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Why the cloud is a competitive advantage in the age of Covid-19

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock)

Before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, the lower administration costs, flexibility, scalability, and other advantages of the cloud were already leading many organizations to move more of their data and applications to the cloud. For example, in 2018 research firm Gartner predicted that 75 percent of organizations would deploy a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud model by the end of 2020. And just last year Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner, said “cloud adoption is mainstream,” when his firm released a report estimating that the worldwide public cloud services market would grow 17 percent in 2020 to $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019.

Covid-19 has highlighted the benefits of being a cloud-based organization

The Covid-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate cloud adoption, with organizations that were farther along in their use of the cloud finding themselves able to more quickly and efficiently adjust to the challenges arising from this unforeseen crisis than other organizations. For example, cloud-based organizations were already set up to manage their IT environments remotely, making it easier for them to adjust to having some or even all their employees working from home. The cloud also simplified IT administration for cloud-based companies – because this administration is mostly or entirely handled by cloud services providers they did not have to worry about sending IT staff in areas on “lock-down” into the office to manage their on-premises infrastructure.

Another key advantage of the cloud for companies during the pandemic is that cloud-based IT environments use virtual machines that are not tied to on-premises physical assets. These VMs and other aspects of cloud architecture make it much easier for cloud-based companies to scale their IT environments up if demand for their digital services increases – they do not need IT staff to procure and install on-premises computing, networking, or storage resources during the pandemic in order to address this higher demand. This scalability delivered an important competitive advantage to cloud-based companies, since, though business and consumer demand for digital services during the pandemic has often increased, their expectations regarding these services have remained the same. Cloud-based companies have found the cloud offers them the scalability they need to deliver both existing and new customers seamless video streaming, home-based learning, stock trading, and other digital service experiences, despite the pandemic.

Covid-19 and the cloud has accelerated the digital transformation of multiple industries

The experiences of cloud-based organization in specific industries further highlights the advantages of the cloud. In the health care industry, health care providers who were more advanced in their cloud journeys were better able to roll out or expand their use of telemedicine services. For example, Stanford School of Medicine was able to increase the number of patients it treated using telemedicine from 1,000 a week to 3,000 patients a day after the pandemic started. These telemedicine services have allowed health care providers to continue to serve patients even as their facilities were overwhelmed with serious pandemic cases. At the same time, they allowed them to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection to both their patients and their workforce by enabling patients to receive the medical consultation they need without physically visiting a medical facility.

The advantages of being a cloud-based organization during Covid-19 can also be seen in other markets, including professional services (with professional staff no longer coming to the office, but using the cloud to work from home), corporate events (with the transition from in-person conferences to virtual ones), and even dining (with customers shifting from dining out to cloud-based online meal delivery). In these and other markets organizations that were further along in their cloud journeys have been a step ahead of the competition in being able to shift their operations to account for changes in employee, customer, and other key stakeholder behavior resulting from the pandemic.

How Covid-19 will impact cloud adoption moving forward

What does this mean for the future? Well, in addition to accelerating the move to the cloud, expect more companies to demand solutions that help ensure that their cloud services, and the networks they rely on, are as resilient as possible in the face of foreseeable (or unforeseen) disasters. As companies increasingly depend on the cloud, any interruptions to these cloud services – whether caused by a minor technical problem or a natural disaster – is likely to result in a minor, if not major, disruption to their business. Chances are you have seen this yourself, with you or your organization’s work grinding to a halt when broadband services, Wi-Fi, or important cloud-based SaaS providers go down.

At the same time, though it might not be as widespread as it is today, the move to more employees working remotely appears to be here to stay. For example, Microsoft recently announced that for most of its job roles, the company sees “working from home part of the time (less than 50 percent) as now standard.” As more people opt to work from home, expect to see companies adopt more cloud-based solutions that enable remote management of these employees’ laptops and other endpoints, as well as solutions designed to foster remote collaboration.

What all this means is that whatever industry you are in, if you were not working at one of the 75 percent of companies that was planning on deploying a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud model by the end of 2020, you likely are now. And those companies who realize this, and adjust their business strategy to meet the needs of other companies that are working to make the cloud a bigger part of their business, their own cloud services and networks more resilient, and remote work more secure and easier for their employees, are those that will thrive in the post-Covid “new normal.”

Eric Law, vice president, RUCKUS Networks at Commscope