The Pandemic effect on IT

The Pandemic has had impact on all aspects of life and business.  More and more companies have resorted to work from home as a precaution to prevent spread of COVID-19.  The work from home employee uses internet access to do their work, which adds to the load on Internet Services and challenges to productivity.  One of the biggest impacts though is from the applications companies have installed in their own computer center or room.  These must be supported and maintained and, in some cases, companies have shut down operations because their IT staff cannot even come to work to maintain the systems.

There was already a trend in computing toward web-based applications and APIs that made work from home easier, however the location of the servers in on premise facilities makes them almost useless if they cannot be physically maintained by the IT staff.

The pandemic has caused a rethinking of computing environments and Cloud Computing Environments (CCE) are looking more and more attractive.  Schools at all levels had to change their learning environments to online learning with varying degrees of success.  Rural and lower income people already stressed due to loss of work due to the pandemic were stressed even further to provide internet access for their children to learn.

Companies that had significant investment in on premise facilities including power, Air Conditioning, Servers, Connectivity, and on-premises applications, were finding those investments not providing the service necessary in the light of the pandemic and quarantines.  The CCE offered much better ROI with better support and maintenance in secure data centers all around the world, providing access without depending on an on-premises IT staff.

The Cloud Service Providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Digital Ocean and many others were faced with another problem, how to grow to accept the demand from all over the world. Adding to that is the inability to increase bandwidth of Internet Broadband connectivity with new Fiber-Optic cabling and 5G Cell coverage needs growing exponentially.

Like an Iceberg, CCE costs are mostly visible above the water line with Subscription fees for the various elements such as virtual servers, bandwidth, and storage.  While on-premises costs such as power, air conditioning, staff, turn over, etc. are less obvious.

(Figure 1. Cons of on-premises. Source: https://www.intellias.com/cloud-computing-vs-on-premises-comparison-guide/)

Commercial activities from Groceries to Food Service and literally everything for sale now much be offered online to compete.  This too, adds to the demand for bandwidth and CCE for the commercial vendors and those that are now starting business purely online can do so with CCE for less than the cost of opening a brick-and-mortar retail store.

While some software can easily be migrated off on premise computing to CCE, some cannot.  Shop Floor systems and manufacturing process control systems for example typically cannot be migrated to the CCE.  Accounting and other back-office software applications are typically relatively easy to migrate but far from a simple move.  The CCE vendors will tell you “Sure we can do that” but having a migration too to help identify the tasks and sequence of tasks and associate costs will go a long way toward a successful migration to Cloud Computing Environments in a cost effective way.

Security is another aspect to consider.  While on premise computing may seem more secure that the CCE, that is far from the truth.  For example, disgruntled employees account for a significant percentage of data loss or theft.  IT Staff may inadvertently destroy on premise computing capability by simply accidentally severing a cable or spilling a drink.  Conversely the CCE computer centers have far better security with redundancy and the employees do not even know which company’s data is house on which server or the programs running on which server, so intentional penetration or sabotage is eliminated.  Data Centers for the CCE providers are now located all around the world for low latency and high bandwidth so performance is guaranteed.

Depending on your needs, a hybrid environment with some on-premises computing and some back-end cloud computing is certainly something to investigate.  Especially if some of the software and systems you currently use cannot be easily migrated to the cloud.

Lastly while CCE deployments can have low startup costs and no need to buy or depreciate hardware or other facilities cost, the CCE vendors do charge for their processing power, and sometimes the costs are hard to determine up front.  One local organization thought moving to the cloud was going to be easy and cost effective and they budgeted for a year’s usage.  Less than six months later the budget had been consumed and they moved back to on-premises.

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