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COVID-19: Cloud considerations in times of crisis

Discussing the impact of coronavirus on cloud, connectivity and network

April 8, 2020 | By: Brandon Carroll, Mike Driscoll and Dave Englebrick

business profesional working via cloud connection on laptop

Navigating the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Our first and foremost priorities are ensuring we’re supporting our employees, consultants and clients across the globe.As a full-stack technology and talent partner, we want to share our experience and offer support in how to alleviate the uncertainty around dynamic-workplace support as many businesses shift to a primarily remote workforce for an indefinite period of time.

Whether it’s speed, agility, functionality or mobility—cloud computing has been a critical tool in helping companies modernize and enable digital business transformation. But in the face of a global crisis, as companies move their employees to work from home and grapple with organizational change management and business continuity , enterprise cloud-based technology and solutions have never been more critically utilized.

While it’s too early to tell exactly how everything will play out, here are some things to keep in mind as we continue to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19.

While organizations shift to fully remote, their networks are starting to feel pressure

Moving to a virtual work environment has required organizations to address the scalability of their physical network capacity to enable a fully remote workforce at a rapid pace. Even organizations that have a majority of their IT workloads in the cloud are likely to still deploy and maintain some infrastructure within their own data center. Pushing remote connectivity has increased pressure on IT workloads in data centers to ensure operations continue to run, while managing business disaster recovery functions and hardware failures amid the uptick of remote users.

Some of the most common issues we’re starting to see with companies working remotely are around:

  • Network bandwidth
  • Equipment not able to handle the additional throughput
  • Teleconferencing or video conferencing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Virtual private network (VPN)
  • Help desk
  • Internal and external voice and video connectivity issues
  • Network segmentation
  • Business continuity plans to transition back to the office

The technology challenge organizations are facing today is how to put the correct plans in place to host an entire workforce in order to avoid cloud and network interruptions.

Cloud capacity shouldn’t be an issue, but bandwidth will likely be the constraint

Working from home recommendations have increased the amount of traffic on networks around the world, requiring employees to connect to company resources through a VPN. While this isn’t new, organizations who haven’t migrated their infrastructure to the cloud will need to ensure they have enough hardware capacity and VPN user licenses to support their entire employee population. Most companies have the technology to support remote sites, but when hundreds (or thousands) of users are suddenly trying to access the corporate network via VPN, it becomes a bandwidth issue. For the short term, a quick upgrade of infrastructure may help, but in the long term, an assessment of your physical network and equipment will be needed to properly scale for an entire workforce.

For enterprises that have migrated to the cloud, VPN setups and hosting most applications and tools in the cloud will ease employee access to internal networks—yet still, the home office remains a contention point. While most employees should have adequate home broadband capacity to support remote connectivity, the reality of having multiple family members streaming video, games, online classes and applications at the same time will increase the bandwidth needs of each home significantly. Issues that employees experience around connectivity or speed won’t be due to cloud infrastructure, but are more likely due to network resource or security.

The two security issues organizations need to prioritize are remote authentication and two-factor authorization to protect data and identities that are now potentially exposed in a home environment. Luckily, most security encryptions, roles and single sign-on tools are baked into cloud platforms like AWS, Google Cloud and Azure, reducing the need to mix and match different security tools.

The most obvious and immediate trend to help businesses with business continuity is around collaboration tools like Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Jabber and Slack—and they’re being pushed to their limits as everyone is trying to use them at the same time. Video and audio crashes or glitches are to be expected when remote connectivity differs so widely between each individual user’s home environment; however, these should be minimal since employees can access these SaaS services without needing to use a private VPN.

Understand how to cap cost containment and controls

Cloud enablement will support organizations to increase business elasticity, but for most companies, rolling out such a rapid and expansive cloud strategy was an unexpected pivot. Although the technology to support large-scale remote work is not new, enterprises who have not made the proper investments in cloud infrastructure will struggle with absorbing such a massive increase to their remote workforce as they’re suddenly faced with a significant surge of remote users. Those businesses that are more cloud enabled may lower their operational costs, whereas enterprises that rely more heavily on data center environments will meet their max peak load investments—capping their ability to scale up and down as demand changes. Understanding how to contain costs through scaling, controls and governance, as well as shifting to leverage the scalability within your cloud partners, will be the most impactful to ensure you’re not overspending on your cloud environments. Comparing your design and architecture against standard cost reduction measures, leveraging common cost-cutting strategies, and evaluating your design and architecture against cloud transformation can help further optimize your usage.

Brandon Carroll has spent the majority of his career in business development and operational leadership. As the director of transformation, DevOps and cloud enablement services for TEKsystems Global Services, he delivers multifaceted infrastructure and applications programs for enterprise customers focused on transforming their application development and operational support frameworks.

Mike Driscoll has been advising customers on technology transformation for more than 25 years. During his career, he’s worked Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Slalom Consulting. In 2018, Mike shifted his focus to building a world-class partnership with AWS as the managing director of cloud enablement for TEKsystems Global Services.

Dave Englebrick serves as a practice manager within TEKsystems’ networking and unified communications practice. He has more than 34 years of industry experience in design, operations and R&D within the telecommunications realm. Dave has supported K-12 and higher education for 15 years, as well as the states of Kansas and Missouri. His knowledge spans from Cisco to Avaya voice, focusing his Cisco UC discipline on design implementation.