The future of business already here

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Nearly a year since the pandemic began, companies throughout Michigan and beyond have evolved to become more virtual. From major health and education systems to restaurants, retailers and B2B, virtually every industry has had to invest in technology, tools and services to support new levels of digital transformation.

The sudden shift to remote work gave us the rare chance to rethink how we run our organizations — evolving to fit the best of traditional business into a more modern, digitally based framework. Out of necessity, we adopted new standards of work via collaboration software, cashless payments, contactless services, video conferencing and more.

While short-term adoption was key, it is increasingly clear that the crisis has permanently impacted the future of doing business. According to Stanford University, working from home now accounts for more than 60% of U.S. economic activity, and more than half of U.S. workers prefer a hybrid remote/office approach even after the pandemic subsides.

In order to support and sustain such a massive move to the virtual environment, companies will increasingly look to technology partners to provide a strong and secure network, seamlessly shepherd important infrastructure changes and reliably deliver the internet-based software they need to stay open.

Amplified digital

Virtually overnight, entire businesses moved their workforces to home, prompting employees to rely on VPN and residential connections to access vital information. To prevent capacity overload back at HQ, this transition required doubling, tripling and, in some cases, quadrupling of bandwidth from pre-COVID-19 levels. As IT teams gear up for 2021, they’re continuing to boost bandwidth as they support a lasting hybrid or fully remote workforce.

One major benefit to the investment in bandwidth is the increase in upload speed, the demand of which has grown exponentially in an era where cloud-based applications like video streaming put larger strains on the network. As a result, organizations that may have had a typical cable internet connection are making the switch to service level agreement backed fiber-based options to support higher and symmetrical upload/download speeds across the board.

With the rise of remote work, it’s only natural that security plays a larger role within organizations, as the number of entry points for bad actors to access sensitive information has considerably multiplied. Beyond internal training to avoid phishing and other trojan horse-style attacks, leading technology partners are offering security products that strengthen firewalls and safeguard against growing threats like DDoS and other digital threats.

These infrastructure adoptions are true not just for companies, but people working remotely in their homes, too. With families streaming, schooling and Zooming, there are more IoT-connected devices than ever in a typical house, causing professionals to seek out higher-bandwidth internet options — and sometimes even an entirely separate business modem to segregate work traffic from the home network.

In order to support this rapid digital transformation — which includes a shift to cloud-based applications — top organizations know they need to first have a healthy infrastructure-encompassing bandwidth, security, service protection and workforce training in order to successfully shift, thrive and survive. 

Lessons learned

When the pandemic hit the business world, nobody saw it coming but several were prepared. Many of the technological trends that will outlast the pandemic already were underway but accelerated by as much as 5-10 years in a matter of months.

Digital transformation at this scale, speed and intensity was not — and could not be — decided by a major CIO or tech writer. Rather, it was decided by necessity. Organizations that already had the pieces in place to support the move are now leading their respective industries.

Events like this present a major lesson for companies in Grand Rapids — those that look forward, think creatively, plan for the inevitable and invest in the right technology can beat the competition and weather any storm that comes their way.

Brad Gramlin, who resides in and works out of the Grand Rapids area, is director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business’ Heartland Region, which includes Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. Gramlin is responsible for inspiring and coaching a team of technology experts who help bandwidth-hungry businesses, schools and governments find and implement the right technology solutions.

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