How a Pandemic is Driving Innovation

From grocery store clerks to physicians and nurses, COVID-19 made us keenly aware of the people on the front lines ensuring life would go on, and that we were kept safe. 

According to a series of new studies, businesses of all sizes are starting to look at the cloud as a new kind of essential service. With the shift to remote work and digital operations, innovation in the cloud has never been so critical.  

Cloud Adoption was Already Speeding Up Before COVID-19 

Numerous studies conducted just before the COVID-19 outbreak showed businesses were already expanding their journey to the cloud. A Softchoice survey of North American leaders found 66% of businesses intended to go cloud-first” on all new workloads. 

We also found that 37% of businesses were starting to look to cloud as an innovation engine, that is using cloud infrastructure to build new applications and services or unlock new insights from their data. At the same time, O’Reilly’s Cloud Adoption in 2020 study said almost half of all businesses planned to move 75% or more of their applications to the cloud by 2021. 

Along came the devastating global pandemic. Instead of seeing massive cuts to cloud budgets and initiatives, however, we saw IT leaders move to the cloud faster than before.  

 In one poll40% of respondents said COVID-19 was accelerating their move to the cloud. Meanwhile, 76% said the pandemic had led them to increase their spending on private and public cloud infrastructure services, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. 

 Why Cloud Innovation is Accelerating 

 All of this makes perfect sense when you consider what businesses are facing — and how the cloud can help them overcome it. Stay at home orders, social distancing and a radical shift in consumer behavior has forced businesses to rethink workplace experienceand go-to-market strategies almost overnight.  

“What you are going to see is an acceleration of more people going 100% to the cloud,” said Mary Treseler, O’Reilly’s vice president of content strategy in an interview with Tech Republic 

As businesses get back to (relative) normal, business and IT leaders are looking to the future with some uncertainty. They do not want to be caught off guard again, and they are looking to the cloud to shore up remote work and other business continuity capabilities.  

Don’t Take Our Word for It  

This pandemic-prompted innovation meshes with what we’ve learned through this year’s virtual Innovation Executive Forums. Two stories stand out from our recent event with senior IT leaders in Central Canada, showing just how fast innovation happening now. 

After COVID-19 shut down operations, an IEF member in the food retail industry worked with legal and finance teams to create a new curbside pickup and eCommerce application. The new app took just three weeks to launch. 

Another IEF member in the travel industry said his business lost almost 95% of its revenues in April and May. In response, the IT leader helped the business lay the groundwork to deliver more tailored, end-to-end travel experiences. He says IT has had to shift priorities and shorten delivery timelines to help the business survive 

In both of these stories, IT was forced to act quickly to keep the business alive and thriving. In each case, relying on cloud infrastructure, platforms and applications made a rapid response possible 

Speed Bumps Expected  

In our cloud adoption research, Softchoice found that security and compliance concerns were among the top hurdles keeping businesses from moving to the cloudBusiness leaders also struggled to recruit and retain the specialized talent needed to manage cloud infrastructure and control costs.  

Now that the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, don’t expect these challenges to disappear. In fact, because speed is now part of the equation, we expect these challenges to become even more important to navigate in the months ahead. To do that, finding the right partner – such as Softchoice – can make all the difference.  

 For more information on surviving and thriving in the COVID-19 era with cloud innovation, download our research brief, “Cloud: An Innovation Engine.” 

How to Scale Secure Remote Access with VDI in the Cloud

For organizations responding to the global health crisis, remote work is a direct and immediate requirement for business continuity.

In these last few weeks, IT departments have been striving toward this goal.

But for end users, lack of access to work applications may be impeding their return to full productivity after the shift to working from home full-time.

Deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the cloud provides organizations with the means to scale remote access capabilities and address a sudden spike in the number of remote workers.

Below, we’ll look at five main ways deploying VDI in the cloud provides you with a fast and secure way to succeed with remote work.

How VDI Helps Enable Remote Access

Because virtual desktops run on virtual machines in the cloud or on-premise data center environments and end users access these desktops through PC remoting technology, VDI makes it easier to provide access on-premise corporate and SaaS applications from anywhere on any device.

