How we’ll use cloud when we go back to work

We’ve proactively enabled a new remote workforce this past year, but some may return to the office soon. Better start planning.

We’ve lived through pandemics before, and the silver lining is that they eventually go away. Remote work was not a reaction to the COVID-19 crisis; it’s been an option for many during the past several years—and one that most people used at least some of the time.

In many respects, enterprises were preparing for a 99% remote workforce without even knowing it. Those that had good cloud migration projects completed or underway found that their level of risk was many times lower compared to those with systems deployed in private enterprise data centers. The lockdowns limited physical access to some data centers; many systems were not physically maintained and outages were common.

This quieted many naysayers about the use of public clouds. I saw even the surliest of CIOs change their tune last summer. You can see by the growth of public cloud revenue that this has been more than a trend. It’s been a rapid paradigm shift.

The next crisis we’ll deal with will be the return to work. Why is that a crisis? It’s another pattern of usage different from the previous one. Much like the quick actions that took place once employees were sent home with laptops and phones, those who come back to a physical office need to be accommodated as well.

So, what will likely change and what won’t?

First, we’ll probably have companies remove much of their office space and begin hoteling. This means you go to an office building, reserve an office or conference room, and work from there. Network traffic and cloudops will need to be managed from those offices again, this time with many different users depending on the time of day or day of the week.

Second, employees will be more mobile. Employees have worked exclusively from home during the pandemic, but once restrictions lift and people begin moving around, remote work could be done at home, for sure, but also in coffee shops, airports, bars—wherever a Wi-Fi connection can be found.

As most security professionals will tell you, employees accessing cloud systems via a public network creates security issues. If you don’t have the security systems in place to leverage public networks safely, they should be high on the list now.

As we emerge from this pandemic, IT’s theme will be that owning or using physical assets is actually a vulnerability. This will affect how we leverage our IT assets for the next several years.

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