For the foreseeable future, businesses like yours will be grappling with the fallout of COVID-19 and its tangential consequences. The continued threat the pandemic poses to business continuity, including the operational challenges and security risks of a prolonged work-from-home model, fluctuating demands on your IT resources, and the added complexities of disaster recovery, are understandably concerning. Optimizing your IT architecture is one way to mitigate the impacts and help you navigate uncertainty. For many businesses, that means moving to the cloud.
Advantages of the Cloud
The cloud refers to the delivery of software and computing services over the Internet. It replaces or supplements your own IT infrastructure. The pros of cloud computing are numerous and applicable even in non-pandemic situations; COVID-19 simply magnifies their benefit. Below are the biggest-ticket advantages in light of our current reality.
The pandemic has made it so that demands on businesses’ computing resources (e.g., storage capacity, computational speed, software applications, etc.) are in a state of flux. Many businesses are facing unpredictable cycles of furloughs, layoffs, and rehires, which can drastically affect the number of people who need to access their resources at any given time. Other businesses are experiencing seismic shifts in the number of customers and potential customers hitting their website, with some businesses seeing significantly more traffic and many others seeing far less. As a result, many businesses are either paying for resources they do not need when demand is low, or they don’t have the resources in place to meet demand when it peaks. What’s more, future growth is uncertain, making it difficult to anticipate what computing resources you might need in the long term. Taking your infrastructure off premises and into the cloud provides you with endless opportunity to scale up or down on a dime. In the cloud, resources are available on demand, and they are theoretically unlimited. If, for example, a million customers decide to hit your website all at once, or you suddenly bring back hundreds of furloughed workers, the cloud lets you dynamically scale your resources to handle the additional requests and then descale if the demand passes, so you only pay for what you need. To accommodate a comparable increase in demand with an on-premises infrastructure would require additional servers, software licenses, or other networking equipment—a cumbersome undertaking and expensive investment that would likely sit underutilized for long periods when demand wanes.
2. Remote Access
For remote employees, cloud computing provides easy access to the tools they need to do their jobs— regardless of where they’re working. A SaaS cloud model is particularly conducive to seamless remote work, but even other cloud models have convenient solutions. Amazon Web Services, for example, offers WorkSpaces, which allows you to quickly scale to provision thousands of employees with desktop access from anywhere and any supported device. Microsoft Azure offers Windows Virtual Desktops to a similar end.
3. Disaster Recovery
Shifting to a work-from-home model has been a necessary feature of the pandemic. Unfortunately, it can also compromise cybersecurity. More endpoints and personal devices mean there are more opportunities for threats in the form of email phishing and data breaches to infiltrate your system. A sound disaster recovery plan is key to getting your system back up and running if and when it goes down. Unfortunately, businesses with traditional IT setups typically have server and network hardware with multiple points of failure, and they’re typically located in facilities ill equipped to support them. What’s more, many IT staff are working outside the office, making it more difficult for them to quickly access on-premises hardware, let alone service it safely without exposing themselves to the other members of your disaster recovery team. This puts employees at risk, causes significant delays in the recovery of systems, and increases the cost of recovery. In the cloud, your systems and data can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, with little to no friction, and each step of your recovery plan can be automated. The cloud also enables faster, easier disaster recovery because it offers higher bandwidth and better disk I/O (input/output) than traditional setups. The cloud also allows you to bake geographic redundancies into your disaster recovery plan. That way, if your primary data center goes down, you have another to fall back on. Compare that to a traditional disaster recovery plan, which often requires you to make a huge investment in hardware that mirrors your original architecture as a backup. All told, the cloud reduces downtime and tempers the cost of data recovery.
4. Managed Services
Many businesses that make the move to the cloud choose to partner with a managed service provider (MSP) with the expertise and experience necessary to make the most their new cloud environment. While this arrangement is advantageous for businesses even in normal circumstances, the pandemic has shown that having an MSP as an IT partner can be additionally valuable. At the outset of COVID-19 restrictions, for example, the majority of businesses were not prepared to enable remote work. Those outsourcing all or some of their IT to MSPs were able to leverage their capabilities to mobilize solutions much more quickly. As the pandemic and related economic fallout continues to evolve, that agility will prove increasingly important. Moreover, MSPs can drastically reduce the time it takes to optimize a business’s IT systems in a way that maximizes productivity and security for its remote workforce, which will undoubtedly be a concern for months or even years to come.
These are just some of the ways the cloud can make life a little easier for businesses during a challenging time that’s quickly becoming our new normal. If you have questions about the cloud or need help determining if the cloud is right for your business, reach out to one of our cloud specialists.
Want to learn more? Check out The Ultimate Cloud Migration Checklist to find out what a move to the cloud entails.