With companies needing to support remote working strategies and with a rise in demand for cloud-based business continuity tools and services during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the global cloud market size will grow from $233 billion in 2019 to reach $295 billion by 2021. The importance of the cloud can no longer be debated. Instead, the focus shifts to optimally integrating it into the business strategy to ensure business sustainability.
The research suggests that companies are using cloud automation and increasing their online presence by developing e-commerce websites on cloud platforms to decrease the impact of COVID-19 on productivity and operational efficiency.
“Even though the cloud has long been touted as the foundation on which the digital organisation is built, it has taken the lockdown to drive the message home. Those businesses who have been unable to have employees work remotely, are not only facing significant financial losses, but they are also becoming irrelevant to customers who are looking for a semblance of normality in the provisioning of products and services during this time,” says Andreas Bartsch, Head of Service Delivery at PBT Group.
It has been highlighted that in South Africa, 90% of businesses reported a reduced turnover in April 2020 when compared with their normal expected range. Furthermore, a third of the companies surveyed indicated that they were laying off staff in the short-term as a measure to cope with the current crisis.
“With uncertainty about what the immediate future of business will entail, decision-makers need to find innovative and cost-effective ways to keep organisations running. Considering how the cloud enables companies to scale in more agile ways to cope with volatile market conditions, it becomes an important enabling technology to mitigate some of the economic threats associated with the lockdown. Those organisations who have already begun the transition to the cloud prior to the pandemic, are in a much stronger position than the ones now trying to adapt to what will become the new normal,” says Bartsch.
This does not mean all hope is lost for late adopters. But it will require a concerted effort taking into account the learnings from the past several months and identify where to focus immediate cloud efforts on.
“Even with the pressure on decision-makers to migrate as much as possible into a cloud environment, there must still be a clear business case for it. With the cloud presenting the organisation with everything from business intelligence, artificial intelligence, data analysis, machine learning, and document collaboration capabilities, linking it with existing systems and processes becomes key. So, instead of ripping and replacing everything, the organisation must decide how best to enhance and optimise the work already done, guided by a well-defined cloud strategy,” adds Bartsch.
Keeping it secure
Part of the transition and ongoing work in the cloud must entail keeping data protection in mind with everything the company does.
A recent survey has found that 84% of IT professionals are concerned that their organisation has already suffered a major cloud breach as a result of misconfiguration that they have yet to discover. A third of respondents feel that cloud misconfigurations will increase over the coming months while 73% cited they have experienced more than 10 incidents a day due to misconfiguration.
“Combined with continuously evolving cyber threats, ransomware, data theft, and financial fraud amongst others, many organisations are struggling to find an effective balance between becoming a highly secure business while still delivering remote workers the functionality to access mission-critical information during these times,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa.
Research shows that 88% of small to medium businesses and 91% of large organisations around the world have already experienced a data breach affecting the public cloud infrastructure they use. During these challenging economic times, few can afford the financial and reputational damage that will result from such an event.
“As part of their cloud strategies, decision-makers must, therefore, adopt a hybrid approach when it comes to their cybersecurity defences. This will enable the business to protect applications and data in physical, virtual, and cloud workloads. Such a multi-layered approach is essential to address any concerns around data access and the potential of network breaches that can result from having a distributed workforce,” says Opil.
It also helps address the challenge of shadow IT in the organisation that sees employees install consumer apps on their work devices that do not offer the same level of security corporate solutions provide. Even if these solutions are used with good intentions without approval from IT departments, doing so can still potentially lead to compromising corporate data or even a malware infection.
“So, in addition to installing multi-layered solutions, companies must also keep on educating their employees on what constitutes good cybersecurity practice and how to identify potential risks. This is even more vital at a time when people are working remotely and do not have access to an IT person down the corridor. The main source of IT threats to a company remains the company’s employees themselves, through carelessness or use of initially outdated and unprotected software,” continues Opil.
All told, the COVID-19 pandemic will reinvent the way business will be done moving forward. And integral to this new normal will be a secure cloud approach that ties all elements of the company together, to equip it with the tools required to remain competitive in this dynamic world.