How a fast route to the cloud will meet the Covid-19 business continuity challenge

Scott Dodds is CEO of infrastructure and automation provider Ultima.

The resilience, scalability and reliability of the cloud are taking centre stage as organisations strive to keep businesses operating as normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have already dipped their toe in the water when it comes to moving workloads across to the cloud; often with mixed results. But with the spotlight now firmly on cloud technology and its ability to enable working across time zones and regions, it’s become a business continuity lifeline for companies of all sectors and sizes during the global emergency.

But the cloud hasn’t always had such good press. In the past, organisations have struggled with spiralling costs – mainly attributed to human error – when migrating and operating workloads in the cloud. But with enforced home working likely to last weeks, if not months, many are rightly looking to the cloud again. After all, giving employees a secure way of accessing company data from home is what the cloud has always promised.

Hidden complexities

It’s important to understand where the operational pain points previously existed. To operate workloads in the cloud, many repetitive and manual processes are 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.

For these reasons, many SMBs have ruled the cloud out, believing that it’s only suited to larger enterprises with access to greater technical and operational capacity. However, even to the enterprise, the long-term cost savings and innovation opportunities that public clouds were meant to deliver in some cases never materialised. According to the London School of Economics (pdf), 71 per cent of decision-makers believe their organisation has lost money due to lack of cloud expertise.

What has changed?

Despite the cloud being a complex, ever-evolving suite of products, the challenges that traditionally led to excess expenditure can now be avoided. By automating the hefty maintenance, security and support requirements of the cloud, organisations can now transition 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.

Business continuity lifeline

Business-critical automation technology now allows organisations 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 IT are also handled remotely.

To meet the productivity challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers can get automated access to work office computers via the cloud from iPads, laptops – or even TVs – with all the right business resources at their fingertips. As a result, cloud-based collaborative tools such as Skype or Teams have now become indispensable.

Cost reduction and security

By automating the cloud, usage can be analysed to detect idle services and optimise licensing to improve provisioning. With IT teams liberated from the time consuming and monotonous tasks that come with cloud management, more focus can be placed on strategic IT issues and innovation. Ultima estimates that by reducing many of the operational aspects of the cloud, overall spend can be cut by as much as 43 per cent. This unused cloud budget can then be refocused elsewhere.

Automation can also be used to make the infrastructure more secure. Machine learning can analyse trends and create alerts when anomalies occur. Automatic patching then reduces the organisation’s overall threat footprint while automated documentation on the cloud environment fulfils strict compliance requirements.

More cloud migration options

The options now available for migration to the cloud offer much needed flexibility. These range from 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 and only pay for what is used, bringing the total cost of cloud ownership down.

Tackling current and future business challenges

If businesses are to meet both the current challenges posed by COVID-19 and to be in the best position for future growth, the cloud provides an opportunity to harness the cost advantages of a more productive, agile workforce.

This could eventually be the ‘new normal’ way of working to help reduce business’ environmental impact, reducing both the purchasing and housing of IT hardware and unnecessary business travel.

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 with near limitless capacity, but with none of the upfront investment costs.

Photo by Kenrick Mills on Unsplash

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