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How Covid-19 has accelerated the shift to cloud computing

Diane Murray

Diane Murray

EMEA Strategy Lead at Progress
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Image credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock.com

The accelerated evolution of the cloud computing market has been one of a few triumphant outcomes of the shift to remote work during the pandemic.

Organisations scrambling to adapt to the digital world accelerated their move to the cloud to remain viable. New priorities came into sharp focus, such as remote workforce management, cybersecurity, always-on experiences, and business agility. Gartner reaffirmed the opportunity of the cloud by predicting worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services to grow 18.4% in 2021 to $304.9 billion. The trend doesn’t show signs of slowing in 2022, as organisations shift to the cloud to remain viable.

The evolution of cloud computing

Remote working isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s been around for decades, ever since technology enabled the first tech workers to work autonomously. Businesses were already embracing cloud-based workspaces with success well before 2020. Digitally mature workers and organisations recognised the adaptability and agility of cloud-based technology facilitated through email, messaging tools, mobile apps, PWAs, and even VOIP as a standard of telephony. The pandemic merely accelerated existing trends and a desire by workers and organisations to be always on, always available, and highly dependable.

A focus on modernisations that take advantage of cloud-native features are key to enabling that agility within organisations. Low-code and no-code integration has levelled the playing field for many SMEs, accelerating development and reducing reliance on IT and DevOps teams. Cloud environments empower workers to be more productive, working whenever and from wherever they choose.

Adaptability, agility, and remote work – the new normal 

The power is in the collaboration of cloud environments, using intranets and portals to streamline workflows. The cloud’s impact on remote workforce management and security has been significant, as the securing of data and personal information for remote workers has become a priority for digital leaders.

In May 2020, Gartner reported 74% of CFOs saw the operational advantages of remote work and intended to increase remote work opportunities for their organisations permanently. Deloitte and others contentiously led the field in closing physical offices. Cloud computing was central to this paradigm shift alongside business systems, portals, and the penetration of video conferencing tools to fuel home workplace setups across the globe. The scalability of cloud deployments was the deciding factor for many organisations to thrive or fail.

Cloud-based collaboration enables WFA (working from anywhere)

Cloud-based collaboration has single-handedly removed the importance of workplace. Web-based business applications, with their mobility and centrality of data, have permitted workspaces that are consistent and flexible beyond anything that was imaginable even a decade ago. Workers can enjoy the same working experience whether in or out of an office building and regardless of time zones.

Many organisations have established an intranet for workers, defined by Gartner as “a network internal to an enterprise that uses the same methodology and techniques as the Internet but is accessible only to employees”. An intranet supports corporate communications, internal collaboration, and knowledge management. Portals are similar in that they serve as a gathering point for people who have an established relationship. Those relationships may include employees, vendors, and established customers.

Intranets and portals are created to streamline workflows, serving what is needed efficiently so visitors can move on to the next task. The new paradigm is that all meeting spaces have a virtual element and workers flow fluidly between in-office, remote or hybrid situations. The centralised storage and management of content necessarily require accessibility that serves all the modalities cloud makes possible. Organisations can’t afford to overlook the boost in productivity generated by this highly collaborative working, and enabling tools and technologies are on the rise.

WFA can boost productivity

Smart managers are realising that the flexibility offered by remote work can boost efficiency. Greatplacetowork.com’s survey of 800,000 Fortune 500 employees unsurprisingly reported that productivity for at-home work was as good or better than the traditional modality. Ditching the daily commute and with shorter personal meetings, employees have regained hours in their days and are using these hours more productively.

The cloud’s impact on remote workforce management and security

With ever-evolving workstyles, it’s vital for management and security to evolve too. The challenges of remote workforce management are clearly evident, with managers needing to adapt leadership approaches to focus on targets and outcomes more than the physical presence of workers. Looking after employees therefore is a priority, not just in terms of their wellbeing, but the security risks of the organisation skyrocketed with the introduction of new devices into networks and a general relaxation of security vigilance. Employee surveillance is key to understanding remote employee behaviour, and managers can collect all manner of data, in vast amounts, in real-time.

Legally, workers have little expectation of privacy when on company grounds or when using company devices. Most of us realise and accept that those terms are in our employment contracts. In new workplaces, however, when personal devices are used for business purposes the traditional boundary lines are blurred. The best managers will use the data responsibly for mapping of trends, routing of tasks and streamlining of communications.

The rise of remote working also introduces challenges to security. Now that anyone can work anywhere, and on-prem is disappearing, tech teams face new challenges to secure data and personal information and security takes on a whole new meaning.

With many cloud security sceptics weeded out by the pandemic, organisations now realise the path to maximise security comes through migration from old IT infrastructure to the cloud. Virtualisation between multiple data centres, automated software patching, and the staffing and physical protection provided by large hosting services far surpasses what’s possible for most organisations. It’s trusted cloud deployment which enables secure remote work across a myriad of devices and locations while maintaining stability. Today’s cloud deployment empowers organisations with a centrally managed, compliant, secure, and highly optimised global infrastructure.

Evolving digital experience through PaaS and SaaS offerings 

With the escalating importance of digital experience, organisations are incorporating the cloud into their development environments, therefore the underlying architecture that powers these experiences has never been more essential.

PaaS (platform-as-a-service) options enable organisations to reduce time to market, achieve operational efficiency, and scale to meet sporadic traffic spikes and declines. The PaaS model provides an environment for application development, allowing multiple developers to coordinate their efforts regardless of location. DevOps teams, relieved of hardware maintenance, can focus on creative work while maintaining control of the creative process. For DevOps teams, this is often preferable to SaaS deployment, which offers less control of the process.

A future of cloud computing

In just over two years, the tech landscape has evolved more than ever before – it’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay. Whether you’re a worker, manager, developer, or security pro – your priorities will have been realigned. Technology plays a central and intrinsic role in our personal and working lives and, to some extent, there is an increasing dependency on cloud computing. As on-prem disappears and businesses embrace cloud for their future, the next challenge on the agenda will be their need for cloud skills.

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