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Cloud in a COVID world: Why Having a Cloud First Strategy is More Important Than Ever

Geoff Barlow

Technology Practice Lead – Strategy

In my role as senior architect, I spend a lot of time with IT leaders helping them to define their strategy and bring solutions to life. Since the current COVID-19 outbreak I’ve seen customers, who already adopted a cloud first approach, flex their muscles to quickly adapt.

They’ve widened the gap between themselves and other organisations, who are struggling to be nimble, having taken a more traditional approach to IT with fixed assets and boundaries.

In the past, a Capex-heavy approach based more on fixed assets has worked well for many, with a strong cash position and one eye on EBITDA. But, as we’ve seen with COVID-19, sometimes you can't bank on the challenges the next three to five years will bring.


The rush towards cloud

COVID-19 has made cloud adoption more relevant than ever before. If you’re not convinced I would ask you to look and see how your organisation has managed over the last few months?

Simply listen to the news or go on LinkedIn. You can quickly see the organisations that have adapted to new ways of working and those who have not - and there are some interesting comparisons to be made.


Why Having a Cloud First Strategy is More Important Than Ever

1. The death of the office?
2. Innovation and failing fast
3. COVID is not forever, but those servers might be
4. You can't hide that in your expenses
5. One size doesn't fit all
6. Equipped for the future


1. The death of the office?

I can’t deny that Node4 has been right up there with organisations who’ve smoothly (and proudly) transitioned to working from home. We have not been alone, though, with Microsoft reporting that Teams usage rose from 20 million users in January, to 38 million in early March, to 75 million by the end of April!

This wasn’t a huge surprise to me or my colleagues, as we’ve utilised cloud-based modern workplace solutions for a number of years and we’ve always been proponents of ‘eating our own dog food’.

Product sets such as Microsoft 365 have helped connect our users with the tools they need regardless of location, and company data is available securely from anywhere rather than being stuck inside a local network. Collaboration tools such as Cisco WebEx or Microsoft Teams have meant our users can still be highly productive without being in the office.

Adopting these cloud-based tools has really helped organisations like us to adapt to the crisis, when mass home working was required at short notice. I am sure that serious discussions are going to be had in many organisations about whether those expensive city offices can be justified whilst social distancing measures remain in place and cloud-based tools are ready to go and easily available.

Read Now: 8 Free Resources for Remote Working

2. Innovation and failing fast just became a whole lot more important

Over the past few months, we’ve also seen a ton of innovation in response to the outbreak, which has shown organisations adapting at speed:

  • Airbnb announced an initiative in March to provide accommodation to key workers across the globe by linking healthcare organisations and hosts.
  • UK start-up AccuRx developed a video consultation system for NHS staff in a matter of days and from the beginning of March to end of April ran 35,000 consultations a day.
  • Luxury brands business LVMH rapidly changed their production lines to mass produce hand sanitiser.
  • UK Government developed their contact tracing app in a matter of weeks.

What do all these organisations have in common? They all have embraced cloud adoption.

Airbnb are a flagship user of Amazon Web Services. AccuRx run their services in the Azure. The UK Government has a well-documented cloud first approach and LVMH have even developed their own cloud based blockchain.

Innovation can of course occur without the cloud, but it’s easy to see that organisations that have embraced cloud services are stepping ahead. With markets disappearing overnight, many organisations are having to rethink their business models – so having the tools and mindset to change quickly is critical.


"Cloud first organisations have widened the gap between themselves and other organisations, who have taken a more traditional approach to IT


3. COVID is not forever but those servers in your comms room might be

There has undoubtedly been some panic buying of IT infrastructure in recent months to help cope with new demands such as increases in online retail purchases, contactless payments and remote working.

Once the dust settles however, hardware purchases such as these cannot just be sent back to the distributor. This is the trouble with traditional financing models where things are bought Capex and depreciate over a number of years. This model does not account for usage anomalies, which is exactly what the pandemic has caused.

Most cloud services, on the other hand, are pay as you go, so there is no deprecation cycle and the billing stops as soon as the service is shutdown. Those emergency 50 Citrix servers Dave in Ops had to spin up can just be deleted - with no strings attached.


4. You’re not going to be able to hide that in your expenses

In the same vein, organisations that are already using some cloud services might have got very credit card happy in recent months, frantically buying Windows Virtual Desktops or cloud storage.

Having a cloud strategy would have reigned this shadow IT in, by laying down a more joined-up approach.

Having controls around procurement and cloud governance can avoid micro purchasing and cloud sprawl. So the other 50 Citrix servers Dave from Ops accidently deployed into the wrong subscription and subsequently forgot about would have been flagged.

Not only are you avoiding ongoing cost, but also having to explain a hefty monthly bill to your Finance Director.


5. One size doesn’t fit all

The public cloud hasn't been bulletproof by any means - Microsoft had some capacity issues in its UK regions, and while it is true that you cannot compete against the big public cloud providers for scale, a multi-cloud approach can help build resiliency into your key systems.

Cloud first doesn’t always mean pure cloud. Your applications are not all the same so the hosting approach may not be either, nor should it be prescriptive. A cloud first approach is more a mindset within an organisation that understands the value of cloud computing so always looks to utilise this where possible.

If you need to de risk using a single provider, have a seriously challenging application or are in need of compliance workarounds, hybrid or private clouds are out there as well.

There are benefits and issues with each of the cloud hosting models, but using an application-centric approach, rather than a one size fits all method, means that you can identify your challenges, easy wins, ‘pets and cattle’. Then you can place them wherever is best, based on your own organisations requirements and the skills you have inhouse.


6. Equipped for the future

Putting cloud services at the forefront of any decision-making process won’t mean your organisation changes the world the following day, but it will start to unlock the benefits discussed. Greater flexibility, faster innovation and cost control are all going to be really important in the coming years.

If the COVID-19 crisis has shown us anything it’s that change can happen in a heartbeat, so why not get ready for it?

For further advice on adopting a cloud first strategy and bringing it to life, talk to one of our experts today.