The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a significant and drastic change to the work environment. In order to address the threats of the virus and to implement precautionary measures to reduce the exposure of employees to the contagion, many companies shifted operations from the office to the respective homes of the employees.
In a study conducted by Gartner over 88 percent of businesses and companies worldwide implemented work-from-home arrangements either as an option or as a mandatory policy. Additionally, over 97 percent of organizations canceled all work travel. This significant shift in work location to ensure business continuity meant a total change in work dynamics as well. Employees now have to heavily rely on the internet and on web applications to access data and to continue working on their responsibilities.
The reliance on the internet and web application services has dramatically increased because of this new reality. Take for instance the upsurge in the use of collaboration software and virtual meeting platforms. Zoom, the web conferencing app, became the de facto messaging and collaboration platform as the immediate effect of the pandemic, rising in usage by at least ten-fold. Content delivery services have also increased significantly. Akamai saw a 30 percent increase in content usage.
The rise of web apps
The pandemic may have been a near-catastrophic event for everyone on the planet but it has brought one thing to light. Web applications have made it easier to ensure business continuity regardless of the industry or business sector one is connected to. Web applications have a slew of essential benefits that would easily be an advantage over what was considered the old standard – installing offline desktop software.
Security and integrity are also not going to be much of an issue if robust security policies and protocols are put in place by IT administrators, among them, the installation of an application firewall to improve server-side controls and protections. The increased reliance on web applications means that there is a larger surface area for attacks that target such applications. A web application firewall or WAF will address the risk of application-layer attacks and will thus ensure the integrity of enterprise data and apps.
Installed software’s inherent disadvantages
The strongest benefit of web applications and the reason it has surged in popularity during the pandemic is the fact that these applications and the data they access exist on the cloud.
Offline programs are generally installed directly on the employees’ machines. This practice presents a set of disadvantages that could definitely be a headache for the IT department. Some of the problems could include corrupted installation files that would then corrupt the whole system.
Software installed directly on the machine will also need to be updated to ensure that the system has the latest vulnerability fixes or the latest efficiency updates. While this is technically an easy process for some people, a majority of users are not technologically comfortable implementing these updates themselves. This means it will tax the IT department, which will need to deploy its personnel just to update software. Now multiply this by the hundreds, if not thousands of machines, and you will realize how cumbersome it is.
Burdening the IT department is also a huge disadvantage for going the traditional software installation route. It was previously mentioned that deployment can take a lot of time—no just installation but also in updating software. But the impact on time and productivity for the IT department will also be impacted by increased reliance on the IT department when the installed software conks out or acts up.
The fact that the software is installed in the work machines of employees will automatically shift the onus of fixing problems (even when there’s no real problem, to begin with) to the IT department. In fact, IT professionals cite workload as one of the top challenges in their line of work, so the concern is valid.
Web applications and their remote work benefits
Web applications are so well-adapted to the New Normal of remote work that one can even think that it was unconsciously built and developed for this exact purpose. And this belief does have a lot of merits.
Web applications reside in the cloud; thus, they can be accessed anywhere, on any machine. It allows for an unprecedented level of flexibility that lends itself well to remote work. An employee can access their work applications anywhere they are, and could even potentially use any person’s laptop or home work station without having to install software or create any special access to gain entry to the applications.
Additionally, web applications can access an organization’s database wherever the users are. There are no encumbrances to accessing files so that the employee can continue working. Collaboration among the team becomes almost intuitive and second nature. In fact, remote work—aided by robust web applications—has driven productivity. An article published by Forbes showed that 94 percent of employers think that productivity has either remained the same or actually increased during the pandemic, aided by remote work arrangements.
Maintenance is equally intuitive with web applications. There are no more worries about having an outdated version of software – especially one that has vulnerabilities that could potentially compromise the organization’s data. One good example of this vulnerability is the security issues of Microsoft’s email software that exposed almost 30,000 organizations. Web applications are updated constantly and whenever an employee opens it they will always get the latest, most stable version.
Web applications do have their own security concerns but good security protocols and setting up security features like web application firewalls (WAF) and DDoS protection can dramatically bring up security levels and protect the organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how a majority of organizations operate and conduct their business. Working from home and other remote work arrangements are not only encouraged but already accepted as the new reality in the New Normal. Web applications, while already an established form of delivering services and functionality to organizations, have surged in popularity because of the new work paradigms being instituted all over the world.
Web applications have proven to be the robust solution and method to working remotely and have obvious advantages over traditional installed software methods employed before. In the coming years, web applications—with their versatility, security, and adaptability to different work environments—will continue to rise in popularity.