The COVID-19 pandemic has made remote work technology a necessity for day-to-day business. Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom and other collaboration offers are replacing face-to-face meetings, sales pitches and industry events.

However, other technologies have worked behind the scenes to support distributed workforces. These technologies will evolve over the coming months as remote operations continue. The panelists at the CompTIA ChannelCon conference, which ended on August 4th, discussed the technical fundamentals of home and unsupervised workplaces.

Zero trust, SASE is shown to be essential

The rise in remote working has led to an increase in zero trust implementations, and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) has also landed on the enterprise technology agenda. Zero Trust emphasizes user and device authentication to grant network access – an approach to security that works well for remote workers blurring traditional network boundaries. SASE, based on the cloud architecture, can be scaled to meet the increasing number of remote employees.

“Technologies around the Zero Trust Architecture and Secure Access Service Edge became critical,” said Tracy Holtz, vice president of Security Solutions, North America, at distributor Tech Data.

Holtz, who participated in the CompTIA panel, also identified VPN, SD-WAN and web application firewalls as central technologies for remote work. “These will become a constant focus of every company as we evolve … hybrid work environments,” she said.

During the pandemic, more than 150 members of Holtz’s Tech Data team switched from occasional to full-time remote work.

AI and ML strengthen security

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) have also contributed to remote working security, albeit largely out of sight.

“Lots of the ways AI has affected this area [have] in … background processes, “said Lloyd Danzig, chairman and founder of the International Consortium for the Ethical Development of Artificial Intelligence. An example of this is pattern recognition, which is used in ML.

“There are many pattern recognitions involved in cybersecurity protocols that protect companies in the normal course of business every day,” said Danzig. That includes when people from all over the country are accessing servers.

Pattern recognition enables people “to be much more fluid from home with their own devices,” he added.

Technologies around the Zero Trust Architecture and Secure Access Service Edge became critical.

Tracy HoltzVice President, Security Solutions, North America, Tech Data

IoT supports lights-out operations

The IoT, on the other hand, plays a role in the headquarters, as many workforces are still widely distributed.

“The IoT has been a very important part of moving our world forward from a sensory perspective,” said Robert Senatore, CEO of Data2Go Wireless, a provider of IoT network services. “We have a lot fewer people actually going into an office … so the IoT, automation, and data collection through sensors and other wireless hardware were really important to … collect the data.”

He cited examples of sensors that provide temperature readings or indicate whether doors are opening or closing. IoT, he said, is helping companies keep control of their offices, get information, and take action.

The future: Drones increase remote connectivity

Many remote workers have experienced poor connectivity – for example, in densely populated cities where peak times can affect service quality.

Kimberly Penn, founder and CEO of Professor Drones, a Houston-based drone consultant, suggested that drones could provide a connectivity boost. “It would be amazing if a drone were linked to 5G and a few others” [high-speed internet] Technologies that … can connect and help us stay connected, “she said.