Jun 28, 2021. By S V Aditya
Theres no doubt about it - Covid-19 has changed the way people work. With nation after nation going on lockdowns to control the pandemic, many offices enabled their employees to work from home to minimize the disruption to their productivity. And now that these lockdowns are ending, most people dont want to come back. According to a PWC survey, 55% of employees would prefer to work from home at least three days a week. Another survey conducted for Bloomberg News in May shows that 39% of U.S adults would consider leaving their jobs if their employers do not provide flexible remote work options. Employers that are unable to cope up with the change in employee expectations are losing good employees to rivals that can. Innovative companies are instead focusing on creating that same level of office culture in a remote work environment and on building a hybrid work culture. Even more critically, they are providing them with devices that enable them to continue working from home - laptops, phones, and networking gear. While this is common across industries, the scale of it has grown much larger during Covid-19, and it appears to be a trend that is going to endure for long after Covid-19 has left us for good.
IT Challenges in Remote Work
So what does this have to do with the IT Operations team? Well, for starters provisioning these devices itself means setting them up with the right infrastructure. It's not just the computing devices, it is also the surrounding layer. This includes VPNs, security devices, two-factor authentications for serious applications for security. And here's the first snag - most people are not technologically literate. A lot of these elements cause complications they cannot deal with. Quite often these are simple problems that can be solved in minutes in an office environment. However, the communication and availability issues along with the difficulty of managing systems remotely turn this into something that takes hours. Support tickets take longer to fix and there are now more of them. ITOps, in effect, is working harder and is yet less effective at the same time. And then there is the matter of security.
Security has always been the chief concern of IT Operations. It is consistently rated as one of their top challenges - and this becomes even more important in a remote work mode. Humans, as the adage goes, are the weakest link in computer security. "Business email compromise" is one of the most common examples of scams that have defrauded even the tech giants. According to the FBI, in the 2 years between 2015-2017, there was a 1300% increase in this type of scam leading to over $3 billion in losses. This is just one of the many security threats teams contend with. In 2014, one of the major eCommerce giants exposed their entire account list - over 145 million users - due to a cyber attack. This was done by accessing the credentials of three employees and stealing information over 229 days. In another case a Payment Systems company was targeted with an SQL injection attack in 2008, costing the company close to $150 million in compensation payments. These attacks should have been detected far earlier with network traffic monitoring but were missed out. One possible reason is the sheer scale of alert noise and traffic monitoring requirements. Cyber threats are always evolving and it is the unknown unknowns - the risks IT Operations teams are not aware of - that are the hardest to guard against. In a remote work environment, these dangers are just more potent. With the greater workload for ITOps teams and high alert noise, they simply cannot hope to humanly cope with these high level of requirements.
AIOps for Remote Office Management
With the power of AIOps, they do not have to. AIOps uses Artificial Intelligence to enable IT Operations teams to do more with fewer resources. AIOps can enable ITOps teams to Observe better and find device-, application-, and service-level issues faster. Incident Recognition can nail down the root cause of faulty performance by sifting through thousands of log lines and KPIs across multiple dependent services. This is invaluable in a remote work environment where employee devices can have different operating systems, OS versions, and applications running. Moreover, a single AIOps agent installed at these devices can kill or restart offending services or take more complex actions driven by reinforcement learning models. If the team needs to push out security updates to services or applications, this agent can upgrade them and even auto-remediate issues that occur as a consequence. No time needs to be wasted waiting for someone to manually find out what the issues are and solving them.
Virtual SRE-based support
Most of the issues that come to the service desk are minor ones that can be easily solved with basic tech literacy. An AIOps-powered Virtual SRE can do just that - it can provide support to users raising tickets faster than humans. It can act as a filter for all low-level problems and automatically solve them so that ITOps teams can only focus on the higher-level requirements.
Managing the Unknowns in Security with Anomaly Detection
This leaves the key issue of security. While ITOps and ITSecOps teams have policies and security workflows in place for the most known threats, it is the unknown that poses the greatest risks. AIOps can help with that by enabling Anomaly Detection which watches out for new and unfamiliar patterns in KPIs and Logs. This creates more meaningful alerts for ITOps teams so they can triage alerts better and focus on the items most worth investigating. A security breach that went undetected for over 200 days - like unfamiliar traffic and credential usage in the case of the eCommerce platform - can instead be contained in a day with the right level of vigilance.
AIOps can enable IT teams to support the growing level of remote work requirements from the enterprise. To learn more about AIOps, please visit Algomox AIOps Page