The impact of COVID-19 on corporate networks: VPN connections skyrocket, increasing by 676%

Published on April 7th, 2020

As a network services provider serving 1,600+ global enterprises, Masergy has been able to see firsthand the impact of COVID-19 on corporate networks. From March 10th to 18th, we saw VPN connections skyrocket, increasing by 676% in little more than one week! 

Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections are essential for employees when they work remotely and are often the IT team’s first step in enabling a virtual workforce. Using a home internet service, a VPN lets an employee directly and securely access the corporate network. Over that week, since more companies transitioned to work-from-home models, it’s easy to see why they are in hot demand.

Our executive team quickly understood the trend, and identified two things to better support the companies that rely on Masergy across the globe: make VPNs faster and cheaper. By the end of last week, Masergy provided discounted pricing to offset the cost of adding bulk-order VPN connections. Plus, we implemented a rush-order process to accelerate delivery. Here’s the key to fast VPNs.  

Rapid delivery made possible by automation and SD-agility

During uncertain times like today, changes on-the-fly are what every corporate network needs. Many IT leaders, however, find themselves working with legacy networks that have deep shortcomings. A majority of these networks are initially customizable, but lack open-ended adaptability after the implementation. Others are easily modifiable, but can’t be customized around the changing needs of each location, user group, and application.

Masergy, however, provides an alternative that gives you the best of both. Agility and customization are baked into our foundation, so in the wake of COVID-19, it was only a matter of pivoting our business processes around our clients’ latest needs.

How did Masergy accelerate delivery? Enabling more VPNs and more network capacity for our customers requires coordination across multiple teams such as Operations, Engineering, and Finance. These teams worked together to improve systems and processes. First, teams proactively mitigated any supply chain impacts resulting from issues with our hardware partners and other vendors.Then, they leveraged Masergy’s recent investments in a new process automation engine to supercharge order orchestration and accelerate time-to-service. Finally, they continue to avoid disruptions and delays by quickly working around our clients’ timelines for installation.

While this quick pivot was significant for supporting our clients, the essential ingredient was Masergy’s software-defined network. Our suite of services is built on a platform that is entirely controlled by software and has a consistent software-defined architecture all across the world. The result is that dialing up and down tunnels, links, loops, and bandwidth at each POP is far faster and easier than if we were operating on legacy technology with patchworked global networks governed by manual processes.

One example of why that software-defined network is so important is the increase in bandwidth that usually accompanies additional VPNs. Masergy can instantly boost bandwidth at our POP locations as needed, and we’ve already made rapid adjustments in Tokyo to ensure consistent cloud application performance for our clients. We keep a close eye on capacity, and remain vigilant for more shifts in the future. 

Our cloud delivery models are also making VPNs fast. Fortinet blade servers hosted in each of our global POPs have built-in, highly scalable cloud firewalls, which make it easy to open SSL tunnels and activate new user licenses. Best of all, VPN changes are simple to understand from a billing perspective, as our clients get just one invoice with clear line items for all their services.

COVID-19: Changing the digital transformation approach

The new reality of our global-scale virtual workforce becomes apparent when you work with  networks. As a result of COVID-19, our clients have already begun to shift their digital transformation priorities and it shows when you look at what their networks need to handle. Today our partners, and even our own teams at Masergy, have a better appreciation of what it takes to make remote work a reality. Let’s face it, sometimes corporate disaster recovery strategies and business continuity plans don’t adequately outline all the needs of a pandemic with a 100% virtual workforce, and those gaps are driving a re-prioritization of IT investments particularly as it relates to digitally enhanced workers. 

Beyond just skyrocketing VPNs, what other IT gaps is COVID-19 exposing? We’re seeing clients accelerate their investments in cloud unified communications that enable virtual collaboration and video conferencing. Over-communication will soon become the new normal, and we’re actually seeing a boost in productivity as a result. Keeping in touch with colleagues will also help employees feel connected as they work remotely.

A more fundamental gap that’s been exposed are the leadership teams’ understanding of what’s behind it all. VoIP and video conferencing requires near-perfect network performance, and it seems our society at large is sitting at home getting frustrated with the fact that the quality of our cloud video/voice service is getting disrupted, interfering with our ability to work. 

This reality is making us all hyper-aware of how important platform modernization truly is.

What matters most now is what’s underneath the unified communications applications and VPN connections that keep us globally connected. Companies across the globe are gaining a clearer perspective of not only the tools that keep us connected for video and remote work, but the importance of having a digital-first network platform as a foundation. 

Executive leaders are now taking a step back and rethinking what digital transformation investments are a priority. After all, rapidly making digital pivots on a global scale requires flexibility and performance that starts with IT infrastructure. Building a digital workforce is about more than cloud applications; success requires network service with software-defined agility.

Todd Lechtenberg

Todd Lechtenberg is Masergy's Senior Vice President of Global Operations. Todd is responsible for the company's Network and Security Operations, Service Delivery and Access Management organizations. He is a respected industry leader in the field of global operations, network services and network optimization with 25 years experience in the technology and telecommunications industry. Prior to joining Masergy, he served in various senior leadership positions at Windstream, Paetec, McLeodUSA and technology consulting. He began his career at WilTel and MCI Communications. Todd is an entrepreneur and holds a degree in Accounting from Oklahoma State University.

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