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February 17, 2021
By Steve Law
Research by the United Kingdom’s Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) recently found that the cloud delivered for more than 90% of U.K. public limited companies when tackling the challenge that COVID-19 presented organisations. The same research points out that 69% of firms surveyed sped up digital transformation plans and that 88% expect the adoption of cloud services to increase in the next 12 months.
CIF’s research also makes it clear cloud applications have been the saving grace for many organisations during most of 2020. As many firms strived to adapt and become agile, adopt remote working technologies, change operations and maintain resilience; the cloud – especially business continuity and productivity solutions – has become that dependent pillar of strength for many firms. This year is no exception to the rule, either. COVID-19 hasn’t abated, despite the development of vaccines. Countries are entering second and third lockdowns and many economies are in recession.
Times will continue to be challenging for organisations globally and our new normal continues to see remote/hybrid working thrive as a way of driving productivity for many firms. Within this environment, cloud applications continue to form part of the foundation that drives future growth. Cloud – specifically business continuity applications – will continue to provide opportunities to support businesses through 2021.
The trend toward remote and/or hybrid working continues to prevail, especially as the pandemic thrives and governments encourage information and communication technologies (ITCs) to remain prepared and offer the right tools and services to people to work at home. Therefore, it is crucial for support their customers’ transition to these new styles of working.
Moreover, research revealed two-thirds of UK workers feel uncomfortable returning to a physical workplace. This stresses the importance for businesses to mobilise themselves rapidly and move their infrastructure to the cloud to drive and maintain productivity.
At the heart of it, the cloud provides organisations a central repository to move resources online. This means any employee can access necessary information remotely to work.
Further, with various work-from-home measures in place, it means that it is difficult for ITCs to enter their customers’ offices to access important tools and resources. With these out of physical reach, due to social distancing measures and lockdowns, cloud and online access circumvents this challenge.
It’s not just a centralised repository of information that businesses can derive value from. It is important that workforces take advantage of the features included in all their cloud subscriptions.
Through a relationship with an effective managed service provider (MSP) that can provide training, education and support around shifting to the cloud, organisations can benefit from a comprehensive list of additional features within their packages to enable them to manage and grow a business in today’s uncertain pandemic-led world. This is where the role of the right MSP is critical. It is their job to make this switch as seamless as possible by taking on the planning and implementation, as well as having the expert knowledge of how cloud infrastructure can benefit the business and smooth over any possible obstacles.
For example, many companies had access to Microsoft365 packages, but Microsoft Teams often wasn’t …
… considered or used before COVID-19. Since, COVID-19, Microsoft Teams has seen a 70% increase in users due to remote working restrictions, making it a tool that has clearly been taken advantage of to drive productivity, collaboration and communication during lockdown. This is where ITCs have a vital role to play in educating end-users on how to gain optimum value and productivity from their infrastructure.
As people work remotely they require greater flexibility and effective access to data. But, with this flexible access must come more stringent security control and business processes. Initially, though, security wasn’t front of mind for many firms at the start of COVID-19. The priority was to get remote working up and running. Since then, cyberattacks continue to steadily increase. Reinforcing the need for data security is that almost half of businesses have suffered a cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months.
Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to solve this problem. Small and large organisations need the correct security infrastructure and unique measures in place to suit their requirements. More functionality can be added to cloud networks, including virtual private networks (VPNs), single sign-On, and multifactor authentication (MFA) solutions to ensure a secure cloud environment. Just getting the basics right will put clients in a position to build their business and engage with staff and customers securely.
COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for businesses that need to become more flexible and agile. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, has said that they’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months, including remote teamwork and learning and critical cloud infrastructure and security. If companies are unable to respond to unexpected situations when they occur, such as the pandemic, then they could potentially face devastating effects. With discussions around the likelihood of future waves of the virus, it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet. More disruption is anticipated, let alone hurdles that we don’t see coming, so flexibility and agility become core components for business survival – all of which are key benefits of subscribing to the cloud, as it enables firms to scale usage as required.
Before the pandemic, 73% of organisations had a digital transformation strategy in place or were in the process of implementing one. COVID-19, however, has accelerated transformation for many firms and according to CIF we know that cloud service adoption will increase dramatically through 2021, too. As cloud adoption rockets, it raises further questions about whether firms are agile and flexible enough to grow, because 2021 will be another tough year.
For instance, do organisations have the right relationships in place with MSPs and can they support clients strategically and tactically on their cloud journeys? Investment in the cloud is a long-term commitment. So, ensuring effective partnerships are in place to deliver optimum value from cloud migrations is crucial.
Steve Law is CTO of IT-service provider Giacom. His previous experience includes stints with educational software companies, gaming and computer-aided software tools for business application development. His experience includes building, growing and leading engineering teams to create world class high-scale, mission-critical SaaS / cloud products and managing growth from start-ups to large corporates and the challenges that come with it. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @GiacomCM on Twitter.
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