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Pandemic gives fillip to public cloud

Can you imagine if this global pandemic had happened ten, or even five, years ago? It is highly unlikely so many of us would have been able to transition to remote working as quickly and, in many cases, as effortlessly as we did. From powerful laptop computers, to fibre to our homes, to a wide selection of collaboration and video conferencing tools: business continuity has, for the most part, been maintained, and in some cases even improved. (We’re certainly having far more effective and streamlined conversations with our prospects during lockdown.)

One of the major underlying factors contributing to our ability to stay home for three plus months and maintain productivity has been the public cloud. This is what powers most of the tools and capabilities, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, that we rely on today to do business in a pandemic world. And in return, this pandemic is undoubtably going to accelerate public cloud take-up around the world.

If you’ve clicked on a tech or business news site, attended a conference, or read any analyst reports in the last while, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the cloud computing race is a done deal. It’s certainly been hyped by the big cloud providers promising both digital transformation and business continuity. But the reality is that many regions are lagging the US when it comes to tapping into the public cloud, for range of reasons including legislative, regulatory and cultural.

According to analyst house Gartner (predicting in pre-pandemic times) by 2022 other countries were expected to trail the US in cloud adoption by one to seven, or more, years. The UK for instance, is currently trailing the US by fewer than three years with 11.5% of total IT spend earmarked for cloud by 2022, compared to 14% in the US. Japan, on the other hand, is lagging by seven or more years and while cloud spending is set to rise to 4.4% in 2022, Gartner cited numerous obstacles to cloud take up in the country.

Of course, the pandemic has thrown pretty much all forecasts awry. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said in a recent earnings call that they have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. It’s certainly not a stretch to argue that come 2022 those public cloud uptake predictions are going to be looking very low indeed. Why? Think of the laggards that stayed loyal to the horse and cart, up until the point where tarred roads became the norm and refusing to switch to an automobile became profoundly counter-productive. We have arrived at that inflexion point for the public cloud. It’s called working from home.

As I’ve previously written, the remote work debate is over. While we’ll be trickling back into our offices over the next weeks and months, we’ll be undoubtedly combining that with remote work. This might be working from home, or it might be working from one of the enterprising coffee shops that have set up socially distanced, protected hot desking spaces. We’ll each figure out the best combination for ourselves.

This shift in the way we work has permanently moved the public cloud conversation from “should we” to “when we”. The public cloud gives us access to our data, and our teams, without the need for clunky VPN, setting up and maintain servers, and the related bandwidth requirements for moving that data around. With remote working, it’s easy to appreciate the benefits of having your corporate data in the cloud anywhere, any time.

As a side note, this shift is going to impact the layout of the office of the future: no need for a server room anymore, but a fast, reliable internet connection with a fail over is going to be key.

It’s already a cliché to say that the health crisis has acted as an accelerant to many trends, digital and otherwise, that have been bubbling up for the last few years. But this certainly is the case for public cloud. And when you consider the abilities we have today thanks to the cloud, this makes the future a very interesting, cloud-driven place.


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