The Wandera security cloud secures several million enterprise devices and mobile workers around the world, so remote working isn’t new to us or our customers. With 425 million worldwide sensors, our machine intelligence engine is able to process vast amounts of data to identify usage patterns and anomalous activity.

To support data-based decision making for IT admins, we have published the following data of real-world changes in collaboration tool usage. We will be updating this data to add further insights on a regular basis. Please contact us if you need specific data and we will try our best to provide it.

Collaboration tool usage trends

It’s no surprise to see how quickly the usage of collaboration tools has risen over the course of the year so far. In this analysis, we included Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts.

Last week, global usage of remote working tools was up 13.7% on the previous week, an increase of 108.9% on usage at the beginning of February. We are beginning to see the growth in connections stabilize as companies start to complete their transitions to remote working. However, as we look into data usage of tools such as MS Teams and Zoom, we can see that data usage continues to increase, as the way we use these tools changes to meet the requirements of remote working.

The impact on collaboration tools

We looked at our own analytics database to see how quickly the usage of collaboration tools has risen over the course of the year so far.

In this analysis, we included Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts.

The data shows there is a significant increase from baseline usage during the first week of February. The number of connections increases with some noticeable jumps in March indicating an increase in the number of meetings, an increase in the length of meetings and an increase in the number of people on the meetings as many businesses began ordering employees to work from home.

Zoom

Last week, Zoom connections increased another 74.6% on the previous week, usage is now 555.2% higher than it was at the beginning of February. Data usage continues to grow, as remote working leads changes in the way that we use communication tools, with usage now 1675.0% higher than at the start of February. The lack of face-to-face meetings increases the need for video calls over voice calls, and entire teams are moving onto conference calls for their regular meetings.

We’ve seen significant increases in data usage for services such as Zoom, as remote working leads to changes in behavior, such as calls with larger numbers of participants, and more people using video rather than just audio when conference calling. The below chart shows data usage per connection to Zoom, highlighting why we’ve seen such a large growth in data over connections.

av. data usage per connection zoom

Slack

Slack usage has also seen growth, but not to the extent of the surge in Zoom. Usage of slack has dropped by 18.1% last week, when compared to the week before. However, it still remains 43.8% higher than it was at the start of February.

Microsoft Teams

Growth of Microsoft Teams usage has been less extreme, but very steady growth, with a jump mid-March to match what we’ve seen across the board in other collaboration tools. Last week, connections to MS Teams saw an increase of 18.0% on the previous week, leaving connections 143.9% higher than at the beginning of February. Data usage continues to grow, as usage is now 225.3% higher than at the beginning of February.

Across all of the remote working tools analyzed, weekend usage has also been rising significantly. For example for Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15, Microsoft Teams usage was as high as an average working day usage a month earlier.

Usage by country

Looking at the connections to remote working tools by country, we see the US continue to lag behind other countries. Although usage of remote working tools has grown in the US, we can see that other countries have seen a huge shift towards remote working. Last week, Australia began to see their usage increase, beginning their shift to remote working a week after the UK. This growth has not slowed, as in only two weeks, Australia’s relative usage of remote working tools has grown to catch up both the UK and Germany.

Both Microsoft Teams and Zoom have experienced outages over the past week due to the increased load on the platforms.

Managing the data surge

The increased usage of these work tools is a good indicator your employees are actually working while they are at home so these trends should be taken as a positive sign. An increase in the use of personal services (such as video streaming) is more of a concern to IT admins, especially those that manage corporate-owned devices and are responsible for the bills. Look out for excessive use of streaming services that might be draining productivity while costing the business money. If you are experiencing issues with sudden bill shock and overages, it’s worth considering a solution that can help you manage this consumption.

Traditionally, businesses have enabled employees to work from home by utilizing VPN services. While these may have been acceptable in the past, the increased number of remote users due to the coronavirus can easily cause VPN appliances to struggle, resulting in individuals being unable to connect and work at all. If your employees are experiencing issues with bandwidth due to the increased load on VPNs, it’s worth checking in with your VPN concentrator. There might be services running through the VPN that don’t need that secure tunnel because they are already fully encrypted.

Alternatively, cloud-based services offer a suitable solution to the remote working conundrum as they are able to scale more effectively than VPNs. More modern connectivity solutions, which supersede VPN technology, can also offer a faster and simpler end-user experience, easing the shift to remote working for staff.