How the cloud has helped businesses throughout a pandemic
The cloud has been producing a change in the way we work for many years now. We are no longer entirely reliant on offices, less reliant on the traditional “9-5” and less reliant on face-to-face communication. Some, however, were still hesitant and remained comfortable with running their organisation in the conventional ‘on-site server-based computing’ model prior to the pandemic – a model that is traditionally considered to be inflexible though easy, and with unpredictable costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Organisations were told that they had to shift their workers to a work from home model, which was a totally new way of working for many as well as a almost sudden transition. Luckily, most were able to continue operating seamlessly through a situation that had the potential to bring business processes and productivity to a halt. It would be easy to generalise that as ‘technology’. However, the truth is, there is one constant that has been the key in allowing workers to communicate and operate as if they are in the office, all while remaining at home – cloud computing.
Experts expect that we might now see a permanent change in the market. Indeed, It is possible that, even long after the pandemic, there will be an increased number of professionals working from home, even if it is only a couple of days a week. What are the cloud technologies that are making this shift possible?
Cyber-attacks and breaches have always posed a major risk to the business environment. The impacts of one attack can be so serious that if not dealt with correctly, a company can be forced to stop trading.The pandemic has shown a pattern of an issue worsening. According to recent research from the McAfee COVID-19 Threat Report, cyber-attacks hit an average of 375 new threats per minute during the first quarter of 2020. Moreover, McKinsey researched revealed that the increase in staff working from home and pressure faced by some companies have significantly boosted the possibility of breaches.
In this realm, cloud tools can help address many of the cyber-security issues facing companies. For instance, VPN’s and Remote Desktop Services are both great cloud-based tools which have allowed users to securely access to their documents and files from home, on whatever device they prefer. A VPN operates by encrypting a user’s data through a tunnel, serving as a gateway to safeguard the information sent and received online. By contract, a Remote Desktop Service such as the Serval Hosted Workspace is a MFA secured, encapsulated workspace. Your data never leaves the workspace, is stored in one of our ISO 27001 datacentres, instead of being stored on specific workstations which are tied to your office.
Other cloud-based cyber security tools such as antivirus software, backup solutions and attack simulation software can also provide greater digital security and horsepower for organisations. Many of the best of these tools utilise artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and provide protection for some of the most sophisticated attacks posed by criminals today.
Document Sharing and Storage
After the year 2020 was, our time couldn’t be more precious. Businesses can no longer afford for the time of their workers to be wasted fishing out important documents from endless email chains.
Cloud-based document sharing and storage is the perfect solution. For example, one will mean key pieces of content can be viewed, accessed and worked on simultaneously by anyone who needs them for their job, without hours of digging and working on documents separately – a huge killer of productivity in the workplace. These cloud-based solutions operate by providing a central repository for files that can be accessed from anywhere, on various devices. Mutiple users can even work on these simultanously more often than now. As a result, all files are synced across devices and accessible in real time, whether your staff are in the office, on the road or at home.
These days, there are a number of document sharing and storage solutions available to business users such as Dropbox for Business and Google Drive. However, here at Serval IT Systems, we use OneDrive for Business. This is because if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription (like us and many others across the globe), choosing to store and share your files within OneDrive rather than other cloud storage providers will help your staff work faster and smarter due to its deep integration with the whole Microsoft 365 suite. It is also possible to store up to 1TB of documents, images and other files in OneDrive. Some of the others options for cloud-based sharing and storage have limited capabilities in comparision to OneDrive, for instance when it comes to the seamlessness of collaboration on documents.
In the short term, lockdowns could have shut down workplaces, but the long-term effects may be just as profound. Many of our customers have already told us that the pandemic has led them to question whether they really need such big offices, or an office at all.
Although remote work has been on the increase for some time now, this change has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Cloud-tools have meant this is able to be a long-term solution for companies because they are far more secure, cost-effective and flexible than any traditional technology solution. For instance, many cloud solutions are based on user count, meaning you only pay for what you use on a month-to-month basis.
According to research published by Harvard Business Review, the virus has made it significantly more difficult for call centres to cope, and that this hasn’t improved as the pandemic continued. Big contributors to this include “the fact that reps – most working from home for the first time – now find themselves without the infrastructure (like a reliable phone connection) or support (peers and managers available to lend a hand) they once enjoyed in the contact centre.”
Those in customer service whom chose to utilise the benefits cloud computing found they could alleviate these problems. Cloud-based customer service, for instance, offers speed and bandwidth advantages and can also make life easier for agents. This is because of communication platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom allow induviduals to not only communicate via instant chat and audio, but over video conferencing as well. Facial expressions simply cannot be conveyed over a phone call, meaning it is difficult for management to grasp how their teams are actually coping. Moreover, face-to-face communication will help agents still a valued part of the team and organisation.
Firms also need to make sure that a high volume of calls are handled smoothly by their customer service staff. Fortunately, cloud telephony such as VoIP solutions can make that a reality. VoIP works by translating calls into data, across a broadband connection, instead of using fixed legacy phone lines. As a result, call forwarding costs are slashed to almost zero. What’s more – Serval VoIP has Go Integrator integrated, an integration tool that links telephone systems with an ever-growing list of popular CRM platforms. Therefore, your customer service staff are able to automatically log a phone call directly to their CRM as soon as the phone is hung up.
For almost all businesses, the pandemic has created great uncertainty in regard to size. On the one hand, some digital firms have had unprecedented demand for their services throughout these times, and are therefore, experiencing a huge rise in growth across their workforce. Others, however, are facing the reality of having to let staff go and downsize in order to stay solvent.
The unpredictability of demand for some or lack of for others means that the ability to scale up or down suddenly will be very beneficial for organisations wanting to survive past the pandemic. The cloud needs no on-site physical hardware or servers to operate. As a result, companies can scale up or down whenever neccessary, without the need for one-off sunk investements for overheads such as servers, which need to be replaced every few years.
Energy giant Centrica highlighted how the cloud benefitted them in this way in an interview when Patrick Babic, service owner for the end-user computing teams said “The cloud has been absolutely essential and I really don’t know how we’d have coped without it. If we were still reliant on physical datacentres, we wouldn’t have been able to expand so quickly,”.
The truth is, if business leaders hadn’t been convinced of the benefits of cloud computing before the pandemic, they are likely to be now. The move will not only protect your organisation and its processes throughout the remainder of the pandemic, but it will enhance the security, efficiency and scalability now and in the future.
For us all, especially the economy, these are uncertain times, making the advantages of cloud computing too much to ignore. If you’ve made the move but aren’t sure you are getting the most from it, please get in touch as one of our experienced consultants would be happy to chat things through with you.
Alternatively, if you’re yet to make the move completely and are concerned about specific elements of your business if you do, Serval IT Systems can help. We have assisted several of our customers and implemented a number of solutions that have allowed them to continue working as normal when at home.