Use of remote working tools up 83.7% since the start of February.

With coronavirus measures around the world taking hold, business continuity plans are being put to the test. In what Fortune has deemed the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment,” an increasing number of employees are working remotely, and COVID-19 is bringing the way businesses protect and enable remote workers into the limelight.

Given the Wandera cloud already secures several million enterprise devices and mobile workers around the world, we have published the following data of actual real-world changes in remote working bandwidth usage, to support data-based decision making for employees and IT organizations.

We will be updating this data and using our 425 million worldwide sensors 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.

What we’ve found so far

Connections made to remote working tools during the week of March 16th were up 23.6% on the previous week, and up 83.7% on the start of February

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

In the week of March 16th, connections made to Zoom were up 101.1% on the previous week, a 224.7% increase on connections only a month earlier. Data usage through Zoom was up 337.0% on the previous week, a massive 876.7% increase on data usage a month earlier. 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.

Slack

Slack usage has also seen growth, but not to the extent of the surge in Zoom. In the week of March 16th, connections made to Slack were up 8.3% on the previous week, a 41.1% increase on connections only a month earlier. Data usage through Slack was down 2.0% on the previous week, due to the week before seeing unusual amounts of weekend usage as people organized their new remote working situations. However, data usage remains up 31.1% compared to one month earlier.

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. In the week of March 16th, connections made to MS Teams were up 29.3% on the previous week, a 72.8% increase on connections only a month earlier. Data usage through MS Teams was up 55.0% on the previous week, up 114.1% on data usage a month earlier.

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

The usage of remote working tools can be seen increasing across the world. In the UK, we saw a clear increase in the week of March 9th, with the US, Germany, and Australia increasing the following week. 

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

Challenges of Surge in Remote Working

On people being unable to work remotely: official guidance from the CDC is for businesses to encourage employees to work from home, and Brian Kropp, chief of research in Gartner’s human resources practice, recommends: “We are telling employers to communicate with their managers to encourage people to work from home”. Certain cities have already announced a ‘shelter in place’ order, forcing many businesses to close their doors and send their employees home to work remotely with little warning or preparation.

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.

On worker safety and productivity: social media has made it possible for misinformation to spread easily, which can quickly lead to confusion and panic. This can be extremely distressing for individuals and can result in lost productivity.

Some malicious parties are using the coronavirus to launch phishing campaigns, posing as the WHO to target businesses in an attempt to get access to confidential information.

Contingency plans are designed to keep businesses running and personnel safe during crises. These plans, and the tools needed to support them, should be constantly re-evaluated alongside changing business models to tackle incidents like this.

Security and Continuity

Utilize modern remote work tools: with an increasing number of remote workers, businesses must adopt more flexible solutions to maintain normal operating capacities. Cloud-based services offer a suitable solution to the remote working conundrum as they are able to scale more effectively than their appliance counterparts. 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.

Protect users in all scenarios: keeping endpoints free from malware and end users safe is critical when enabling remote working. Technologies that can provide protection against zero-day phishing threats, as seen during the coronavirus, should be utilized to prevent credentials being stolen. Additionally, a security measure for detecting infectious malware should be deployed across all endpoints.

During events like these, businesses should also be aware that employees may need to use their own devices for work. Solutions need to support BYOD use cases, with the ability to create a secure connectivity tunnel to keep communications private if an individual needs to work via an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot.

Operating smoothly

Establishing strong processes based on best practices will help your business continue to operate smoothly in crisis situations. As highlighted by Gartner, enabling large portions of your workforce to work remotely is an essential measure.

To learn how the Wandera Security Cloud can enable scalable, secure remote working and help maintain business continuity, please get in touch with one of our experts.