Cloud computing has been at the top of the IT agenda for the past decade – but companies’ post-pandemic drive to better control costs, support remote working and improve business resilience is accelerating investment plans.
Survey data from Gartner indicates that 70% of organizations plan to increase their cloud spending in the wake of the disruption caused byCOVID-19. While the 2021 State of IT report found that budget holders plan on aggressively shifting away from owning hardware to operating more cloud services.
Cloud computing is a big cultural change for some companies, although others have been ‘in the cloud’ for a decade or more.
Delivering computing services through the cloud allows companies to reduce, even remove, the need for in-house IT equipment. But a wholesale overnight cloud shift has been improbable and impractical for most organisations – regardless of their size and budget. As a result, many have hybrid estates with a combination of on-premise and various cloud-based capabilities and resources.
Anecdotal evidence does suggest many organisations operate on multiple cloud platforms for different processes but without a central strategy. An organisation must incite a cultural shift to recognise the value of a multi-cloud approach and adapt to the flexibility of the potential offered by multiple clouds.
Eliminating the capital expense of buying hardware and software is just one part of the cost-benefit equation. Cloud services can be purchased on-demand – often on a subscription “as a service” package – which means companies pay only for what is required at any time.
The pandemic, however, has highlighted the other benefits of the cloud over and above cost and flexibility.
With a global knowledge worker population now working from home, as well as students of all ages, cloud-based access to vital information and applications has been the difference between productivity and pain.
With access to accounting software in the cloud, finance staff, for example, have been able to manage the difficult customer conversations about payment terms.
Sales and marketing teams have been able to use cloud technology to collaborate on new business pitches and ensure existing customers are kept up to date.For example, live access to desktop tools allow people to work together from any location and in real time, ensuring information is always up to date.
Companies have accelerated their adoption of cloud services to provide individuals with secure, immediate access to all the information and tools they need to work effectively, collaborate with colleagues and just keep in touch. Within Vodafone, employees — across the globe — now host 40,000 virtual video meetings every day, communicating over cloud-based networks which allow scaling up of capacity.
For businesses, productive employees are just one part of the drive for a more resilient operation. The concept of ‘business as usual’ may have been turned on its head, but the cloud makes it possible for employees to quickly join up the tools and applications required to keep a company running.
The cloud also allows companies to respond rapidly to changes in business demand. Subscription services allow them to flex up and down as required — either to support new opportunities (wherever they are) or reduce overheads in response to a downturn.
And, as and when the market picks up, it is easy to scale those on-demand services back up.
Many companies can relate to the need to communicate quickly and efficiently with all employees, from any location. Explore Transport, a specialist provider of transport and plant hire, wanted a telematics solution to track deliveries and monitor empty mileage and revenue-per-vehicle of its trucks. With a fleet of 150 vehicles, communication between the office co-ordinators and drivers on the road is vital to the efficient running of the business – so the company also wanted a solution that staff could use to answer calls at any time from different locations.
The cloud was an obvious solution – pairing cloud with a telematics solution that can track vehicles and monitor equipment. Also, by using Vodafone One Net, Explore Transport can operate 24 hours a day.
Cloud computing is playing an important role in accelerating digital transformation plans.
Cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are essential to the collection, storage and analysis required to put data at the heart of the business.
For example, companies are using IoT sensors, the cloud and analytics to track the performance of machinery and identify problems before they occur. Taking a proactive approach to maintenance is reducing downtime and also helping companies to better manage the maintenance workforce to meet social distancing guidelines.
And one of the most exciting areas of development is Edge Computing, which essentially moves computing, storage and management to the edge of a network. With faster speeds and near real-time decision making, Edge Computing is unlocking the next era of digital transformation. It’s also enabling companies to safely introduce autonomous operations alongside the physical workforce, thanks to millisecond response times.
The low latency of Edge Computing means companies can use real-time video analytics that immediately identifies security threats or empowers employees in the field with augmented reality tools for maintenance and repair.
Edge Computing is also changing the way public transport networks keep the public safe during the pandemic. Unleash live offers a cloud-based solution that repurposes existing camera installations and connects them to real-time AI analytics solutions at the edge. Distributed Edge Computing means Unleash live can provide real-time insights to transport network personnel, analysing data at the network edge to provide instant guidance into issues such as whether crowd control is required to enable customers to social distance. Ultimately, this means transport networks can offer safer, more reliable journeys that passengers feel comfortable making, as well as benefitting from efficient, accurate resource planning, and supply and demand.
Cloud computing is the foundation for digital transformation strategies. Are you ready to take the next step?
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