• Monday , 1 March 2021

COVID-19 accelerates digital transformation

Steve Law, CTO, Giacom

When the first national lockdown in England happened back in March, many businesses initially panicked but believed that by summer, life as we knew it would return to normal. Now, with a second national lockdown, organisations have quickly come to realise that this is not a temporary problem, which in turn means, they can no longer justify a temporary solution.

COVID-19 has already begun to accelerate the shift towards cloud-based services, with new research revealing that 40% of businesses are now accelerating their move to the cloud, with 51% planning to move more applications to the cloud to prepare for future COVID-19 shutdowns. Steve Law, CTO, Giacom, explains how the cloud presents numerous opportunities for business continuity during unprecedented times. We’ve weathered the storm this far, but if businesses haven’t yet made this change, they need to act now or face being left behind.

Remote and/or hybrid working is going to be at the top of many businesses’ priority lists going forward, so it is critical that businesses remain prepared and offer the right tools and services to facilitate their customers’ transition. With the regular changing of government advice with local and national lockdowns, many physical working environments remain off-limits. Additionally, new research has revealed that two-thirds of UK workers feel uncomfortable returning to a physical workplace. This highlights the need for businesses to quickly mobilise themselves by moving their infrastructure to the cloud in order to continue as we head towards a ‘new normal’.

The cloud fundamentally offers organisations a central location where they can store their resources online, meaning anyone in the organisation can access the necessary information wherever they are. For company representatives needing to go to their customer’s offices to access necessary tools and resources, that’s now out of bounds due to social distancing measures and regional/national lockdowns. For those businesses that remain with an on-premises infrastructure, this is not a helpful place to be constrained within as the options for maintenance or deploying new tools are limited. Instead, businesses and their end-user customers need to be in the cloud in order for them to operate in an optimum way.

It’s not just a centralised hub that businesses can gain value from. It’s important to ensure that workforces are also taking advantage of the features included in their cloud subscriptions. By working with the right Managed Service Provider (MSP) that can provide training, education and support around shifting to the cloud, companies can benefit from a comprehensive list of additional features within their packages to help them manage and grow a business in today’s world – one which will remain uncertain for some time yet. The role of the MSP is to make this switch as seamless as possible by taking on the planning and implementation, as well as having the expert knowledge of how cloud infrastructure can benefit the business and smooth over any possible obstacles.

For example, many businesses have access to Microsoft365 packages, but did not utilise Microsoft Teams across their company network before COVID-19. Now, Microsoft Teams has seen a 70% increase in users due to remote working restrictions, which is clearly a tool that has been taken advantage of to drive productivity, collaboration and communication during lockdown. This is where integrators have a vital role to play in educating their end-users on how to gain the most value and productivity from technology with the resources available.

With remote working, data access and greater flexibility comes a need for much tighter security controls and processes within businesses. However, security was pushed to the bottom of many organisations’ priority lists at the beginning of COVID-19. As the number of cyberattacks continues to increase, with almost half of businesses suffering from a cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months, the emphasis on data security must be reinforced.

There’s no single one-size-fits-all solution. Both small and large businesses need to have the correct security infrastructure and unique measures in place to suit their organisation’s needs. Additional functionality can be added to cloud networks, including Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Single Sign-On, and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions to ensure a secure cloud environment. Getting the basics right will put your clients in a position to build their business and engage with staff and customers in a safe and secure environment – the cloud.

Microsoft’s Chief Executive, Satya Nadella, has said that they’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months, including remote teamwork and learning and critical cloud infrastructure and security. The recovery to the ‘new normal’ places the migration of physical servers to the cloud as a priority, not only to facilitate secure remote working, but to provide businesses with greater flexibility, scalability and more efficient resources.

COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for businesses needing to be both flexible and agile. If companies are unable to respond to unexpected situations when they occur, such as the pandemic, then they could potentially face devastating effects. With discussions around the likelihood of future waves of the virus, it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods yet. More disruption is anticipated, let alone any hurdles that we don’t see coming, so flexibility and agility are core components for business survival.

To continue with a ‘new normal,’ organisations have to adapt and implement a long-term solution, or they could seriously disadvantage themselves compared to their competitors. It’s a survival of the fittest; businesses need to be flexible, agile and able to cope with change. Digital transformation, particularly cloud migration, is a long-term commitment and can fundamentally shift a company’s capabilities and how it operates. Now is the time to start future-proofing your customers’ businesses.

 

Digital transformation, particularly cloud migration, is a long-term commitment and can fundamentally shift a company’s capabilities and how it operates. Now is the time to start future-proofing your customers’ businesses.

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