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With today's business continuity challenges, speed is everything

(Image credit: Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

Many companies had already taken their first tentative steps towards remote working before the onset of the Coronavirus. Now, companies in their waves are dealing with getting whole workforces up and running at home - and at speed. Whilst this is an unprecedented environment that organisations are navigating through, the good news is that there are solutions available to businesses, to swiftly combat these challenges. Solutions that not only help maintain productivity but also cause minimal disruption to the working environment.

Giving employees secure and agile ways of working by accessing company data from home is what the cloud has always promised. And with enforced working from home likely to last weeks, if not months, the cloud is going to become more vital than ever. However, as the popularity of the cloud mounted in recent years, with it came some negative press. This was mainly down to spiralling costs after mistakes were made with deploying and operating workloads.

In this article, Scott Dodds, CEO at automation and infrastructure service provider Ultima takes an honest look at the shortcomings of the cloud and how they have been addressed to now provide businesses the fast, secure and cost effective way forward that is so urgently needed.

Addressing cloud shortcomings

Despite the hype, many operational pain points currently still exist with the cloud. To effectively operate workloads in the cloud, many repetitive and manual processes are also involved, such as sizing, load balancing, deploying, patching, and monitoring and management. Whilst necessary, these are often fraught with human errors leading to delays with the workload’s availability and even security vulnerabilities. As a result, it has been estimated that 35 per cent of cloud expenditure is being wasted due to incorrect licensing, inefficient utilisation and lack of automated optimisation.

The amount of technical knowledge required to get a cloud project up and running in some cases can be a costly investment. And businesses often couldn’t afford the right technical people to do the job or access them elsewhere. Security, maintenance and support has traditionally also resided with the customer, which adds a significant operational burden. Not to mention the additional investment requirements for build and migration scenarios. 

For these reasons, small-to-medium sized businesses often wrongly believe that the cloud is suited only to enterprises with the technical expertise and operational capacity. But even to the enterprise, the long-term cost savings and innovation opportunities that public clouds were meant to deliver in some cases have never materialised.  According to the London School of Economics, 71 per cent of decision makers believe their organisation has lost money due to a lack of cloud expertise.

What has changed?

Despite the cloud being a complex, ever-evolving suite of products, simplified cloud ownership is now possible. The secret lies in automation. By automating the hefty maintenance, security and support requirements of the cloud, organisations can now transition effectively with all management and security issues addressed much more effectively. The automation technology currently available for Microsoft Azure, one of the leading cloud computing services, is set to change the market by simplifying cloud ownership and operations to deliver what the cloud was meant to be. It finally makes the cloud an option for businesses of all types and sizes.

Further, business critical automation technology now allows you to access low-cost, software driven Cloud back up in three hours, remote working in three days and to operate a fully autonomous datacentre in three weeks. Any problems with your IT can also be handled remotely, and many technology firms are now offering up their staff and expertise to help those firms whose IT departments or teams are depleted by Covid-19.

Not only will transitioning to the cloud enable businesses to meet the productivity challenges set by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it will also help save money in other ways. The fact is that many businesses are still a far cry from the actual possibilities of the cloud, but it makes sense to look at what is available now.

Improved ways of working

With the cloud pain-points addressed, organisations can inoculate business critical environments with far reaching positive impacts – both for the employee and to the business. The latest technology can give automated access to work office computers from iPads, laptops - or even TVs - with all the right business resources at their fingertips. Cloud-based collaborative ways of working using Skype or Teams are now becoming indispensable tools of the global economy.

The options now available for migration to the cloud also offer much needed flexibility. Options are available for basic to more advanced remote working, including leveraging public cloud environments. By bringing together cutting-edge automation, service management practices and business intelligent platforms, organisations can finally get the most out of the Azure working environment without paying a penny more than what’s needed, bringing the overall total cost of cloud ownership down.

Cost reduction and security is taken care of

Leveraging the cloud will see many organisations harness the cost advantages of a more productive, agile workforce. Combined with this, the multiple operational aspects in which costs can also be reduced, can cut overall spend down by as much as 43 per cent. By automating the cloud, expenditure and usage can be analysed to detect idle services and optimise licensing to improve provisioning. IT teams will have more time and energy to focus on strategic IT issues and innovation, but it will also free up unused cloud budget that they can refocus elsewhere.

Automation can also be used to report on security issues, using machine learning to analyse trends and create alerts when anomalies occur. Automatic patching reduces the organisation’s overall threat footprint while automated documentation on the cloud environment fulfils strict compliance requirements.

Tackling today’s and tomorrow’s operational challenges

Covid-19 may have swiftly disrupted long-held working patterns, but it does provide an opportunity for organisations to finally address their greatest mobilisation challenges. Many SMBs and enterprises can benefit from the cloud and obtain a cloud environment built for purpose with an option for migrating workloads from on-premises, but with none of those upfront investment costs. This could also be the new way of working in the future to help reduce business’ environmental impact, reducing both the purchasing and housing of IT hardware and unnecessary business travel.

The cloud is the way forward to provide your employees with remote access to data in a secure and compliant way. With the cloud comes the ability of near limitless scale and capacity with none of the on-premises kit requirements or the large capital costs.

Scott Dodds, CEO, Ultima