Every business in virtually every industry you can think of has had its world turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. And as the lockdown has progressed, it’s become increasingly clear that things won’t be returning to normal any time soon.
In late March, when the UK government’s lockdown measures were announced, employees were told to work from home unless they were unable to do so. Suddenly, companies big and small had to dramatically readjust their working practices in just a matter of days, with entire workforces switching from office environments to home-working.
So, in this blog, we’re going to detail the sudden rise of remote working and explore how the Cloud has helped, and will continue to help organisations make the transition.
The rise of remote working
Remote working has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the number of American workers doing so rising by 159% between 2005 and 2017. But, until the last few weeks, it has still remained a relatively niche working model: UK figures from 2019 found just 5.1% of the workforce mainly worked in their own home. So the millions of additional workers forced into home-working by the lockdown have largely needed to be set up to do so technologically, creating challenges around access to core applications, collaboration and crucially, security.
Of course, some businesses were far better equipped to handle the enforced shift in their day-to-day operations than others. And there is often one key differentiator between the businesses who seamlessly transitioned into remote working during lockdown, and those who have found it a struggle: the Cloud.
A business continuity saviour
Businesses who already have a Cloud infrastructure in place have found themselves with a network solution ideal for clearing all the barriers around effective remote working. Indeed, many may have already deployed the necessary elements pre-lockdown.
They’ve been able to deploy and run business-critical programs and applications remotely for any employee, in any place and on any device. They’ve been able to quickly spin up Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom for collaboration between employees, and to connect to partners, suppliers and clients. They’ve been able to take advantage of cloud-based security technologies like multi-factor authentication, and leverage the stronger physical security of data at the site of their certified cloud provider.
And if they’ve been missing any of these things, they’ve been able to maximise the flexibility of their solution to get them. Those who are on a subscription model with their cloud provider have found it quick and easy to modify their infrastructure and react to the fast-changing demands of the pandemic.
On the other hand, those who have remained reliant on an on-premise infrastructure have found it much more difficult to adjust. CIOs and IT staff have had to implement major changes to their networking in a very short space of time, potentially compromising both business operations and network security. The task has been made even harder by rules around social distancing and isolation, and as a result, many businesses have been seriously impeded operationally over the last few weeks.
Although this isn’t true for every business running on-premise infrastructure (it is possible to build effective business continuity solutions outside of the cloud) for most it is still the reality. Only with sophisticated offsite data backup and an offsite business continuity system can an effective solution be realised.
A key measure of effectiveness is whether the system enables you to spin up your servers and continue working effectively within minutes of a crisis happening. Which, for those running on-premise infrastructure, even those with business continuity systems in place, has rarely been the case. This is largely due to the cost and complexity of both maintaining and building an effective solution offsite, leading many to rely solely on data backup. Although helpful to a degree, this is unlikely to get your organisation anywhere close to back up and running, and certainly not within minutes.
So, with the distinct possibility that physical offices could remain closed for several months to come, putting in an effective, secure, long-term solution that supports remote working is essential. And, the obvious choice when it comes to addressing some of the business continuity challenges above, is the cloud.
With the cloud lots of the business continuity functionality required to get your business moving again is baked in. By their very nature, cloud systems are hosted offsite and accessed remotely, which is why those already operating in the cloud have had a much smoother transition to remote working.
A remote future
The constantly evolving Covid-19 situation makes it difficult to fully predict the wider business future. But there will inevitably be some lasting changes as a result of the pandemic, partly because so many companies have had their eyes (forcibly) opened to new ways of doing things.
Many firms may decide to stick with remote working models now that they’ve had time to appreciate the huge range of potential benefits they can generate throughout their businesses. By having more employees working from home more of the time, or even all the time, cost savings can be made by reducing physical office space and removing the need for business travel. These changes would also reduce the carbon emissions of a business and increase its sustainability credentials. And a more remote, flexible approach could play a major role in talent acquisition and retention, with top performers more likely to seek out employers that can offer arrangements better-suited to their personal and family lives.
To make all this work long-term, some of the cost savings made can be reinvested into embedding the best possible cloud infrastructure into the business. This would enable smooth operations and collaboration day-in, day-out, both internally and with clients through web-based meetings and consultations. And with the most robust security measures put in place, businesses and customers alike can have confidence that remote working doesn’t lead to breaches around personal or sensitive data.
Every business’s needs will be different, and many companies will feel the need to retain at least some physical space, perhaps for geographical reasons of being near partners and clients, or for prestige reasons of impressing visitors and potential customers. But the pandemic has woken the business world up to the fact that if employees do all their work through a computer, and that computer is hooked up to the Internet and a capable, secure Cloud, then it doesn’t really matter where the computers and employees are situated.
There’s a touch of irony in the idea that a period of lockdown may result in businesses operating with unprecedented levels of freedom and flexibility. But with an effective, properly deployed cloud set-up, that may well prove to be the case for countless organisations across the globe.