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With hybrid work, the internet has become the new enterprise network. Now what?
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With hybrid work, the internet has become the new enterprise network. Now what?

The world of work is changing — fast. But imagining what the future workplace will look like is less straightforward than you'd think. Hybrid work is here to stay, with 87% of employees expecting to work remotely at least part of the time.

That has an effect on the role of enterprise for business around the globe. Technology powers the hybrid workplace, and employees are flitting in and out of offices — sometimes working together on entirely different continents, connected by a cornucopia of workplace productivity tools. In this new environment, it's vital that IT leaders can oversee and monitor the networks and applications providing the digital services and experiences employees rely on.

Cloud is the enabler of the hybrid work revolution, powering the platforms, SaaS apps and software-defined networks we're all using to keep businesses running. As the connective tissue that ties it all together and ultimate delivery mechanism, the public internet has become the backbone of the enterprise network — yet it wasn't built for that purpose and its inherent blind spots create challenges.

"The future of work environment just gained a tremendous amount of complexity from an IT organizational perspective," said Joe Vaccaro, head of product at Cisco ThousandEyes, which provides cloud and internet intelligence technology to some of the world's biggest companies as they chart a path through the future of hybrid work. Cisco ThousandEyes allows customers to monitor internet outages large and small and their effect on business, helping spot where bottlenecks occur along the digital experience supply chain so they can work to quickly remedy it. Ultimately, it keeps productivity high and communication with customers and employees online.

In this new environment, it's vital that IT leaders can oversee and monitor the networks and applications providing the digital services and experiences employees rely on.

Outages aren't a matter of if, but when. According to data tracked by the company, global disruptions in March 2020 — when we saw remote work roll out at scale — were 63% higher than they were in January 2020. Some outages hit the news, like the recent incident at Fastly that took scores of the world's biggest websites offline for a time. But plenty of others are smaller. "Hundreds of thousands of micro-outages happen on a daily basis that can all add up to a large, degraded experience," said Vaccaro.

Cisco ThousandEyes has a front-row seat to be able to understand what's happening across the internet on a daily basis — intelligence that its customers use to navigate choppy waters.

The issues businesses encounter are becoming more prevalent as they move more of their work online. Cloud services are the new data centers, and the internet is becoming the new network. At the same time, many elements in the modern application stack — where most of the work is done — are hosted in or run by third-party providers for best-in-breed functionality, removing the ability to see where things are going wrong. In a previous era, when a crucial service went offline, IT experts could look into their own IT environments to see where the outage was and fix it. Now, they're reliant on public cloud providers and other services that sit well beyond their own perimeter, which can take time to fix.

"ThousandEyes provides the Google Maps for the internet, helping you to see every network, every cloud and every application like you own it," said Vaccaro. It means that if an employee has a slow, buggy experience on their webmail or when accessing a particular document or videoconferencing tool, they can report it and the company can see where the hold-up is. "You can identify that needle in the haystack," said Vaccaro. It gives back control of how a business operates to the business itself.

Customers big and small, from hundreds of employees to hundreds of thousands, rely on the insight of Cisco ThousandEyes' technology. That includes Cisco itself, which bought the company last year in recognition of the need for its customers to see how their data and services were being run on the internet. It's a tussle that every company is struggling with: The changing way we work means it's no longer possible to rely on small-scale, internal tools and networks to maintain business continuity. Yet farming out control of business-critical solutions is scary. Cisco ThousandEyes provides a safety net to make it more comfortable to take that leap by ensuring businesses don't lose visibility of their online assets. It's an insurance policy that when things go wrong, it's possible to quickly troubleshoot the issue and to put in place a speedy resolution that ensures business continuity.

Those customers include IG Group, a trading company established for more than 45 years. Most of the company's trades are conducted through their internet platform, and with that comes a need for greater visibility. "The internet has very much become part of our network," said Steve Bamford, senior infrastructure reliability engineer at IG Group. As they shared at the onset of the pandemic, when COVID-19 hit and they adjusted to remote work, they needed to extend that insight to ensure employee connectivity and user experience. After deploying ThousandEyes, IG Group saw a reduction in escalated single-user calls, and faster troubleshooting across remote work environments.

Doing so has helped not only in the event of disruptions, but also helped them identify where to make incremental improvements that speed up the way they support and optimize employee experience.

It's a principle that's likely to become industry standard in the years to come as the internet becomes the new enterprise network for businesses. "The digital supply chain between your users, the application and the set of third-party dependencies is only getting more and more complex," said Vaccaro. "With ThousandEyes, you can quickly detect if there's a change or disruption to the customer or employee experience you're delivering across cloud and internet environments. And you can identify and gain full visibility into the blind spots that come with the increasing complexity of that digital supply chain."