16 Jun 2020

Covid-19 drives compute off-site

The puzzler doing the rounds goes like this: Who led your company’s digital transformation? The CEO, the CTO, the CIO or Covid-19? The reality is, of course, that for many companies it has been the latter. Digital transformation plans, including transitions to cloud computing have been underway for years, but the global pandemic has accelerated them beyond all expectation.

According to a recent survey by Global Data, 93 per cent of IT decision makers say they are accelerating their cloud adoption programmes because of Covid-19. Furthermore, many of the measures adopted to allow businesses to function as countries around the world locked-down their societies are expected to stay in place permanently. For example, 98 per cent say that video meetings will replace a proportion of in-person meetings even after the pandemic.

Taken by surprise

One problem for businesses when the pandemic struck was that few were prepared for disruption on this scale. In the Global Data survey, 30 per cent said they had made no preparation for unexpected global events. That might be shocking, but even among companies that were prepared, most disaster recovery plans are designed to cope with five days of disruption. Suddenly global businesses were facing months without their workforce being able to access the workplace.

But the real issue isn’t access to the desks, chairs and water coolers, handy though those things may be. Many workers have access to computing technology and, for those that didn’t, companies rushed to source laptops and smartphones. Microsoft Teams video calls increased by more than 1,000 per cent in March, while Zoom reported 169 per cent year-on-year growth for its first quarter as workers worldwide turned to video calls to communicate with colleagues, customers and others.

The cloud powers those services and provides collaborative virtual workspaces and movie streaming for when staff need a break. The other thing that workers really need is access to data.

Maintaining mission-critical services

And this is where many firms ran into a problem. Those with data stored on-prem found that their staff had suddenly become the weak link. It wasn’t safe for them to be in the building. Companies needed a quick solution for maintaining mission-critical infrastructure and turned to both the cloud and colocation.

Some managed service providers reported a 300 per cent increase in service requests, while the CEO of one cloud provider reported: “Just last week, one large financial services customer in the US has just taken down many of its existing internal barriers to cloud adoption, and accelerated its migration to go all in with the cloud.”

Not every business needs to go “all-in”, however. Plenty of businesses will be fine with a hybrid model - a mix of cloud solutions, colocation and on-prem storage that ensures critical services and data storage can be accessed during lockdown.

Dave Bartoletti, a principal analyst at Forrester said recently: “In general, we expect companies to expand their use of public cloud, contract their spending on building private clouds and shift their hybrid balance to be greater on the public cloud side. This shift was already underway; the pandemic will accelerate it.”

The pandemic has been a dramatic wake-up call for a lot of businesses. Lockdowns have now been lifted in many countries, but businesses can’t rest easy. Further lockdowns are possible if the pandemic proves difficult to control, and other natural disasters are bound to occur. This is an opportunity to be better prepared for future disruption.

Shane Richmond (Guest)

Shane Richmond is the former Technology Editor of The Daily Telegraph and now a freelance tech writer. You can follow him at @shanerichmond


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