Life after Coronavirus

Storage magazine asked experts from across the sector for their predictions for the storage industry in a post-pandemic world

It goes without saying that everything has changed over the past couple of months. The shock of how quickly the current crisis took hold and how dramatically the situation snowballed has put many organisations under unequivocal and significant strain.

A cloud-first approach
Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru says, “For many businesses that found themselves reliant on legacy on-premise communications infrastructure, and especially for those that had been sitting on the fence for some time, procrastinating over whether, how or when to embrace new cloud-based technology, the coronavirus crisis could prove to be the much-needed catalyst for positive long-term change.

“For the contact centre industry, which employs more than 4 per cent of the UK’s working population, the last few months could prove to be a fast-acting stimulant, injecting increased remote working and adoption of cloud technologies. After the height of this pandemic is over, I expect we will see most contact centres looking at how they can adopt a cloud-first approach that allows agents to work from wherever they are based, so they can future-proof their business models against situations like this in the future.” Tom Cotton, Agile Workspace Technical Director at Six Degrees, explains why now is the chance to make longer term considerations around cloud and agile working strategies: “I believe we will see an exponential increase in the uptake of cloud services over the coming months. This will be driven by a number of factors, not least users becoming accustomed to the lack of commuting and seeing more of their family. Many will not want to transition back to their old ways of working any time soon.

“With so many transformational applications and technology becoming cloud-native, and considering the inherent security, performance and agility benefits of the cloud, there are compelling arguments for transitioning away from local infrastructures to embrace the potential of cloud technology. However, I advise organisations to plan their cloud adoption journeys carefully to ensure their technology roadmaps align with their wider go-forward strategies – technology should never be introduced simply for technology’s sake.”

New focus on business continuity
Alan Conboy of Scale Computing comments: “For many businesses around the world, the upheaval caused by the virus has been nothing short of chaotic. Deploying a work-from-home strategy smoothly and securely, as well as the enormous spike in ransomware attacks during recent months, have been the root of concern among many business owners, governments, and schools. The focus for all organisations right now, and post-pandemic, must be business continuity: investing in systems that combine preventative measures and planned reactive measures to ensure that an organisation can continue doing business, despite potential threats, like those caused by the pandemic. In the IT world, this may include backup, disaster recovery (DR), easily deployed work-from-home solutions, and cybersecurity.

“While in the midst of the chaos it may seem irrelevant, or even a waste of time, to think longer term about business continuity. However, the potential for many organisations to keep a vast majority of their workforce working remotely, even as we begin to come out of the other side of COVID-19, in order to save on the cost of an office space, means it would be wise for organisations to consider investing in solutions and processes that are simple to implement, manage, and maintain remotely. Solutions that have built-in backup and DR, allow users to work remotely, safely, and securely, and provide protection from ransomware are becoming increasingly important in the new and uncertain times we are living through.”

Updated data protection
Steve Blow, UK Systems Engineering Manager at Zerto, explains why the spike in ransomware attacks has elevated organisations’ senses to best protecting their data: “Ransomware attacks are not new or even uncommon, and they will continue to be prevalent long after we see the other side of this global pandemic. But one thing many businesses have become more aware of since the start of the pandemic, is the importance of a modernised data protection strategy to safeguard their valuable and sensitive data. And they are not wrong – just a single employee clicking a malicious link in their emails could mean a ransom must be paid for all business data encrypted.

“Cyber-criminals often exploit vulnerabilities in employee emails, so it is crucial to have the right cyber-defences in place to avoid a disaster where critical data could be at risk – especially when it comes to government or healthcare organisations. Having appropriate role-based access control and an extensive tiered security model will help minimise risk. But the attack itself is only half of the problem because, without sufficient recovery tools, the resulting outage will cause loss of data and money, as well as reputational harm.

“Over the coming months it is important that we see more organisations utilising tools that allow them to roll back and recover all of their systems to a point in time just before an attack. This level of IT resilience will prove to be paramount, as emails continue to exist at the core of most organisations, they remain a standing target for ever-sophisticated cyber criminals, whether in the middle of a pandemic or not.”

This is a sentiment Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise, echoes: "While it's encouraging that the lockdown in the UK is slowly starting to ease, it's important for business leaders to recognise that this doesn't mean their employees will all be back in the office any time soon – if ever. We have moved into a very different 'normal' where remote working has become the standard, and this is likely to continue in some form even once the pandemic is over. For many businesses that are able to support employees working remotely, it is likely that this will become the new norm, rather than employees mainly being office-based.

"This will be more challenging for some businesses and industries than others, but it will become clear as this pandemic continues which businesses have been able to manage the change well enough for it to become more permanent. Even still, there will be increased challenges for IT departments to support employees using IT equipment or accessing secure systems outside of the office. A data management solution is one method for improving the ability for employees to work efficiently from home, as it can help to keep all of the data stored by a business in order, and can help employees to retrieve this data more quickly, saving them time that can be better spent on tasks which require their expertise."

Maintaining connections
While the pandemic has put many businesses into survival mode, it has also accelerated a range of – particularly digital – workplace trends. Liam Butler of SumTotal comments that, while many of these developments may be here to stay; they are already triggering long-term changes to workplace practices: “As restrictions on society continue to be lifted and the business community takes stock of these changes, we are realising they have gone far beyond simply absorbing the economic impact. For many industries and business areas, the measures have opened up a more sustainable, effective and collaborative working environment.” ST