COVID-19 drives businesses to the cloud

It has taken a global health crisis to show how cloud computing can help companies to survive and thrive with remote workforces.
Read time 4min 30sec

In a matter of weeks, millions of people around the globe have been forced to work remotely due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. It’s quite extraordinary that it should take a global health pandemic to bring about the realisation of the true value of cloud services.

Indeed, without cloud at this point, businesses would have come to a complete standstill. The instant availability of IT resources enabled by cloud has, if not saved the day, helped companies to survive and continue to function to some degree or other.

According to Forbes, the cloud continues to transform connectivity between people and businesses on a global scale. They note it is everywhere today: in our vehicles, on our television screens, phones and even watches.

IDC notes COVID-19 is driving changing demands on technologies and processes, as they relate to work-from-home (WFH) mandates. It goes on to explain that not all organisations have the culture or experience to enable a WFH workforce. Even for companies operating in the tech sector, the increased capacity load on network, cloud and other technologies is unprecedented, with uptake of video meetings, audio conference calls and collaboration platforms.

As early as May 2018, ITWeb reported cloud could generate 112 000 new SA jobs by 2022. The article was based on an IDC report that found spending on public cloud services could almost triple over thenext five years. The report was commissioned by Microsoft and carried out by IDC, and showed the economic impact model reflected that spend on cloud is one of the fast-growing technology segments in South Africa, with a compound annual growth rate of 21.9% expected through 2022.

Fear versus practicality

The fears surrounding the use of cloud technology persist – mostly from a security perspective, but adoption of cloud services continues to grow.

It is no longer about should you go to the cloud but about choosing the right cloud solution that is secure and financially viable.

Gartner notes South African companies are consuming significant amounts of cloud services, including software, platform and infrastructure, as a service. It notes CIOs in South Africa have started adopting cloud-first strategies and are focused on weighing up on-premises data centre decisions versus using the public cloud. The Gartner report goes on to state that with both Microsoft and Amazon planning to open local hyperscale data centres in 2020, adoption and use of the cloud will only increase in South Africa.

So, the bottom line is that yes, people fear using cloud technology but consider the current situation. We are in lockdown and if employees cannot work remotely, the company will incur downtime and loss of income, possibly even closure of the business.

It is no longer about should you go to the cloud but about choosing the right cloud solution that is secure and financially viable.

Therefore, as we end only the third month of 2020, the decision is no longer about embracing cloud technology but acknowledging it as a necessity and understanding the value it holds for businesses of all sizes – from SMEs through to large enterprises.

The case for cloud

The benefits of allowing employees to have remote access far outweigh the concerns. From the employer’s perspective it can reduce overhead expenses, save time and energy. It can also increase employee satisfaction and overall business productivity and performance.

Employee remote access has been on the increase since 2016 but due to the national crisis which has taken SA like a wave, WFH is now the norm as opposed to the opposite.

Still some employers resist the move to WFH, feeling a sense of loss of control and subsequently possible loss of productivity. All reasonable concerns but which can be overcome by putting remote work policies in place. With guidance and open communication with employees, WFH can be extremely productive.

How employers can support working from home:

  • Maintain effective communication – check in with staff daily.
  • Set up conference calls. This lets staff know they can consult with management to discuss job-related concerns.
  • Have various forms of communication such as chat groups and video conferencing. This helps employees feel they are not isolated and there is always assistance when needed.
  • Provide daily or weekly news, staff updates, changes, company bulletins. Devise content which staff will not only look forward to reading but will uplift them.
  • Welcome “work from home” feedback about how it’s going and how it can be improved.
  • Stick to the usual staff meeting schedule. For example, if you have a staff meeting on a weekly basis, continue with the weekly meeting using conference calling.
  • Get IT support people on board and ready to help.

Remember, working remotely is not only about controlling staff or making sure they are doing their job but it’s also a way to build a company’s culture by getting teams to feel invested in the business and connected to each other and the bigger picture of contributing to SA’s economy even in the midst of a pandemic.

Atisha Raghunanan

director at Cleeks Cloud.

Atisha Raghunanan heads up Cleeks Cloud, where she focuses on driving the company’s key goals of service excellence and technology empowering small business growth. She commenced her career in customer services, communications, training and development, while working at Softline Pastel for a decade.

Raghunanan’s experience also includes eight years in the human resources and finance arenas in the software consulting industry, which provided her with a holistic view of business processes.

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