Time for a (Cloud) Change: Poor Performance & Outages Aren’t “Normal”

Bill SorensonCloud Computing, Financial IT, Performance & Availability

Extracted and Adapted from, “How CPA firms use the cloud to make remote work productive.

2020 has been painful at best – changing how organizations interact with clients, access core applications, files, and confidential information, and remain productive even when working remotely. With guidelines changing on a near-weekly basis, it’s hard to define what our “new normal” is or will be – but there are two things that shouldn’t be part of it: application performance delays and outages.

But if that’s exactly what you’re experiencing, you may believe that it’s just part of the COVID tax that comes from working remotely. The short answer is no – instead, it’s a sign that your current IT infrastructure is poorly equipped to handle current demands – and that’s a burden you don’t have to bear.

The truth is that you aren’t alone, while some firms were able to adjust very quickly, switching to an all-remote work environment with relative ease, many others struggled to maintain productivity – in some cases forced to maintain some on-site staff despite physical distancing recommendations.

What was the difference? Those firms that had implemented a mature cloud strategy were far more likely to adapt quickly to the current situation. In fact, if we break up IT into four stages:

  • On-premises
  • Cloud-based applications
  • Cloud infrastructure (either private or public)
  • Fully managed cloud desktops and infrastructure

you can quickly see how cloud reliance was directly correlated with a firm’s ability to adapt to a wholly remote environment.

Let’s explore:

Stage 1: On-Prem IT

Typically located on-site at the main office, on-prem IT environments rely on internally maintained servers, storage arrays arranged in a storage area network, and local backups. While such environments can support remote workers through remote connectivity, performance degrades quickly as employees have to connect back to the main office location to get their normal services.

Organizations with this footprint have had to resort to heroic efforts to try to immediately increase connectivity capacity while at the same time implement new hardware or configurations that would allow the capacity needed for everyone to work at home – all while trying not to disrupt what productivity the team was able to achieve.

Stage 2: Cloud-based applications (Software-as-a-service)

In this scenario, firms have turned to software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for at least some of their core applications – for example, an integrated tax solution, payroll management, or email. These firms have effectively created a hybrid environment that enables their employees to work on primary applications through a remotely delivered web application, while auxiliary applications such as document management and communications might have been hosted at the main site.

Typically these firms had an easier time than the all on-premises cohort, but were challenged by the secondary applications and managing the interaction between their hosted applications and individual employee computers. If the solutions weren’t completely integrated including document management, communications, review, approval, or workflow, those integrations became obvious breaking points. Workflow dramatically impacted this group as they responded to this emergency.

Stage 3: Cloud infrastructure

Compared to the previous two scenarios, firms that have embraced cloud infrastructure had a significantly easier time adjusting to remote work. Whether they rent space in a private data center and host their own servers, rely on a private cloud provider, or rely on public cloud implementations in Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, these organizations had already moved their infrastructure to a cloud presence, so connectivity to those resources was typically available both inside the office and at employees’ homes.

With cloud infrastructure, productivity is largely maintained (at least technologically) because the setup was already designed to support the number of employees working and effectively sees no difference between working remotely or in the office.

One area of concern however is the increase in cybersecurity threat footprint that a work at home staff creates. Instead of controlling every device that an employee uses (e.g. through their desktops in the office or company-owned laptops), this situation frequently required expansion to personal computers within employees’ homes. Not being able to control antivirus, anti-malware, encryption, and physical access increased this group’s risk exposure significantly.

Stage 4: Fully managed cloud desktops and infrastructure

In our final scenario, we have the firms that have moved their staff to virtual desktops in the cloud. Out of all of our options, this group was able to make the move most transparently without introducing additional risk to the organization.

For these organizations, the pandemic-driven work-at-home requirement was at worst a matter of getting employees monitors to use at home or dongles for connection. This group immediately allowed their employees to work at home with minimal notice and provided a significant increase in cybersecurity capabilities, whether the employee was working on their own computer or a firm’s computer.

As you can see, for organizations like this, the reliance on virtual desktops allowed them to focus on other huge issues related to the pandemic. They could keep production up, address new needs of their clients, and focus on strategic direction for the firm in light of the economic environment. They weren’t distracted by IT issues, limitations, or security risks, but could concentrate on their customers and their business. This differentiation was huge in the response to this crisis.

Making the Switch

The flexibility needed for organizations in today’s world, during and post COVID-19, has significantly increased the focus on public cloud desktop solutions. The ability to have your work desktop hosted in the cloud, and the ability for every employee to be able to get to that environment, from anywhere, has provided significant value to clients. With each user getting their own customized environment, secured with the industry’s best security, and delivered and managed by a trusted partner (like Netgain!), cloud desktops deliver better than any other solution in the work at home environment.

It can seem daunting to switch out your IT infrastructure in the midst of crisis, but for many organizations, the cost of NOT doing so is even greater. As we continue to navigate this crisis, unsure of when it will end, it has become critically important that we figure out how to be at our most productive during this time.

In our next post, we’ll talk about the 10 things you should consider before you make a switch. Want a preview? Download the rest of our new eBook.