Leveraging Cloud Services During Times of Crisis: Why Cloud Now?

An article by James Farhat, ACTS CEO

The disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has created an entirely new business landscape, where digital tools and applications are the rule, rather than the exception. Nearly every industry and business process has been impacted by the push for social distancing – supply chains are in shambles, workforces are disorganized and IT infrastructure is being pushed to its limits. Even companies that were somewhat prepared for a crisis scenario are having a hard time adjusting to the new normal, and it’s easy to see why. 

COVID-19 has exposed a variety of weaknesses in companies’ organizational and operational abilities, in-house skill sets and overall adaptability. The sudden and unexpected shift to remote work has left many organizations scrambling to optimize their knowledge-sharing systems and business applications. What’s more, the lack of on-site support is forcing many IT teams to pause their digital transformation efforts, setting them back months, even years. As traditional channels and operations breakdown, the value of cloud-based applications, products and services becomes more obvious. Of course, integrating new technologies comes with a sharp learning curve, as any new IT solution must be able to pivot and respond to customer needs, shifting business requirements and market trends. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, now is actually the perfect time to transition to a cloud-oriented environment. COVID-19 is a wake-up call for businesses – this won’t be the last global emergency, which is why companies should focus on future-proofing their IT infrastructure, business apps and internal processes sooner rather than later.

Assessing the Impact of COVID-19

The ongoing health crisis has created a sense of urgency around business optimization and digital transformation, especially for organizations that have taken a slow-roll approach to IT innovation. According to a March 2020 survey from Gartner, 88% of organizations have either encouraged or required employees to work from home, regardless of whether or not they showed coronavirus-related symptoms. For employers with remote workers in other countries, the need for device-agnostic workflows is even more profound. Without cloud-based applications, these workers would not be able to access key data and software from their personal computers. Even after COVID-19 has passed, companies will likely continue to move toward remote work environments. In fact, a separate Gartner survey found that 41% of employees are likely to work remotely “at least some of the time” post-pandemic. 

Another challenge involves IT infrastructure and security. During periods of uncertainty and disruption, companies don’t have time to locate new hosting providers, get physical data centers up and running or integrate their legacy systems with other on-prem IT sources. Even when such a large-scale transition is possible, there are often cybersecurity risks that can derail the implementation. According to a joint alert from the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, phishing scams, malware distribution and brute-force attacks against remote access and teleworking infrastructure are on the rise thanks to COVID-19. Although the outlook may feel bleak, companies shouldn’t treat the outbreak as a net negative – they should use this opportunity to make their IT systems and workflows more adaptive, resilient and reliable.

The Business Benefits of Cloud Integration

Historically, companies have relied on a patchwork of third-party vendors to meet their IT needs – hardware, software, data storage, cybersecurity, etc. However, thanks to the commodification of the cloud services market, businesses of all sizes can integrate enterprise-class applications without exceeding their IT budgets. This is a boon for both CapEx and OpEx management, as the ability to pivot to new vendors allows for more proactive cost control.

That said, relying on too many IT providers can introduce more points of failure in a business’ technology framework. For example, organizations that outsource their data storage to a third-party hosting provider rarely have the oversight they need to quickly scale up or down their resources. Self-managed data centers pose an even greater challenge: adapting to market conditions may force companies to purchase new equipment, install it in a physical data center and hire more IT specialists to monitor the expanded environment.

Moving to the cloud allows organizations to manage these and other risks without having to invest in on-prem hardware or software. The main benefits of cloud adoption, both in times of crisis and normalcy, are threefold:

Agility

When the pandemic first made headlines, few companies could have predicted it would have such a major impact on their business operations. Organizations that were unprepared for the push to remote work found themselves ill-equipped to support employees and keep key workflows intact. With cloud-based applications, companies can quickly adjust to work-from-home requirements without the need for major infrastructural changes. The same is true for data storage and bandwidth management – moving to the cloud allows for rapid crisis response and real-time monitoring, introducing more flexibility into the IT management process. 

Elasticity

Organizations must be able to scale up or down their IT resources to meet their changing business needs. For example, some companies have seen a sharp drop in transactions due to COVID-19, while others have seen a massive uptick. Without the ability to adjust resources on-demand, companies may see their investments and IT spending wasted. Cloud services (SaaS, IaaS and PaaS) offer unmatched scalability, allowing organizations to only pay for what they use. When business is slow, IT teams can scale back their company’s data storage and computing resources, and visa versa. 

Risk mitigation

Businesses that move to a shared service with best practices around the cloud will have far greater success at reducing operational risks during crises. This is because the cloud offers more resilience, wider capabilities and greater capacity than self-managed data centers or business applications. Of course, choosing a vendor that has the resources needed to offer uninterrupted service (especially in times of disruption) is crucial. Smaller third-party solutions providers often lack the computing power to keep up with growing demand, which is why large tech firms like Mirosoft have secured such a dominant market share. 

The Bottom Line

Cloud-based services and applications aren’t just valuable in a pandemic – they can help companies adapt to any type of material event that impacts supply chains, communities and business relationships. There’s no telling what the next crisis will be, when it will manifest or how many people it will affect. Waiting to make the switch to a public, private or hybrid cloud environment only increases the chances of future disruptions and possible bankruptcy. In this way, cloud adoption is both a short-term necessity and a long-term strategy, but taking the first steps on the path to digital transformation requires careful planning, proactive change management and a healthy dose of IT expertise. Before starting your journey, it’s important to consider the following complexities of cloud migration:

  • Does your organization have the information, skills and experience to choose the right cloud-based tools, applications and storage frameworks?
  • Are you able to make a compelling case to C-suite decision-makers for moving to the cloud?
  • How will you continue to drive innovation and digital transformation once your cloud systems are in place? 
  • Who will manage your cloud resources, and what strain will this place on your in-house IT staff?

If your organization is struggling to make meaningful and lasting changes to its infrastructure, business applications or IT governance strategies, ACTS is here to help. By bringing together technology experts with different specializations and professional backgrounds, we’re able to develop cloud implementation roadmaps that align with your business goals, work around your budgetary constraints and improve your current IT posture. 

One of the biggest hurdles to cloud adoption is getting peers and executives to buy into the strategy. ACTS can help you move from tentative migration plans to an organized deployment through two key offerings:

  • Cloud business case modeling: By analyzing and rationalizing your IT footprint using data and business case modeling, ACTS can work with you to create informed cloud transformation plans that deliver real value.  We’ll work alongside you to evaluate your current IT posture, identify tools and consulting requirements, and build an implementation roadmap that can help bring your cloud vision into focus.
  • Target operating model workshop: Executing on your cloud vision requires input from business leaders, IT professionals and other internal stakeholders. ACTS’ target operating model workshop is designed to bring these voices together and create alignment across your IT strategy, resource rationalization and execution for cloud projects. This collaboration is crucial for reducing risks and securing positive outcomes. No matter where you are on your cloud journey – just starting out, integrating new capabilities or stuck mid-deployment – our experts can chart a course to lasting success. 

To learn more, explore our service pages or reach out to an ACTS specialist.

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Why Cloud Now? eBook

Businesses and IT must be able to adapt to customer needs, organizational goals and market trends. Integrating new technologies without a clear roadmap will only lead to more problems down the line.

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Why Cloud Now? Future-Proofing Your IT Strategy

Cloud-based systems and applications offer far more resiliency, capability and capacity then self-managed data centers and on-prem software.

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Leveraging Cloud Services During Times of Crisis

Cloud-based services and applications help companies adapt to any type of material event that impacts supply chains, communities and business relationships. There’s no telling what the next crisis will be.

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