Sometimes you’re going to need to work from home. Or from your hotel. Or from your child’s basketball practice.
It’s not a matter of poor time management – quite the opposite. Our society has started to interpret the concept of a work/life balance differently, blurring the boundaries of where work ends and personal life begins.
Where 25 years ago you would not have been able to sit in the stands and watch your child’s basketball practice because you were at work. But now you can be there for your child and still make changes to that important report.
And this is all possible with remote access.
Today this technology is primarily defined by VPN and remote desktop solutions. But as remote work grows in popularity, with approximately 43% of US workers currently having options for remote work or offering it to their employees, will the remote access standbys of today still have a competitive advantage in a decade – and will they be secure?
A Modern History Lesson
Before we do a deep dive into our predictions for the future of remote access, we’ll first cover the basics of remote access. Two tried and true methods that are commonly used for securely connecting users to their company’s data and applications are VPN & RDS/Citrix.
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection establishes a connection, also known as a tunnel, between your device and your office. This allows your device to access resources as though it was directly connected to the internal network – much like it would if you were plugged in at your company’s HQ.
What is RDP?
Remote desktop programs, frequently referred to as RDS and/or Citrix, enable users to access the desktop of another computer over the internet. These programs recreate a desktop on a remote server and present this desktop to the user via the internet. This allows users to explore files and access the programs on that remote server from any modern computer with internet access.
Remote Desktop: Past and Future
When looking to the future of remote access, it is important to also look at the origins of this technology. Citrix, one of the market leaders for remote desktop solutions, was initially adopted by businesses because it was an answer to the frequent latency and bandwidth limitation issues that VPN users experienced. But in 2018, these concerns are becoming less significant due to the quality and speed of at-home internet increasing at a rapid rate.
We believe that even as the initial benefits of remote desktop programs are waning in importance, remote desktop will most likely continue to hold its market share because it is reliable and securely delivers a centralized, unified user experience (UX).
Benefits of a Remote Desktop Solution
When utilizing a remote desktop, system administrators are able to install software on one server/device, and every user with access to the remote desktop is then able to utilize this program. The alternative is performing this installation numerous times, on every single employee device, which is incredibly time-consuming for an IT team.
Utilizing a remote desktop solution like Citrix also has built-in security features. When using a stand-alone Citrix server to run software on a remote desktop, the appropriate antivirus and security protections for the organization will already be in place. But when a remote user uses VPN from their home PC, there isn’t any guarantee that they are using a truly secure connection, have up-to-date antivirus, or are even working on a machine that hasn’t already been compromised.
The SaaS Revolution (& the end of VPN?)
The Software as a Service (SaaS) landscape offers new possibilities to businesses by providing a technology solution that is flexible, remote and compatible across devices for end-users. SaaS is very appealing to many businesses because these services can typically be configured to allow access through two channels: the internet and via the corporate network.
Often these solutions are also “mobile native,” aka smartphone friendly, which can help to blur the lines between remote access and mobility. When you can use your smartphone to access your critical business programs and files that are stored in the cloud, the need for a reliable VPN will quickly start to become obsolete (as long as you’re connected to the internet with a secure network).
Given existing rates of adoption, it isn’t outlandish to suggest that Software as a Service will have a major part in redefining the toolset of mobile work and remote access. In 2018, many businesses utilize public facing SaaS applications, which are shared over the internet, for critical business functions like their CRM. Salesforce is one of the most popular SaaS offerings currently used by modern business professionals because of its ability to transcend the label of being just a platform or a service; it is a tool that can be customize-tailored to fit the specific needs and goals of an organization, across all aspects of the business.
Much like the flexible customization that Salesforce allows its users, the explosion of available SaaS services and solutions offers businesses seemingly exponential possibilities. These plentiful options can seem like the answer to existing technology headaches, but it is important to remember that every technology solution has its faults.
The Challenges with SaaS
First and foremost, it is important to note that not every service and program is available as a SaaS solution, and regardless of the advancements in technology over the next few years, there will be programs without a cloud instance. If you are planning on a move to the cloud, but rely on business programs that are only available locally, then you will need to either pick a comparable alternative that is in the cloud or maintain some of your on-premise servers, which will allow for the continued use of this legacy application.
Additionally, depending on your existing infrastructure and the applications that your business uses, migrating to SaaS may not be a straightforward process. This is especially the case for businesses that utilize applications that have been heavily customized internally, or if you need them to deeply integrate and interact with other existing SaaS solutions.
In our professional opinion, if you intend to transition to SaaS solutions, and want the process to be as seamless as possible, you are going to need a technology partner who understands these complexities.
Looking to the Future
In combination with the widespread adoption of SaaS solutions, we predict that organizations will continue to hop on the trend of infrastructure virtualization and will begin to decommission their on-premises devices and applications. This means that a major change will need to occur within the organization’s network infrastructure in order to maintain reliable and secure remote access for employees.
It is important to note that the widespread adoption of the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model doesn’t fundamentally change the fact that users will need to access company resources when they are outside of the office. And IaaS solutions, especially for organizations that rely on software for critical business applications, are typically an extension of a business’ existing private, corporate network.
With all of these moving pieces, the future of remote access, and information technology, in general, is a giant question mark. This vast expanse of uncertainty can be intimidating, and even a bit scary. But this room for opportunity is also what makes this field so exciting.
No one knows with absolute certainty what the future of remote access will look like. But as your technology partner, we are dedicated to providing you with the information that you need to make educated decisions about the future of your business to help you grow and scale.