The Current Pandemic Gives Cloud Computing A Needed Jolt
In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended global business. From local insurance agencies to multinational corporations, companies around the world have had to scramble to continue operations with their employees working remotely from home due to office and business closures as a result of government orders.
Even without the pandemic, cloud-based tools were surging in popularity. Now, the demand has skyrocketed.
According to one JPMorgan analyst, videoconferencing tool Zoom has seen its daily usage rise by more than 300% from before the pandemic. And on March 18, Microsoft announced that its collaboration tool Teams added 12 million daily users just that week, bringing the total to 44 million.
This transition to remote work on such a massive scale would not have been possible in the server-led infrastructure of 15 to 20 years ago.
Put simply, without today’s prevalence of cloud computing, remote system access and videoconferencing capabilities, most white-collar workers would not be able to work from home. And if we didn’t have this ability to work remotely, the economy would grind to a complete halt, producing a disruption on a scale not seen since the Great Depression. As it is, service industries including hospitality, travel and entertainment are bearing the brunt of the financial impact of the stay-at-home orders since they largely do not have remote work as a viable option.
Cloud computing, which has been touted for its flexibility, reliability and security, has emerged as one of the few saving graces for businesses during this pandemic. Its use is critical for companies to maintain operations, but even more critical for their ability to continue to service their customers. However, many organizations have lost sight of the original purpose of the cloud and are therefore failing to fully harness its potential.
Resetting the compass.
In 1999, Marc Benioff founded Salesforce, pioneering cloud computing with its software as a service (SaaS) model. This was launched as a fully public cloud, a model that Salesforce has driven from the industry’s infancy.
More than 20 years later, it’s clear we’ve strayed from Benioff’s original vision. Often, when companies discuss the cloud today, they’re referring to a hybrid public-private model they’ve adopted to balance their concerns about security breaches with their desire to reap the benefits of running some enterprises through a public cloud vendor.
Institutional heritage and the “this is the way it’s always been done” mindset can drive the desire to operate a hybrid cloud or even maintain some on-premises software. Internal control can also be a factor, as organizations might not want to adopt a cloud vendor’s scheduled maintenance and upgrades.
Those arguments fail to recognize the benefits of a fully integrated cloud model and the risks of separating operations via a hybrid cloud model.
• Within a full cloud, operations are streamlined among all teams — support, professional services and security — leading to less redundancy of tasks and greater overall efficiency.
• Multiple providers can deliver different levels of services, leading to differing outcomes within cloud and on-premises operations. If a vendor operates some of an organization’s cloud services but not others, that organization could have different versions of software running, creating an inconsistency between its operations. Private clouds might not be in sync with public clouds.
• Security levels could also vary across hybrid clouds and on-premises software, leaving operations open to risk if similar protocols cannot be integrated across the board. (It’s worth noting that a 2019 report from Gartner Inc. predicted that through 2020, 95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault.)
Now is the optimal time to fully commit to cloud computing.
To begin your journey to the cloud, here is a three-step framework you should consider:
- Plan your approach. Take the time upfront to carefully plan your journey before you start by assessing your current infrastructure to understand the environment requirements for your cloud strategy. What is the right mix of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS that works for your needs? How do your existing corporate infrastructure requirements transition into this new cloud world?
- Ready your apps. Some apps, especially the more modern ones you may have built over the last few years, may already be ready to move to the cloud. Some may require more significant app modernization to update them with more modern APIs or frameworks. Finally, some apps may not need to be moved because you may decide to replace them with newer “cloud-native” solutions available today. It’s important to thoroughly catalog and prioritize the apps in your portfolio that you plan to move to the cloud.
- Adopt the cloud. The final phase is to enable your end users or customers to use the apps in the cloud. Training and change management efforts are typically required to ensure successful end user adoption in the new cloud environment. Also, invest in agile techniques; the speed of cloud updates will enable a more agile cadence of releasing smaller, but more frequent, enhancements that will continue to drive user stickiness and adoption.
The world will eventually emerge from this period of remote work, but the way we do business will forever be transformed.
We have a unique opportunity to consider how cloud apps are allowing us to operate our businesses in this environment of large-scale remote work and how they may continue to provide workplace innovation in the future because disruptive events (such as World War II) often lead to permanent changes in the business landscape.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2017 to 2018, only 29% of American workers could work from home. After this pandemic, will workers who’ve adapted to remote work want to return to working in an office — and will their employers want them to?
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This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article and see the images, click here.
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