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Making the edge work for a hybrid world

Image: Adobe Stock / sutlafk

Pre-pandemic smart firms began transitioning their knowledge workers to have more flexible, ‘always on’ access to business-critical data sources using cloud services, mobile, and IoT apps.

Access and speed were facilitated by having the cloud data as close as possible to the end users of that data. This helped them innovate more flexibly and gain vital competitive advantage, but it was only the prelude for what would follow.

Fast forward to a post-pandemic 2023, where this ‘data at the edge’ trend has become a global shift. UK workforces are quickly becoming a ‘remote office of one’ in multiple locations and at home, almost overnight. These seismic changes have recast the way we work: UK ONS 2023 data estimates that four in ten UK workers have operated from home while a similar proportion now uses a VPN; additionally, analyst IDC has predicted that Europe’s edge computing spending will hit $24 billion in 2023.  

This lightning shift to more fluid, hybrid and remote work collaborations has heaped pressure on organisations’ network infrastructures and data centres, as well as disrupting digital transformation programmes and cloud migrations. Now more than ever, businesses’ survival depends on granting their people, partners, and supply chains instant and trouble-free access to applications and resources,  wherever teams are working. Companies also need to drive wider team collaborations that frequently span the globe.

Top performance challenges

Despite firms’ pragmatic shifts to hybrid or remote work models, CIOs and network and data centre professionals are still experiencing ongoing performance, latency, and compliance challenges.

First, as data is recalled from public cloud platforms at unprecedented scale, application performance is being degraded. It’s a small wonder this is happening when PwC’s 2023 Cloud Business Survey estimates that almost four out of five businesses have adopted cloud to some extent while IDC reckons that half the world’s data will reside in the public cloud by 2025.

Second, organisations’ productivity is being undermined by continued latency and version control issues as people work on bigger data sets at unprecedented scale. Consider the architect’s practice that delivers visionary buildings by applying creativity, technical know-how, and cultural references; its future not only depends on teams operating across cultures and time zones, but also on instant global file access and lockable files that ensure mission-critical version and quality control.     

Third, in a hybridised world, organisations have encountered troubling security and compliance issues. Today’s ransomware attacks keep increasing in frequency, but many criminals are eschewing large-scale attacks in favour of more sophisticated incursions on poorly defended organisations. Organisations in sectors like construction, government, and healthcare are known to be vulnerable to ransomware because they maintain multiple file copies and backup files across different functions and geographical boundaries.

Tackling performance and sharing issues

IT teams running hybrids of cloud-based and on-premises infrastructures are resolving these difficulties with new platforms and storage tools that enable companies to work more dynamically and productively at the edge. This step change is typically being forged in several ways:

Standardising access

New cloud-based tools are standardising critical information and file systems’ access, liberating teams to work more productively on enterprise applications and ever-bigger datasets at an ever-greater scale. Cloud-based storage provides secure and resilient access to files without VPNs from any location, while ensuring connectivity even in high-latency environments for better file-sharing performance.

Where companies’ value-add depends on knowledge workers operating nimbly across boundaries, such platforms deliver file shares up to 10 times faster based on streaming technologies. These advances keep end users’ local files updated with core cloud data and enable effective desktop synchronisation for offline work. Such SaaS tools are compatible with collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, boosting remote teams’ collaboration and productivity and allowing the moving of large data volumes through simple ‘drag and drop’ actions.

Rethinking costs

IT teams can increasingly use cloud-based storage to rethink their costs. Traditional data infrastructures require duplication of data centres and critical assets for redundancy – set-ups that became complex, maintenance-hungry, and costly with the pre-pandemic enthusiasm for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and IoT applications. In contrast, cloud storage offers the ‘always on’ flexibility of a SaaS application with subscription-based ‘pay-as-you-use-it’ user options. Together with scalable cloud storage’s avoidance of infrastructure maintenance and capacity planning, it is helping reinvent companies’ storage cost models.

Averting threats

The latest cloud-based platforms are protecting us more effectively from hybrid era risks — like cyber-attacks, increased system outages and complex software licensing. For example, the latest cloud platforms can monitor malign activity at the network edge. Where a ransomware attack or a system outage is identified, IT teams can ‘roll back’ their file systems to the time immediately before an attack or incident to initiate rapid file restoration in hours or even minutes, using thousands of points at the edge.

Even with repeated attacks or outages, CIOs using cloud storage don’t have to pay criminals’ ransoms or suffer workforce downtime, as often happens with traditional storage infrastructures. And companies migrating to single, integrated cloud platforms can avoid the tortuous licensing requirements and cost calculations associated with on-premises data centre and storage infrastructures with multiple suppliers.

Living on the edge

Our fast-changing hybrid economy makes huge demands on companies’ data centres and technology stacks. However, forward-looking IT professionals can ensure teams can access files from anywhere, overturn previous storage cost models, and engineer fast recovery from cyber-attacks and outages. By exploring the capabilities of applications and data at the edge, organisations can resolve these issues and ensure our workforces work more safely, effectively, and dynamically.

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