By Graham Brooks, Strategic Account Director, Cradlepoint
This year, the financial sector’s plans have been thrown off course by a global pandemic that sent a wave of disruption rippling through the business world. The resulting national lockdowns sparked a flurried uptake of remote working tools by businesses looking to maintain operations with employees working from home. Collaboration apps, as one example, experienced a steep increase in usage, with Zoom seeing a boom of 728% in app-downloads since 2nd March 2020. But people also need a way to connect to these apps remotely. In this way, and perhaps unsurprisingly, consumer-grade home broadband has become the norm used by households to access their company networks.
In January, executives were logging onto their companies’ systems from enterprise-class routers which would typically be managed by enterprise-class network managers. Now they’re working on the same networks that their kids watch the latest Netflix series on.
The catch? Many of these executives work in financial services, an industry where sensitive assets, minimal network downtime, and speed are at the core of how businesses operate. So, the question must be asked, should financial services look to more reliable enterprise-grade solutions when working remotely?
A completely different ball game
Financial data, insurance claims, and business accounts are all highly sensitive assets held by businesses in the financial sector. Company reputation is always on the line, especially when people’s hard-earned cash is up for grabs. And that’s without considering the heavy financial penalties incurred if private or sensitive data is lost or stolen through a data breach.
In this environment, remote workers in the financial services sector accessing enterprise-grade business applications on consumer-grade home broadband networks is risky business. Not only do these networks lack the inherent security parameters of centralised enterprise networks, but a model that allows multiple users to access the same systems from different network paths is a one-stop-shop to security vulnerabilities.
But it’s not just about security. Speed is everything. During an economic crisis like the one we’re experiencing, for example, stock prices are prone to drop rapidly. In these situations, profitability often relies on having accurate, real-time data. Having a zero-latency, zero- downtime, and a resilient network is imperative. But this is something home broadband solutions cannot always facilitate. And with some broadband providers suffering multiple periods of downtime in the space of a few weeks, questions must be asked about the use of consumer-grade home broadband networks. The relevant solutions will prove to have long-term use as financial services look to enable their staff to work from home for the foreseeable future.
The future is wireless
So, how can financial institutions widen their connectivity footprint without compromising reliability, security, or regulatory compliance?
The answer lies with a fundamental shift in the ways financial institutions think about branch connectivity; one which is not bound by the restrictions of physical wired-line connections. Instead, the shift must leverage the flexibility and manageability of rapidly deployable gigabit-class 4G LTE networks.
Enterprise-grade branch wireless networks enable a number of use cases transformative for financial services during the ongoing crisis. Here we look at the top three:
- Empowering more workers to work remotely
While it is essential for the protection of consumers and businesses alike, regulation has stopped many in the financial services sector from working at home. As it is far from sustainable to wire up employees’ homes with a direct connection to the enterprise network, the security, reliability, and manageability of cloud-provisioned 4G LTE modems is a great alternative which helps to overcome many of these challenges.
By providing out-of-the-box connectivity, wireless SD-WAN functionality for traffic load balancing, and intrinsic high-level security – including VPN, firewall, IPS/IDS, and internet content filtering – 4G LTE modems empower remote workers with plug-in-and-play enterprise-grade connectivity.
- Social distancing through ‘pop-up’ sites
To meet ongoing social distancing guidelines, offices, banks, and public agencies can turn to the use of temporary ‘pop-up’ sites to expand their physical footprint while still running operations effectively.
A wireless 4G LTE cellular network can then be swiftly set up to connect the individual sites, forming a wireless wide area network (WAN). The difference in service will be unnoticeable, with 4G and Gigabit 4G LTE connectivity now providing the same speed and bandwidth of its fastest wired counterparts.
Wireless solutions are also easily managed, with cloud-based management platforms enabling rapid, zero-touch deployment. Similarly, centralised management eliminates the need for physical intervention from IT teams, vital in a time when strict limits on movement could be implemented at any moment.
- Agility to adapt to the challenges of the future
The disruption caused by the pandemic will have a huge impact on which products and services will see a growth in demand from business and consumer clients alike. But with organisations now quickly addressing their key learnings from the past three months, the services that prepare organisations for future crises will be the ones to prevail. Wireless WAN is one of them.
The agility and scalability of wireless WAN/LAN modems combined with the emergence of 5G will empower financial services to experiment with new technologies. For example, stock market monitoring will be that much quicker and more accurate through the power of AI, realised by the high-capacity data streams that 5G’s ultra-low latency provides. Similarly, the emergence of ‘smart cities’, facilitated by reliable wireless networks, will allow insurance companies to swiftly gather information from a diverse range of sources to expedite claims processes. These are just two examples of how 5G will both open new sources of revenue and buffer defences for future catastrophes for firms in the sector.
The role of wireless WAN in business continuity moving forward
While the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, financial services should seek solutions that ease the pressure in both the short and long terms. Relying on a wired connection simply doesn’t provide the agility to respond to rapidly unfolding events like the one the world is experiencing this year.
When wireless 4G and Gigabit 4G LTE connectivity provide the same speeds, bandwidth, and management capabilities as wired connections, the decision shouldn’t be tough. The investment in added capabilities will most certainly pay off in the long run. When the next crisis hits, in whatever form it takes, there will be a moment of clarity when those that responded to the current crisis effectively will shine through. Those that didn’t will be rooted out.