From a user perspective, performance is often as good as or better than on a local device, because the virtual desktop is adjacent to back-end resources, such as storage. Meanwhile, VDI technology optimizes network traffic to mimic the responsiveness a user might experience on a local desktop.

In addition, VDI makes day-to-day IT tasks like deploying and managing new desktops and supporting distributed workers much less labor-intensive. IT also maintains tight control over movement of data in and out of the business. Because this data isn’t stored on the local device, the risk of data loss if a device is lost or stolen is also much lower.

How VDI in the Cloud Can Help

Provisioning devices and remote access at scale can be complex and time-consuming in a physical data center – especially when IT departments may be required to operate with reduced staff. VDI in the cloud allows IT departments to streamline deployment and administration, improve security and offset the higher cost and complexity associated with on-premise lifecycle management.

Cost Efficiency

VDI in the cloud outsources the physical infrastructure components involved to a cloud service provider, exchanging an upfront CAPEX investment to a more controllable OPEX model. Here, IT departments also avoid the three-to-four-year deprecation cycle associated with on-premise infrastructure.

The result is a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) achieved at the outset of a cloud-hosted deployment, where an on-premise solution might yield a positive ROI after 18 to 24 months. Furthermore, IDC pegs the average cost per user of cloud hosted VDI at 55% lower than that of virtual desktops hosted on-premises [1].

This benefit becomes even more important as organizations look to cut costs in anticipation of economic uncertainty.

Scale Up or Down

In the cloud, the process of adding or removing virtual desktops and applications takes is simple and almost instant. This means an IT department could scale up a remote desktop environment to accommodate a dramatic spike, such as the current scenario, with minimal effort.

In some scenarios, deploying in the cloud also allows organizations to extend their existing on-premises infrastructure for additional scale while using a single pane of glass for management.

Ease of Deployment, Management & Support

Cloud hosted VDI also minimize the technical expertise required to deploy and administer virtual desktops. In fact, IDC estimates IT departments realize an average efficiency in staff time of 57% compared with VDI deployed in an on-premise data center [2].

Because desktops are delivered by a cloud service provider over a secure network and supported by a Service Level Agreement (SLA), end users can also expect higher availability than with physical PCs, which often require a desk-side visit when things go wrong.

By removing the need to maintain physical infrastructure or access devices directly for repair, cloud-hosted virtual desktops offset some of the inherent end-user support challenges in an all-remote scenario.

Improved Security

As with on-premise deployments, VDI in the cloud improves security by storing data with the cloud provider, rather than the individual device. However, organizations can also benefit from the cloud provider’s efforts to update and continuously improve their security measures, alleviating some of the need for in-house cybersecurity skills.

At the same time, by isolating the device OS from corporate applications and data, cloud hosted VDI prevents the spread of malware throughout the network. As malicious actors look to exploit the confusion around COVID-19 and remote work, this added protection is a key benefit.

Global Reach

All the leading cloud service providers operate in geographically dispersed locations, eliminating performance challenges around user proximity to the data center. As such, cloud-hosted desktops can be deployed and allow user access from anywhere. This advantage can be critical for organizations needing to support users working remotely far from the core office location.

Despite its advantages, deploying virtual desktops in the cloud may not be the best way forward in every scenario. For example, because VDI is limited by WAN performance and latency, performance varies depending on the user’s proximity to a cloud or on-premise data center.

In situations where end users are widely dispersed or live a great distance from a cloud provider data center, the resulting performance degradation could create a frustrating end-user experience.

Where to Go Next

Enabling employees to stay productive and secure while working from home full-time is a high priority for many IT departments responding to the challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Nonetheless, investments made now out of necessity today also have the potential to lay the groundwork for a more agile workforce in the future.

Whatever stage of crisis response and business continuity you find your organization in today, our team of experts is ready to help you enable your employees.

 

Watch our virtual workshop “Virtual Desktop Solutions to Enable Your Remote Workforce” on-demand.

Explore Softchoice Business Continuity and Rapid Response Services.

 

 

 

[1] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.

[2] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.