How remote work is expanding cloud adoption

Johannesburg, 07 Jun 2022
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Peter Flischman, Cloud Integration Manager, Axiz.
Peter Flischman, Cloud Integration Manager, Axiz.

Remote work and the cloud – these days, the two concepts seem connected at the hip. The rapid transition to remote working, and later, hybrid workplaces, would not have gone as smoothly without the cloud's support. In fact, they might have been impossible to realise. When we refer to the cloud, we're talking about a technology era that combines connectivity, efficient compute resources and more alternatives for user access. All three factors are the primary enablers for working remotely. 

Yet while remote working needs the cloud, it's also become the cloud's biggest evangelist, says Axiz's Cloud Integration Manager, Peter Flischman: "A lot of companies had, and some still have, a limited view of what cloud can do for them. By that I mean most of them think of the cloud as remote backup and storage. We know the cloud can do a lot more, but it's been tough to get the message out there. What's happened since is that remote working is highlighting the different use cases, both at the front and back of companies. It's a whole new conversation."

Cloud opportunities

What kind of use cases are catching their attention? Many are encouraging indirect applications of cloud solutions, such as the rising appeal of WhatsApp as a business tool. The messenger service has rapidly become a preferred communication channel with customers and between employees. But that trend creates significant security risks.

"It's unavoidable that sensitive and confidential documents and information would circulate on these channels," Flischman explains. "How do you control that if most of the interactions are taking place outside of your company systems? This is where cloud security is becoming popular – it can follow the user and device."

Companies embrace the same security strategy to manage a growing army of personal user devices enlisted into remote and hybrid working. Convenience is also on the table: features such as single sign-on covering different services, digital signing for documents and 'offline' snapshots that prevent connectivity failures from interrupting a worker's flow, are helping people remain more productive, regardless of where they are.

Remote workers pressure business systems to remain online, so more companies now look at placing those systems into multicloud environments to create consistent availability. Many are also switching to 'commodity' IT services that they subscribe to but no longer have to own or maintain extensively, such as e-mail and file sharing.

Then there is the cultural pressure to create an environment that supports remote work. According to recruitment agency Michael Page South Africa, 53% of employees would like to work remotely at least three days a week, and 33% want at least one day a week working away from the office. This means prospective employees look at remote working policies when choosing a new employer. And hybrid workplaces are good for most businesses: more people are satisfied with their jobs than before, and 63% reported increased productivity.

Helping companies adopt cloud

But why did it require a shift to remote and hybrid working to encourage cloud adoption? Flischman puts the blame on complex choices.

"The cloud offers a lot of choice, but that variety also creates bewilderment and risk. So, you have someone tell you cloud is good and then you decide to migrate your core business systems to a cloud service. Many then discover it's a complicated and difficult journey, and they don't get close to the results they expected. Remote working has helped create more pragmatic reasons and steps to use the cloud. I think we were all so stuck on the big picture that we didn't know where to find the details. Remote working is changing all of that."

That doesn't mean that cloud adoption has become easy. It's still fraught with risky decisions, so Flischman suggests companies start small, "Get rid of the on-premises PABX and use a cloud telephony service. Migrate your employees onto cloud e-mail and calendar suites. Use a platform like Teams to integrate various other services, such as CRM and project management applications. These may seem like small steps, but they will translate into easy wins that also boost your grasp of how the cloud can fit into your company."

He also emphasises building the technology market's ability to deliver cloud products. Many technology providers don't have the skills to deliver cloud services competently, or the resources to develop that capacity. It's critical to develop a local channel that can deliver cloud solutions. To close this gap, Flischman recommends channel companies find partners that will help them develop their cloud acumen.

"Channel companies should talk to their distributors and find out how those partners can support their cloud development. It can materialise through financial or certification support. Sometimes, you want a distribution partner who can sit with you and your customer, advising on cloud strategies. It might even be as simple as access to a cloud marketplace where you can mix and match services for your customers. But if your channel partners aren't helping you develop your ability to provide cloud solutions to the market, start looking for another partner."

The cloud era has been gathering steam for several years. Yet remote working creates an enormous shift in how organisations perceive and adopt cloud solutions. Guided by a more pragmatic view of what the cloud can offer, it's become a little simpler to make the right cloud investment choices for your organisation and customers. 

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