Thursday, 29th July 2021

Hybrid working for the long haul: What’s next for the cloud?

As we begin a new year, we can start to look back at the lessons we have learnt throughout 2020 and how this will shape the year ahead. With employees working from home or in a hybrid fashion, cloud technology has been at the core of keeping people connected both professionally and socially. By Pete Watson, CEO of Atlas Cloud.

Businesses will be looking to replace any ‘quick-fix’ solutions with more permanent ones, that enable them to operate in a more flexible way for the future - a development that will be well received by workers.

Setting up for a hybrid future

A recent survey exploring the workplace of the future found that 74% of professionals across the UK now want the flexibility to work in a hybrid way, working between the office and at home. It’s safe to say this new approach is for the long haul and that the cloud will remain at the forefront of both this physical and cultural transformation.

Whether for scalability or survival, implementing the right long term strategy and setup will be critical to successfully embracing the cloud.

Whether that be a public cloud service such as Microsoft Azure or a private cloud service, choosing the right cloud model will have a huge impact on organisations throughout 2021. The real question is, how and where can the cloud add the most value in the race to secure, productive, successful hybrid working, and which technologies can unlock this potential at scale?

Building for security

The security of company platforms is paramount as more people work in a remote setting. However, these considerations are even more crucial where a hybrid model is concerned. As employees carry laptops back and forth, between their office and home, this naturally increases the security risk if the laptop is lost. Virtual desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) operating within the cloud can solve this problem.

This is because the desktop can be accessed securely through a multi-factor authentication process on any device, meaning that staff can work fluidly across multiple devices, through one point of access. This eliminates the need for employees to carry their laptops back and forth between the workplace.

However, if employees prefer having a primary device that they ferry between their home and work, there is still no security threat. This is because with a cloud set up, sensitive information isn’t stored directly on the device. Instead, it is secured safely in the cloud. Therefore, if the device is stolen, cybercriminals can’t access the sensitive data or steal important information from the laptop.

Another way businesses can increase security is by developing a robust Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy, where personal devices are used for work. BYOD can lead to higher employee

productivity and satisfaction as it gives workers the flexibility to work with a familiar setup. By utilising an Endpoint Management Solution in conjunction with BYOD, businesses can secure all the devices connecting to their network, whether company-owned or not.

Managing the security of all devices under one solution also means that it is easier for businesses to protect their data. When implementing an Endpoint Management Solution, businesses can take advantage of services that come as part of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure subscriptions as well as more advanced services, such as an enterprise solution monitored by a Managed Service Provider. With recent research finding that 65% of small to medium-sized businesses have been exposed to cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever to implement solutions that will reduce risk of compromise.

Staff wellbeing and a more connected workforce

With some people working from home and others in the office, maintaining a connected workforce both virtual and face-to-face is simply crucial. Businesses must make sure they are treating their employees fairly, giving everyone the chance to speak up and still be heard.

After this year, businesses now have access to the right communication tools and technologies to allow effective communication. With platforms like the Microsoft 365 suite, employees can collaborate from anywhere and stay connected with everyone, accessing their work from multiple devices. Many businesses have supercharged Microsoft 365 by taking advantage of their Windows Virtual Desktop allowances in Microsoft Azure, for a more flexible and centralised computing experience through the public cloud.

2021 is looking like yet another unpredictable year, and lack of face-to-face communication could result in employees struggling with their mental wellbeing. This is supported by research which has found that lack of in-person communication doubles the chance of employees suffering from mental health issues. Therefore, businesses must ensure that they implement a strategy to enable their workplace to stay connected and offer support to one another.

Cloud-based communication platforms like Microsoft Teams are enabling employees to stay connected, collaborate effectively and maintain productivity within the workplace. Due to the accessibility and high security of Teams, keeping in touch with colleagues and subordinates has never been easier.

Productivity at scale

Cloud-hosted desktops and applications offer countless benefits to businesses evolving into a hybrid workplace. One of the biggest advantages of moving to a hosted setup is that employees can access their files and data from any location, anytime, on any device. With employees working both from home and in the office, they can remain productive regardless of location.

According to research, hosted desktops and applications also increase productivity by 20% by offering employees flexible working resulting in a happier work environment. Alongside this, they

offer the opportunity to work flexibly, leading to a happier work environment. Employees can benefit from having all their essential work tools permanently at their disposal, boosting communication and collaboration. It is clear that the benefits to employees are significant, but we can also go one step further.

For example, operating on a public cloud such as Microsoft Azure with a full suite of workplace applications unlocks vast scalability. With a public cloud approach, organisations can scale their usage up or down without the investment in infrastructure that may be required in a private datacentre or on-premise scenarios. The reduction in capital expenditure and the adaptability afforded by the cloud will prove invaluable to UK businesses – particularly in such challenging economic times.

While the future of work is evolving, the future of the cloud looks bright. Throughout 2020, cloud adoption has been an integral part of building hybrid workplace strategies and will continue to play an incredibly important role throughout this year. Implementing the right cloud set-up in 2021 and beyond will allow IT investments to go further and will keep employees connected and information secure.

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