Whether navigating obstacles in global supply routes or adopting new strategies to reach consumers, businesses have been thrust into an era of urgent evolution by the COVID-19 outbreak. Even though many of these changes are external and customer-oriented, companies have also turned inward to change their operations and adapt for the new reality.
At the center of these changes, cloud computing has provided agility in shifting to remote work plans and operational scalability. Although fortifying and expanding cloud capacity are key to weathering the present pandemic, what does an enterprise cloud look like as the economy enters a new normal?
With the temporary closure of physical operations of non-essential businesses across the country, companies with the capacity for remote work quickly transitioned to a digital landscape.
Nerdy Bunny — a Michigan-based retail digital signage software company — pivoted its operations, including its physical testing lab, to a fully remote platform.
Nerdy Bunny CEO and Co-Founder Itai Ben-Gal said, “The cloud allowed us to instantly shift everyone to work from home and communicate with one another. As a younger company, the cloud has been number one for our own platform and allowed us to be reactive and responsive to meet new customer needs and empower our own employees.”
According to Flexera’s latest State of the Cloud Report, cloud usage by enterprises has increased by 57% during the COVID-19 outbreak. Even among outside enterprises, cloud-based services have seen increased usage in households. For example, video conferencing usage rose to 23% among all households surveyed in the latest CTA Tech Use and Purchase Tracker: COVID-19 Impact.
Not surprisingly, this migration to the cloud has seen many small- and medium-sized enterprises turn to larger cloud infrastructure companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. For example, Microsoft reported a 755% increase in usage of its Azure Cloud Services during the coronavirus pandemic. The use of established cloud infrastructures, including AWS, Google Cloud and Azure, offers a level of reliability and dependability for businesses to scale up their use of cloud-based communications and collaboration tools such as Zoom Video, WebEx and Zoho.
Companies are also realizing that the transition to a greater cloud posture may be a longer-term endeavor — or even a permanent one. In fact, 74% of CFOs in a survey conducted by Gartner believe that employees who shifted to work from home due to the coronavirus will continue to work remotely after the pandemic ends.
Robert Heiblim, partner and founder of consumer electronics consulting firm Bluesalve Partners, echoed this sentiment, drawing from his observations and experiences with his client base of small to large businesses.
“I think there is going to be permanent increase in remote work,” he said. “While there will remain an important emotional dynamic of conducting physical business, the percentage of it will significantly change and quite drastically. There is going to have to be a lot of rethinking of offices, especially with the future of social distancing, and that in itself will require a cloud-based tool.”
Companies must face the possibility of adapting their cloud infrastructure strategy even further, as they assess possible permanency of some of their initial temporary cloud service investment surges.
Although the costs of greater adoption of cloud infrastructure can be a barrier to entry, 61% of IT leaders in an NCC Group survey identified that the long-term cost-cutting potential makes the investment worthwhile. Still, in an era of tightening belts, cloud expenditures can be a steep cost for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
In response, some of the larger players in the cloud space are offering deals to help ease the transition for smaller companies into a more digitized workplace. Near the end of April, AWS began reaching out to its cloud customers to offer financial assistance to firms struggling with payments for services. CenturyLink, among others, has relaxed payment terms for its customers to help support their enterprise cloud needs during the pandemic.
This growth in cloud investments from small- and medium-sized enterprises has further solidified the sector as a consistent customer base for cloud service operators. Subsequently, this health crisis has revealed the necessity in businesses to collaborate and support one another with the cloud acting as the bridge for cooperation, agnostic of platforms and ecosystems.
Ben-Gal added, “Although most of our customers are still very focused internally on non-cloud infrastructure for their datacenter, they have shown openness to us bringing cloud solutions to them. They’re also saying it’s fine that [our solutions] are outside of their internal cloud ecosystems.”
The pandemic remains an ongoing crucible for most businesses, but cloud investments have offered a path for some companies to forge ahead and transform into more resilient businesses. While new challenges like increased cybersecurity risks emerge with a more digital enterprise landscape, cloud infrastructure services will continue to be increasingly called on in modern business operations.