Cloud providers need to proactively support their customers through the tail end of the Covid-19 pandemic. They can do this by demonstrating the strength and adaptability of their service offerings.
Covid-19 has left many organisations unsure if their business continuity strategy is sufficiently robust, particularly when it comes to cloud services. The reliance on videoconferencing and collaboration tools has stressed the limits of back-end supporting services, while also increasing network traffic volume. However, cloud providers with robust and excess infrastructure, combined with disaster recovery plans to respond to such a crisis, are successfully managing in this new normal.
As IT leaders begin to consider longer-term cloud solutions to support the new portion of their workforce remaining remote, they are facing challenging questions about the resiliency and dependability of cloud services. At the same time as Covid-19 has pushed cloud to the spotlight, it has put providers in a unique position to reassure customers of their strength and adaptability.
The providers who will fail at this time are the ones still tackling the debate of on-premises data centres vs cloud. Customers are now asking about the adaptability of their current cloud service that they have been forced to adopt if they decided to continue using it post pandemic.
Providers need to prove that their services are resilient enough to handle random spikes in demand by showcasing their excess capacity to rapidly deploy new services when needed. To allow customers to rest assured, can providers prove they are themselves supported by underlying infrastructure that is sufficiently robust?
Here are the actions cloud providers must ensure in support of their clients and deliver uninterrupted service during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Ease customers’ concerns by demonstrating a strong ability to handle spikes to both their VPNs and cloud-supported applications
Cloud computing is a model that is inherently designed to satisfy fluctuating demand and well-architected, well-run cloud services are designed to handle unexpected spikes in demand. If implemented correctly, cloud services are well positioned to support rising requests, such as those exhibited during this Covid-19 crisis.
However, more reports of slowdowns or outright inability to handle increased loads are surfacing every day. The reasons for this are varied. Increased remote workers means increased load on VPNs and the servers that handle their connections. While companies have spent money to build out their existing capacity to handle remote work, few have come close to provisioning capacity many times their established norms. This means any reduction in service quality will appear to end users as limited bandwidth availability and slower loads.
For cloud providers that host VPN servers and private network connections for companies with workforces both large and small, it is of critical importance that you help customers understand their limitations and to expand them at a measured cost.
Cloud providers must engineer their networks to handle spikes without having to throw bandwidth at the problem, which can often be an expensive proposition. Deploying advanced traffic engineering technologies will be crucial.
Release stress-testing information on cloud data centres, networks and services
In addition to managing increased traffic, operations teams must be able to maintain service availability and performance while they themselves are working remotely or with reduced staff. Furthermore, components powering the cloud data centre resources, such as chips or servers, may be in short supply due to supply chain disruptions facing manufacturing facilities. Customers who understand these realities want to be reassured that their provider is dealing with the potential bottlenecks in service smoothly and effectively.
By publicly stress testing cloud infrastructure and explaining the results in the context of periods of extreme variation, cloud providers will be well positioned to address customer resiliency concerns that naturally arise when comparing longer term solutions post pandemic.
Using the stress test data, cloud providers can develop and publish comprehensive service continuity plans for increased usage, remotely managing services and leveraging a geographically diverse engineering workforce for support.
Allowing customers in to this discussion will build their confidence in your resiliency plans.
Engage in customer and employee philanthropy
Many cloud customers are facing revenue challenges during these unprecedented times and will remember the service providers who lent a helping hand. If you can act as stopgaps by offering financial relief to customers, especially small and midsize businesses then do so if you haven’t already. There are many possibilities to explore this initiative, the easiest is to consider providing cloud-based collaboration and conferencing capabilities at a discount or for free, at least for a limited period of time.
About the author: Daryl Plummer is VP, Distinguished Analyst, chief of Research and chief Gartner Fellow. Mr. Plummer is chief of research for cloud computing and a primary analyst covering multiple cloud topics, business process management, SOA and Web technologies. He manages the Gartner Fellows Program, which is designed to allow senior analysts the opportunity to explore new research ideas and to elevate the Gartner culture and brand with clients. He is also chief of Research for emerging trends and interacts with clients on topics ranging from application development to enterprise architecture.
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