Centre Stage: Cloud and its Role in the New Ways of Working
In the wake of COVID-19, enabling remote work has required many IT teams to rapidly lean into cloud technologies to keep their businesses operating smoothly. As public and private cloud usage has continued to rise throughout the pandemic, it is clear that what was initially a sudden shift will now become a permanent change for many organisations. This rapid change will create the agility that many organisations are desperate for but will likely also create longer-term problems around budget overspending, among other things.
So what has the increase in cloud usage looked like so far in response to pandemic restrictions? While increased reliance on collaboration and video conferencing applications like Zoom and Teams dominated the headlines early in the remote work shift, dependence on cloud infrastructure and services may have been more popular – and is likely to continue to impact organisations for the foreseeable future.
According to a recent survey by Snow Software, 76% of IT leaders said they had increased their use of cloud platforms with services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and even private cloud (typically VMware-based). A further 55% noted an increase in collaboration tools like Slack, Teams or Google Chat and an additional 52% of those surveyed indicated an increase in cloud-based video conferencing software like Zoom, Cisco WebEx or GoToMeeting.
While many companies already relied on some productivity tools before the pandemic, the surge in cloud infrastructure use represents a fundamental shift in how organisations operate. These trends hint at a considerable change in enterprise cloud strategy.
As IT leaders face the concurrent challenges of continuing to support remote working, enabling a possible return to the workplace and tightening budgets, 91% said they are altering their cloud strategy as a result of the current economic climate. What’s more, twice as many say they are accelerating cloud migration (45%) and digital transformation (41%) versus putting those initiatives on hold (22% and 21% respectively).
It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has turned cloud into an essential service for many organisations, as well as highlighting the complexities of managing cloud cost and usage. But what does this mean for the future of cloud usage?
No end in sight to Covid restrictions
For the time being, at least, businesses are putting a lot of faith in cloud storage to enable remote working. Snow’s recent survey also found that 82% of respondents said they had increased their cloud usage in response to the pandemic.
While COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease in some parts of the world, the majority of workplaces are still encouraging remote working where possible – or creating hybrid remote/physical office working conditions. Realistically, this could be the reality for some time. According to Snow’s statistics, 60% of IT leaders have said that their cloud usage is actually still increasing, which means that IT teams are continuing to invest in ways to support the new reality of the workplace.
Looking to the future, just under half (47%) said they would feel comfortable returning to their offices once their company deems it safe to do so, and a further 43% would like their company to offer remote working options still. The reality is that remote working and the dependency on cloud will play a significant role in the ‘new normal’.
Striking a fine balance
Of course, the financial strain the pandemic has had on economies will also take its toll on businesses in various industries in most countries. For example, the UK has plunged into its first recession in 11 years. This goes without saying that companies have had to streamline budgets and identify efficiencies to remain resilient and maintain business as usual, which has left business leaders with difficult decisions to make.
For many organisations, it’s about finding the correct balance between investing and saving. While there is a definite need to identify cost savings, continuing to invest in initiatives like digital transformation requires organisations to evaluate the return on investment and the opportunity it provides to ensure business stability. In an effort to find the right balance between investment and savings, 32% of respondents are asking their cloud vendors for extended payment terms, and 31% are renegotiating their cloud contracts.
The future of cloud usage and working practices
As businesses begin to welcome back employees to their physical places of work, the use of cloud will continue to be concurrent with our working lives. Two-thirds (66%) have reported that they will continue to use the cloud services and applications they implemented during the crisis.
Communication, for starters, will be one of the most significant changes to everyday working life. One of the biggest issues companies faced when moved into lockdown was internal communications. So, it is not overly surprising to see that video conferencing apps like Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting (73%) and communications apps like Slack, Teams and Google chat (65%) were cited as ‘lifesaving’ applications beyond core IT software. Businesses are expected to offer greater flexibility with remote working, meaning these applications will become more commonplace moving forward.
It is clear to see that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned cloud – whether public, private, hybrid or multi – into an essential service for many organisations. It has also highlighted the complexities of historically managing cloud cost and usage. While many CIOs are being asked to trim costs, there will be continued investment in technology that presents the opportunity for long-term growth and stability.
To weather the storm, IT leaders must take a comprehensive approach to managing complex cloud environments, uncovering opportunities to streamline costs, while continuing to provide the infrastructure and services needed to support the workforce and drive innovation.
IT Employees Predict 90% Increase in Cloud Security Spending
As companies get back on their feet post-pandemic, they’re going all-in on cloud applications. In a recent report by Devo Technology titled “Beyond Cloud Adoption: How to Embrace the Cloud for Security and Business Benefits”, 81% of the 500 IT and security team members surveyed said that COVID accelerated their cloud timelines. More than half of the top-performing businesses reported gains in visibility. In fact, the cloud now outnumbers on-premise solutions at a 3:1 ratio.
But the benefits are accompanied by significant cybersecurity risks, as cloud infrastructure is more complex than legacy systems. Let’s dive in.
Why Are Cloud Platforms Taking Over?
According to Forrester, the public cloud infrastructure market could grow 28% over the next year, up to US$113.1bn. Companies shifting to remote work and decentralised workplaces find it easy to store and access information, especially as networks start to share more and more supply chain and enterprise information—think risk mitigation platforms and ESG ratings.
Here’s the catch: when you shift to the cloud, you choose a more complex system, which often requires cloud-native platforms for network security. In other words, you can’t stop halfway. ‘Only cloud-native platforms can keep up with [the cloud’s] speed and complexity” and ultimately increase visibility and control’, said Douglas Murray, CEO at cloud security provider Valtix.
Here’s a quick list of the top cloud security companies, as ranked by Software Testing Help:
What are the Security Issues?
Here’s the bad news. According to Accenture, less than 40% of companies have achieved the full value they expected on their cloud investments. All-in greater complexity has forced companies to spend more to hire skilled tech workers, analyse security data, and manage new cybersecurity threats.
The two main issues are (1) a lack of familiarity with cloud systems and (2) challenges with shifting legacy security systems to new platforms. Out of the 500 IT employees from Devo Technology’s cloud report, for example, 80% said they’d sorted 40% more security data, suffered from a lack of cloud security training, and experienced a 60% increase in cybersecurity threats.
How Will Companies React?
They certainly won’t stop investing in cloud platforms. Out of the 500 enterprise-level companies that Devo Technology talked to throughout North America and Western Europe, 90% anticipated a jump in cloud security spending in 2021. They’ll throw money at automating security processes and investing in security upskilling programmes.
After all, company executives will find it incredibly difficult to stick with legacy systems when some cloud-centred companies have found success. Since moving from Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) offerings to the cloud, Accenture has saved up to 70% on its processes; recently, the company announced that it would invest US$3bn to help its clients ‘realise the cloud’s business value, speed, cost, talent, and innovation benefits’.
The company stated: ‘Security is often seen as the biggest inhibitor to a cloud-first journey—but in reality, it can be its greatest accelerator’.