Accelerated cloud adoption in the COVID-19 era

Published on July 14, 2020

In early 2020, the novel coronavirus had organizations around the globe scrambling to adapt to stringent lockdown rules and work-from-home policies that governments implemented to combat the deadly virus. While organizations usually have business continuity plans in place to tackle unforeseen disruptions that may arise, most companies formulate such plans taking into account only a small portion of the business being affected. Under the present, unprecedented circumstances, however, organizations have had to deal with entire offices being shut down, a completely remote workforce, and systems and services ill-equipped to handle the demands of that workforce.

Although it has been some time since organizations have had to adapt to this “new normal,” and some parts of the world are already preparing for partial returns to the workplace, we are far from a pre-pandemic scenario. For all we know, remote work is here to stay, and the processes and policies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic might permanently change the way organizations work. With remote work comes many challenges that organizations need to grapple with to ensure a seamless transition.

The work-from-home champion

Making remote work a success has hinged on tech tools and processes that aid this new way of working. Of the many solutions that organizations across the globe have started using to make remote work easier, cloud-based solutions have come to the forefront like never before. While some organizations were already well-equipped with cloud-based email solutions, collaboration tools, and telephony services, as well as remote IT support services, many companies were ill-prepared to hold up during this period of work-from-home mandates.

In many parts of the world, such as the Asia Pacific region, working from home was not a part of the organizational culture. This meant that many firms simply did not have the infrastructure, tools, or culture to support the sudden surge in employees working remotely. Workers, too, were not equipped with the proper devices, internet connectivity, or software services to make working from home easier. To add to their misery, most companies also had to deal with IT budget cuts during the pandemic.

Cloud solutions appear to be an answer to all these woes, as they are not only known to be conducive to business continuity planning, they are also known to considerably lessen the costs of managing and maintaining legacy systems. The corporate costs thus shift from significant, upfront capital expenses to more manageable, on-going operating expenses.

An ever-expanding cloud toolkit

While investing in cloud-based productivity tools seems like a no-brainer given the current scenario, what is interesting is that organizations have also increased their investments in cloud-based IT management and security tools. This could indicate a significant change in organizations’ operational approach and cloud strategy.

With entire offices working from home, businesses have found themselves needing a broad spectrum of IT management solutions—from endpoint management and security solutions to remote IT support services. With a distributed workforce comes the challenge of managing a distributed endpoint environment. As employees work from the safety of their homes, the bulk of the onus is on the organization to ensure that the various devices and applications used by employees are updated with the latest patches and constantly monitored. Cloud-based endpoint management tools have proved especially useful for this purpose during these trying times.

In addition to managing this extended endpoint environment, businesses also need to secure it. While revisiting their endpoint security strategy to adapt to current demands, organizations can easily enforce new policies over the cloud to ensure that employees can install the latest security updates.

When it comes to the question of security, many organizations are recently waking up to the merits of implementing Zero Trust network architecture.  A Zero Trust network works on an adaptive trust model wherein trust is never implicit. This means that access is never automatically granted to a user; access is given strictly on a need-to-know, least-privilege-required basis. Zero Trust network architecture provides users a seamless, secure connection to any private application without having to expose the application to the public network. This means that many applications, such as software deployment tools and server monitoring and provisioning tools, can be securely accessed by authorized users.

If all of these applications and policies were to be hosted on-premises, not only would organizations have to worry about managing and maintaining the application servers, they would also have to worry about ensuring that their network has the capability to handle the sudden spike in VPN connection requests.

Cloud-based solutions thus lend employees the extraordinary flexibility of connecting to the business anytime, anywhere. Businesses can scale their consumption based on their operational demands while avoiding system maintenance and upgrade costs. The pandemic has thus accelerated modernization plans, and most organizations can expect to reap the benefits of this new-found technological agility.

The post-COVID-19 scenario

The cloud has provided a powerful avenue to unlock business value while battling unforeseen business disruptions. A recent BCG and AWS report found that more than 70 percent of business executives believe that the cloud will enable their organization to innovate faster while reducing operational and implementation risks.

However, to unlock the full value of cloud adoption, businesses must be aware of the challenges that accompany the transition to the cloud. Cybersecurity concerns must be taken into account before undertaking a full-fledged cloud migration. Many industries, particularly those that need to deal with sensitive data, do not host specific data on the public cloud. For such organizations, evaluating a hybrid cloud infrastructure model might yield better results. They’ll also need to integrate their cloud and legacy environments, often at different levels of the technology stack.

The question of talent also poses challenges when it comes to cloud computing. Effective use of cloud architecture requires expertise that is in high demand across the globe. Without the right talent, the rate of cloud adoption will be considerably slower. Organizations that cannot source the expertise externally should focus on honing the required talents internally.

Lastly, a successful cloud migration strategy is always backed by a seamless alignment between business and IT goals. Misalignment between business and IT strategies can lead to untapped cloud potential, inadequate implementation, and poor user adoption. A perfectly executed cloud adoption strategy will require a comprehensive assessment of present and future business goals, and how cloud computing can further these goals. This strategy of course needs to be supported by business leaders. However, despite the risks, migrating to a cloud environment can certainly be straightforward if an organization does its due diligence and approaches the transition with meticulous planning.

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