How Cloud Computing Can Support Your Remote Workforce
By: Blair Felter on February 18, 2021
If asked to describe work life in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, it’d be tempting to focus on isolation and the lack of movement in our daily lives. Many of us didn’t drive to work, meetings, or vendor and client sites; we didn’t travel to events or conferences; we were stationary. And while our daily lives may have been punctuated by that lack of motion, the primary element that made our staying in place possible was actually the agility and flexibility of computer networks, especially cloud computing infrastructure. With remote work trends predicted to transform into common place configurations, now is a great time to examine how cloud computing can support your remote work force, or enable you to take advantage of remote worker availability.
For nearly a year now, an estimated 41% of the U.S. workforce has been working remotely. While that workforce has faced time management, work-life balance, productivity, isolation and communication challenges, perhaps some of the biggest challenges have been in the tech sphere.
In fact, a third of all workers reported issues accessing critical software, a third had connectivity and reliability issues, and still another third reported issues with communication tools. However, among those recently surveyed, the third biggest challenge identified was issues with communication and collaboration.
For so many businesses, collaboration is a fundamental part of the work they do. This means storing and sharing documents/files/projects, being able to access software that enables collaboration, monitoring progress, and communicating with team members to get alignment on milestones and goals. If remote workers are having network reliability and performance issues, these job requirements become even more difficult.
Finally, any employee whose job function relates to security and securing the integrity of your organization’s network and data, is likely facing significant new challenges related to the sheer number of devices now storing, sharing, and accessing documents and data. Further, there will likely be other security concerns as well related to application and firewall or port access.
In short, while workers are facing their own challenges trying to manage this new structure, many businesses are learning that scalable and agile networks, like those afforded by cloud infrastructure, are the key to successfully navigating this new work world. Perhaps this is the reason why 72% of business leaders are researching investments to improve this experience.
Cloud computing should certainly be among those investments.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing offers the ability to deliver network and system services over the internet. In other words, it provides computing power, speed, and reliability with scalable storage, and security features in an off-premise environment.
Typically, cloud computing refers to data centers that provide these services and more to organizations who need the computing capabilities or data storage that, under given circumstances, would be prohibitive to their organizations due to space constraints or excessive costs.
How Cloud Computing Can Help Your Employees Overcome the Challenges of Remote Work
Almost across the board, regardless of their department or job role, there are ways cloud computing can help your remote workforce.
Improved Security and IT Support
While of particular importance to your IT department, the security measures made possible by cloud utilization should be of value to the entire organization. Further, it’s like having an extra IT team at your disposal.
Ability to prevent employee devices and your network from sharing viruses and malware
In case of disaster, your data center is fully redundant and has a disaster plan in place to restore or recover your network and data
With additional support technicians on hand, IT issues are resolved more quickly
Collaboration Capabilities are Limitless
Often multiple locations or facilities have presented challenges for collaboration in the workplace and managing many remote workers at once is no different. However, cloud based applications allow multiple users to be in the same document at the same time, working together, to view, draft, edit, comment, and update as needed, from wherever they are.
Further, regardless of the size of the project, there’s room for storage. In the past, when collaborating with team members, each person needed a local copy of the project taking up valuable space on computers, often impacting performance and slowing work. On the cloud, there’s as much storage space as you need, and it’s scalable if you need more.
Additionally, this shared system enables users to access work from wherever they are, as long as there is internet access. However, they’re also able to work offline if needed. While in the past system outages and downtimes were also an issue, most colocation partners offer an SLA including 99.99999% uptime. While that’s not 100%, it does mean you get a reliable connection that’s available when your workers need it, regardless of time zone.
Because workers can access from anywhere, and because there’s no slow down with sending or receiving large files, you’re more likely to have more employees fully engaged in collaborative projects and able to spend more time on those projects than waiting for slow connections.
While this doesn’t solve all the problems your workers are facing because the cloud can’t stop your dog from interrupting, or the lawn service from weed whacking during a meeting, or a sudden urgent home repair from interrupting your workday, it can enable better communication and collaboration which is, reportedly, one of the biggest challenges of remote work.
What to Look For in a Cloud Services Provider for Your Remote Workforce
There are a lot of cloud service providers out there, and the number is only going to grow as the industry expands and so it’s important to have a sense of what you’re looking for in a data center partner.
It’s easy to think you want the partner closest to you, but there are quite a few other factors to consider in regards to the location of your data center. While close to your business location is great, that concept doesn’t hold if you’re in an area prone to natural disasters. You want your data center to be someplace safe.
Similarly, if your business is not headquartered near the end-users of your network (either your workforce or customers), you want to consider a data center closer to those individuals.
Finally, if your business is, at any point, going to rely on edge computing or the IoT, you want to choose a partner who has multiple data centers, including edge data centers, and is prepared for this inevitable market shift.
Reliability, Support, Security
These days, most SLAs from data centers guarantee the same uptime, but you’ll have to dig a bit deeper into what that means. In short, you want to review their support team’s response time as well as how easy it is to report trouble and track progress on resolution. Further, you’ll want to research what kind of remote network and infrastructure monitoring is available so you can head off issues before they happen and make critical IT decisions that impact your business overall.
In addition to reliability and support, you want to ensure that your data and network are protected. A full review of a data center’s physical and logical security as well as disaster and risk mitigation plans should be high priority.
Reputation, Expertise, Assistance
While longevity shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision, data center and cloud providers with a history of success and foothold in the market are there for a reason. Take a look at who industry and thought leaders. Review the kind of support and assistance your team will get from the inquiry stage to deployment and ongoing support.
The providers who are forward thinking, who are agile and adjusting to the needs of both the market and their customers while providing outstanding service should be high on your list.
Further, take a look at who is ahead of the curve. Which providers are poised to take advantage of the changes because they saw them coming? Who is positioned in the markets where you want to be and already has a foundation of success?
As the Marketing Director at vXchnge, Blair is responsible for managing every aspect of the growth marketing objective and inbound strategy to grow the brand. Her passion is to find the topics that generate the most conversations.