How do companies manage the security implications of working from home, in a country where remote work has generally been frowned on? Devo, a data analytics and security platform with headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. and its European headquarters in Madrid, helps companies get visibility into their networks — something that has become even more critical as more companies rely on virtual private network (VPNs) to security connect team members working from home.
We spoke with Colin Britton, chief strategy officer at Devo, and Angel Blazquez, director of cloud operations at Devo, to talk about how COVID-19 has changed things for their company and its customers.
First of all, a significant portion of Devo’s team is in Madrid. How has this been different for Spanish companies than, say, companies based in the United States?
Britton: We have teams in the US as well as Madrid, but the majority of our technical team are in Madrid. We were very early to go to work from home in this process — we have an employee who was connected to a person who was suspected of having COVID-19 fairly early, and we went straight to a work from home strategy. I think it’s fair to say that Spain does not have a work-from-home culture, but it wasn’t very difficult for us. We are principally a cloud service, so from a business interruption perspective, it wasn’t as big of a challenge for us as we’ve seen with others.
Blazquez: In Spain, companies tend to be a bit conservative about working from home, but Devo isn’t, and we didn’t really struggle once we decided that no one should go back to the office.
What struggles have you seen your customers having when it comes to getting set up for remote work?
Britton: One of our biggest anchor customers is Telefonica, a Spanish telecom company. We provide infrastructure to help them monitor their IPTV network and broadband network. We provide the data system and analytics behind their customer service system. They’ve seen a massive growth in the amount of data people are consuming because everybody’s working from home. And that means a lot more issues to deal with. We’ve been at the heart of allowing them to see what’s going on in their network.
We also see many organizations going from single-digit percentages of remote workers to 100%. How do you handle that? That gives them very different support issues, but for the most part, our customers are able to scale on the Devo platform without really talking to us, and that’s what we’ve seen them doing. But we’ve seen a definite change in the type of data companies care about.
What are some specific security concerns related to moving to all-remote work?
Britton: There are a lot of risks associated with remote work, and most organizations have policies around remote work but employees are not generally familiar with them, because they don’t normally work remotely. I see people dealing with authentication issues and VPN setup issues. We’ve also been hiring new team members, and that has its own challenges. Like, can we legally onboard someone without a wet signature on a piece of paper? How can we provision them equipment and connect it to all the systems? We’ve had some challenges in that area and have seen some of our customers struggling with that too.
Blazquez: One technical problem we’ve seen customers struggling with is provisioning a new VPN and new VPN equipment. At Devo, we assume anyone can work at home and have a lot of our team in the States who work at home, so we already had this infrastructure set up. But for companies that didn’t, they are spending a lot of time on it.
Britton: If you’re not set up to provision these things at scale, it takes days to get people connected again.
Has this changed how customers view the cloud or remote work?
Britton: We’re a cloud-first company and we think about the cloud all the time. The world is heading to the cloud, but for many companies, they’re a long way from being there. I had a call this morning with a major multinational company. I had talked with them six months ago, and they said, “the cloud’s not in our strategy.” This morning they were talking about how they are having to get to the cloud. There was a presumption in the way they run their business that people would be at their sites. I don’t think anybody can make that assumption anymore.