It is difficult to begin any discussion about business today without acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous upheaval, challenges and hardship not only for employers but also the individuals and families that make up our community. From physical distancing requirements to disaster preparedness, the pandemic will permanently change how organizations plan and deploy IT services. Even in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor, one of the world’s largest innovation ecosystems, with 15,000 tech companies and thousands of start-ups, we’ve seen the effects of the pandemic on businesses of all sizes and their employees.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of business agility. For example, some extremely nimble companies with the proper manufacturing know-how shifted from their core focus during the pandemic to help design and build protective equipment and other much needed supplies. However, the dilemma faced by many enterprise-level companies has not been a dramatic change in their core area of focus, but rather how to enable a rapid shift to work-from-home arrangements. The situation these large companies faced is similar to what we often see with businesses in a scale-up phase, whose rate of business growth can quickly outpace the capabilities of their existing IT systems. For those organizations, the solution is often found in the cloud.
Whereas before the pandemic, many large organizations were concerned with whether to shift their IT infrastructure further into cloud-based environments and the security implications that may have, throughout the pandemic they have focused on enabling an entire team of remote workers, all accessing files from outside the typical office confines of their organizations. The pandemic has redefined how many of us conduct our daily lives and emphasizes the need for strategic planning and preparation to ensure business continuity as work routines change.
Plan Ahead for Growth
Businesses scaling up or shifting focus to a work-from-home strategy must develop a strategic plan which will inform how they handle questions around IT infrastructure, cloud platforms and emerging technologies.
When building a plan, it’s important to focus on technologies that will allow a business to be agile in any phase of growth. The realities of the pandemic have meant businesses need to be able to deploy and scale solutions that help ease the burden of networks built for on-site traffic. This flexibility will be essential as businesses plan for deploying applications in high growth environments and that inevitably means hybrid solutions, which mix different cloud environments such as private and hyperscale. However, organizations, especially those transitioning to bolster their work-from-home capabilities, can make decisions on an application by application basis, taking into consideration questions of performance, governance and security.
Leaning on Cloud
As previously mentioned, shifting to a remote workforce strategy can quickly strain IT infrastructure designed to handle traffic coming from central office locations. Serving an application on company-owned infrastructure through VPN connections helps prioritize essential security for users connecting to company applications offsite, but without a method to reliably scale VPNs, unacceptable levels of performance can occur. This load can be alleviated by taking advantage of cloud-based or software-as-a-service applications where possible, easing the performance burden.
Again, the benefits of hybrid cloud solutions will be top of mind when expanding IT services in a post-pandemic world. The combination of agility and flexibility of a public cloud bolstered by the control and security of private compute and storage resources will be necessary to ensure performance for remote workers while maintaining enterprise-grade controls.
Going forward, the pandemic will have lasting effects on the way we view IT. Even larger businesses will need to think like scale-ups about strategic technology, looking into ways they can adapt to changing circumstances. IT and managed service providers will play a massive role in building those capabilities, ensuring capacity as well as the right levels of security to allow employees to truly make the shift to “work from anywhere” without performance hits.