Article By Ian Sherratt, Services Director – Cloud Centres

This is a cautionary tale about technology in the age of Covid-19

During the pandemic did you try to find a garden incinerator at a garden centre?

No? Nor me.

A few months ago, you could walk past pallets of them but overnight they vanished, suddenly appearing on eBay five times the price!

What does that tell us?

Firstly, people had a lot more time on their hands in the garden, of course. But also, as with the humble toilet roll at the start of the pandemic, people are prone to panic buy when the unexpected happens.

And the same is true with technology. Company directors have suddenly thought, “how am I going to make sure all my staff can work from home? How can I make sure my customers continue to receive the same service?”

As with the garden incinerators, companies will start to panic buy technology. When BT Openreach tells you they’re booked solid for six months and your IT vendor has a 72-hour response time, you have to ask yourself “is what I’ve built sustainable?” Like I said, this is a cautionary tale.

Business Unusual

As organisations emerge from this pandemic, it will be business unusual for the foreseeable future – a reverse hybrid model, if you like.

Previously, the majority of people worked in an office while a privileged few worked from home or on the road. The reverse will now be true; organisations will have to adopt the reverse hybrid model. Instead of having most staff working in the office with a few scattered around the country, employees will be scattered around the country while just a few will be working in the office. This is a major flip of the coin; one form of reality replacing another.

Furthermore, this reverse hybrid model will only work if the technology is there to support it. Organisations will need new business models and IT partners that can support different needs and understand what technology will help them to be able to carry on sustainably.

Lockdown – no time to prepare

When the lockdown was first announced businesses had very little time to prepare for the changes thrust upon them. Typically, with many organisations, the directors and senior members of staff were already working from home. Suddenly, however, the whole workforce was at it.

It’s worth noting that this is an experiment like never before for most people and organisations. It’s never been more necessary for IT teams to support mass, enforced working from home and, in many cases, IT teams have been ill prepared.

Employees need to send emails and print securely and have access to systems that are still in the office. For most organisations, the immediate concern has been, “have we got a firewall and access to the VPN? Do we have the right software to download?”

Although technology is available to supply the immediate needs of most businesses and to help with the shift to remote working, most organisations are only just starting to learn that remote working isn’t as simple as downloading software. Technology has to work at a sustainable level to deliver results and, ultimately, the remote working experiment will only be as successful as the infrastructure that supports it.

Most organisations have always built their networks with physical connectivity in mind; they are not generally designed to support a majority of their users connecting from home. But IT teams are suddenly having to deal with a huge spike in traffic on VPNs and network appliances. These problems will escalate with the sudden surge of the use of cloud applications and the pressure on servers, storage and networks.

What’s your data centre strategy?

As a result, this demand for cloud services means more bandwidth and capacity is needed. To make sure a business has the critical level of sustainability a data centre strategy is key for all organisations going forward.

Everyone operating a hybrid or co-location data centre strategy already will be ahead of the curve on this. Hybrid multi-cloud supports demands for high-bandwidth and reliable connectivity and provides physical security, expert monitoring and 100% uptime guarantees. Being connected 24/7 is a fundamental requirement for organisations.

It’s also important to think about the locations of your data centre. A good choice of location close to your centre of operations means an optimised infrastructure and application environment. This also helps with consultations – a good data centre strategy is about having people on hand who understand the technology and who can provide the right services and the right accessibility. It’s simple things like getting advice about how to turn a physical business into a digital one.

In the new world where you don’t have a physical office, the data centres become the repository, the safe home for the technology. The tech is no longer kept under the stairs or in the back in a server room. You need access to your technology 24/7.

Flexibility is the key

For organisations and their relationships with data centres flexibility is the key. Long before the pandemic, long-term contracts were no longer acceptable for a lot of cloud-based organisations, where the frantic pace of technology meant changing direction quickly. So agility and having the ability to flex and scale as needed is increasingly critical. Every organisation has now become dependent on IT, whether they like it or not. But at the moment the vast majority of businesses don’t have the organisational relationships to help them.

There is no doubt that the attitudes and behaviours of people and organisations has changed – maybe forever. Remote working will become the norm and a data centre strategy will become even more critical in ensuring the infrastructure is stable, safe and reliable for people to work wherever they want, whenever they want it.

As with loo rolls and garden centre incinerators, panic buying technology will not solve your problems. To create real sustainability that keeps your colleagues working and your customers satisfied, start working on your data centre strategy before your competitors.

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