controlled access to the data center was the next major area to address. Most all data centers at the beginning of the pandemic stopped nonessential construction, deliveries, and mechanical/electrical/plumbing/cage maintenance. Communicating this process will become standard operating procedure during a pandemic and going forward.

In conclusion, to be prepared for the next pandemic or major weather event, users that have made the decision to go to a third party need to select a colocation operator that offers remote hands, managed services, in-house cloud services that are connected to a telco hotel, POP access to major cloud providers, and Megaport or similar services. These types of operators do exist, and choosing the right one will reduce risk and simplify IT’s demand on their time and services. And, when searching for an operator, don’t forget to ask for their pandemic plan.