How hybrid work will impact network needs for government agencies

Networking expert Tony Bardo looks at the long-term impacts and costs of hybrid work on agency networking needs and why leaders should rethink their MSP contracts.
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Tony Bardo is assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes. He has over 25 years’ experience in network operations and specializes in helping government agencies build high-speed satellite and broadband connections.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced federal and state employees to work from home, the disruption went far beyond work routines. It also resulted in having to support not just central agency offices, but thousands of satellite offices as each employee’s home office essentially became a branch of government operations.

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Tony Bardo, Assistant Vice President, Government Solutions, Hughes

Now — nearly two years later — as agencies look to embrace hybrid work as a more permanent fixture to their operations, officials also need to find more permanent solutions to ensure employees always have a reliable connection from their home offices. And for network engineers and IT leaders, that means viewing network resiliency through a different lens.

Currently, agencies are working with established managed IT service contracts that are set up to support a fully staffed office. That includes managing hardwired facilities with heavy doses of network fiber and dedicated access services in addition to contracts for IT help desk functions to assist workers with any connectivity and hardware issues that arise during work hours.

But hybrid work has, and will, change the network needs which are currently stipulated in managed service provider contracts. Employees need reliable broadband access to agency resources and the support of a help desk, even when they are working from home.

How network needs are changing

Consider the scenario of an employee’s internet connection going down. In an office, that employee would be able to call the help desk and resolve the problem fairly quickly. Today, without a managed service provider (MSP) contract written for a hybrid work scenario, if that individual’s internet connection goes down at home, the remote worker will have to call their commercial service provider to troubleshoot the issue. That also puts employees in the position of acting as their own IT desk support.

At the very least, that employee is down for an hour or more trying to resolve with their connection issues with the home network service provider. In the worst case, they could be offline several days as they wait for replacement equipment to arrive.

Instead of getting Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) grade or Networx grade telecommunications service — with a service-level agreement (SLA) that spells out response parameters for restoring service — employees are at the mercy of their consumer-grade network service, who operate on their own schedules.

Fortunately, under the existing EIS contract, agencies can access funds to expand broadband to dispersed locations with infrastructure that supports residential homes. And by involving the EIS-prime provider — and their partners that already offer a network MSP to residences — agencies can begin to bridge the gap between home service and enterprise service with an appropriate SLA to ensure their provider responds within a set period to restore service.

Economies of scale for network modernization

In the broader scheme of IT and network modernization, government leaders have already started down a path that focuses more on cost-savings. For example, more agencies are using managed broadband networks — as opposed to fixed dedicated hardwired facilities. These new contracts have helped drive down costs for network management across agencies on an as-needed basis.

The good news is that broadband connections today are priced much more cheaply than the dedicated network connections and access connections that were tied to the original agency locations in the past. Service providers offer service plans that give agencies much more bandwidth for much lower prices, and the opportunity for agencies to save a lot of money. Those savings can be used to extend network services to employees’ homes.

To best take advantage of the economies of scale of extending broadband, I recommend including the managed service providers in the planning stages of redefining what a new MSP contract should look like. This can help leaders think about more strategic questions around network needs such as:

  • How and when will employees return to, or work part of their week at, the office?
  • Where will employees most likely be working and what network needs will best fit an evolving hybrid model?
  • How will the agency use this new work structure to alter its real estate footprint?
  • How will these changes impact the long-term view of each agency’s mission?

While the answers to the questions are still evolving, it is important to recognize that planning for a more hybrid work structure will demand a different approach to supporting current and future network demands. Fortunately, the expertise to help plan for those changes are already available through the EIS contract, and from the participating network and communications specialists on the EIS contract.

Learn more about how Hughes can help your agency consolidate network transport services into one single bill and put an end to managing various contracts and customer support channels.

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