Remote Office and Branch Office (ROBO) IT Solutions and IT Support
We’ve helped numerous businesses and organizations with their remote office and branch office IT deployments over the years. For organizations, Remote Office and Branch office (ROBO) deployments add a certain level of complexity to IT operations. ROBO deployments change the type of solutions a company may need to implement, as well as the planning around supporting and maintaining the remote office (and all equipment they may have).
Digitally Accurate has extensive experience with these types of solutions as we have helped numerous Oil and Gas (Energy Industry) companies, manufacturing companies, homebuilders, and other types of businesses with their ROBO IT deployments and operations.
How do we do IT?
There’s numerous considerations that have to be made when designing and selling a solution meant for a company with remote operations. Below are a a few examples:
- Is the ROBO site easily geographically available for visits?
- Is the site secure?
- Can we host equipment/hardware at the site?
- What’s involved with sending an engineer on-site?
- What services do we need to make available to that site?
- How can we economically provide Backup and Disaster Recovery to the site?
- Can we schedule quarterly or annual visits to the site for maintenance?
- What requirements does the customer have for that specific site?
- How will we support users at the ROBO site?
As you can see, with only naming just a few of the considerations it can become quite complex. From this, we have to design a solution, sell the solution, implement the solution, and finally support the solution for the customer. This often requires an on-site implementation phase at the ROBO site, as well as scheduled maintenance visits.
When designing the solution, we need to make sure that everything the customer expects from their IT systems is available to them in an efficient and safe manner. Customers expect data to be available on the fly, at lightning speeds, and we can often deliver that.
Whether it’s the hardware or software, we implement many technologies that ease in the maintenance, support, and upkeep of the customers site. We can remotely connect to the servers, computers, switches, and networking equipment to collect stats, troubleshoot issues, and resolve problems. Because of redundancies and certain technologies, we can log in even when critical systems have failed.
As an example, we had an Oil and Gas customer where a server became unresponsive in a geographically remote area with limited access. With the storage corrupt, the server required a full disaster recovery restore from backup. Using HPe iLO (Integrated Lights Out), we were able to connect remotely, mount the Windows Server Install CD Image, and initiate the restore process from the backup. Within an hour all their services were back up and running, no one realizing anything had gone wrong.
Because the customer was on a 24/7 Managed Services plan, the fact that this happened at night on a weekend didn’t delay the process. When the issue occurred we received an instant notification via our monitoring and management system and we began working immediately.
In another example, we had a customer who needed to deploy a new server in another country around the world. In this case, the equipment was locally sourced and installed. Remotely we were able to log in, mount the appropriate CD media virtually, and install the operating system on the server remotely again using HPe iLO. We then fully configured and deployed the server without any travelling or in-site visits required.
As you can see, when designing solutions for our customers we take in to account what actions or operations will be required from day to day running, as well as emergencies and disasters.
For customers with ROBO deployments, we often make sure to have a minimum set of redundancies in their IT environment.
This allows us to troubleshoot their environment in the event something goes wrong and also allows them to continue working (as if nothing happened) to reduce downtime and lost revenue. We can then troubleshot and correct the problem remotely, or if hardware failure occurred, everything will continue to work and function until a scheduled visit to replace the faulty equipment occurs.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
There’s no best way to provide backup and disaster recovery for ROBO sites, as the solution used always depends on the unique requirements of the customer.
Some examples of scenarios:
- Backup and DR handled locally at the site (and taken off-site by designated person)
- Backup and DR handled locally, then replicated over the WAN VPN to the Corporate HQ data center
- Backup and DR direct over the WAN VPN to Corporate HQ
- Backup and DR over the WAN to our (Digitally Accurate) data center
In some simpler deployments, when using technologies like VDI or Remote Desktop Services, we don’t actually need any backup or DR at the ROBO site due to the fact that no data resides there. In these situations, all resources are hosted at the corporate HQ.
We take all of the customer’s requirements in to consideration and factor them in when designing and selling a ROBO solution.
When it comes to ROBO deployments there are numerous security concerns that must be addressed. This goes for both physical security at the site, as well as virtual security (cybersecurity).
From the physical site point of view, these are some of the concerns:
- Physical security of server and networking equipment
- Physical security of storage (whether internal to server, or SAN/NAS)
- Physical security of the backup and DR system
- Physical security of the domain controller (if present)
We don’t want anyone stealing equipment or stealing data. This especially holds true for domain controllers because if one is stolen, it could be used to learn the network layout, security vulnerabilities, and even be used to modify the Active Directory contents at HQ if the offender were to power it back up and connect it after exploiting. Yes, this actually happens!
Another aspect is virtual security, cybersecurity. Cybersecurity involves firewalls, antivirus, endpoint protection, intrusion prevention, and more. When it comes to cybersecurity, these are some of the concerns:
- Site-to-Site VPN Security (lock down connections between HQ and ROBO)
- Mitigate and monitor threats, including those originating both from the WAN and ROBO sites
- Decide whether to perform web content filtering (AV) at each individual office firewall, or handle it all from HQ firewall
- Remote Access policies (User VPN access: connect to HQ or their assigned ROBO)
- What technologies do we use and incorporate to mitigate threats specific to our network design and layout
- How can we adapt new technologies to automate and further protect the environment (such as VDI, cloud, or others).
Both physical and virtual security affects considerations in what and how many services we actually will host at the specific site or the corporate headquarters. This is always a fine balancing act between performance, security, and capabilities.
On the of most important aspects of a ROBO deployment is remotely supporting and keeping users happy! If a user can’t work or access the data and systems they need, what’s the point of all this?
We make sure to implement solutions that use AI and automation to keep the remote systems online and running. We also use remote support technologies (via our Managed Services monitoring and management system) to be able to remotely connect and remotely support users.
In most cases our customers are up and running with no issues because of our pro-active Managed Services offering, however in the rare event support is needed we can often resolve the users problem in minutes, even without having to interrupt the user.
Scheduled maintenance visits
While we try to design solutions that automate as much as possible to reduce on-site visits to remote locations, regular scheduled maintenance visits are still required.
During a regular scheduled maintenance visit, we may:
- Pro-actively replace equipment according to our life cycle policy
- Clean equipment (Servers, SANs, NAS, Networking equipment)
- Perform a visual Inspection to look for damage, issues, potential problems, dust, etc.
- Perform hardware upgrades and migrations
- Perform software upgrades and migrations
- Meet with remote office management to discuss concerns, plans for growth, business continuity
- Test the backup and disaster recovery solution
These visits may be performed monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually depending on the solution and technologies in place. Performing these visits allow us to keep the customer up and running efficiently with little or no downtime at all.
We take pride in the solutions we design and sell for our customers and we enjoy supporting them as well. You can trust Digitally Accurate with your IT requirements, even if they include complex remote office and branch office deployments and remote support.
Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business!