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Partners to help you fly to the clouds

This article was originally published by Business Post on 7th November 2021.

Hybrid cloud infrastructure allows corporate IT to respond to a rapidly-changing world, but a looming skills shortage means getting it right requires partnerships

Cloud computing may not have entirely displaced on-premise systems but it is certainly a mainstream component of enterprise IT. Indeed, a recent survey conducted by US software firm Flexera found some 94 per cent of businesses use cloud, and that, in 2020, 93 per cent had a multi-cloud strategy, while 83 per cent took a hybrid cloud approach.

Cision, meanwhile, predicts the overall market for public cloud alone will double to a value of more than $800 billion (about €692 billion) by 2025. Clearly, no flash in the pan and even the smallest of small and medium businesses (SMBs) typically use cloud services at least in the form of software as a service (SaaS).

How a business navigates the shift is a question: cloud brings flexibility, but it raises issues, from data sovereignty to the availability of talent, and decisions must be made on which systems to migrate, which to replace (and with what) as well as which to leave on-premises.

Shawn Deegan, head of cloud solutions EMEA, at IT procurement, services and solutions business Arkphire, said the decision on which cloud strategy a company followed was made in response to facts on the ground, not hype.

“It depends on the industry and the size of the operations,” he said.

Nevertheless, some trends are discernible: business, and with it the underlying IT that supports it, has reached an inflection point. There is scarcely a sector that has not felt the hand of digital transformation, from banks being challenged by fintechs to industry and even professional services considering the rise of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Deegan said businesses were turning to cloud and the wider managed services ecosystem as a means of mitigating risk. “We’re seeing security and ransomware being a huge driver.”

Then there is the pandemic, which has meant things as seemingly straightforward as remote access have risen up the corporate, and security, agenda.

“Covid has forced ten years of evolution in [just] the last 18 months, with people seeking secure [remote] access to corporate assets,” said Deegan.

Having rushed into a new world in 2020,  the time is ripe for codifying the strategies that allow for the flexibility of remote working while also offering advanced protection – in terms of both cybersecurity and corporate governance and compliance with ever-tightening data protection regulations.

“A lot of these organisations are starting to take a breath and ask what comes next,” said Deegan.

Backup as a service, with things like Azure Site Recovery (ASR), was at the top of the list for many, he said. “We’ve seen people who were victims of ransomware recover fully, in the cloud, in a matter of hours.”

If the general trajectory of IT is toward the cloud, businesses nonetheless face challenges.

”I do see the cloud as the primary destination for software,“ said Deegan. ”But there are specific user cases – where data security and compliance are critical, like healthcare – where that may not be so. Security at the edge is a really hot topic right now.”

A general challenge facing any enterprise considering migration will be familiar to anyone who has sought to recruit security professionals: as with cybersecurity, cloud is now at the centre of a skills shortage.

“Hiring people is a real challenge: cloud engineers and DevOps people, for instance,” he said.

Indeed, Gartner, in its recent report 2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap, arising from a survey of 437 global businesses, noted executives’ fear that adoption of key cloud technologies such as ML and analytics would be hindered by a lack of skilled staff.

Deegan said this was a driver of partnering with managed cloud service providers. When working with clients on cloud migrations, Arkphire starts with a well-designed review process to ensure they achieve and maintain the best configuration.

“When you have things being pushed into the cloud, you need people who can manage it with confidence,” he said.

Faced with the pace of change, whether in terms of new technologies such as containerisation or the growing demands of customers, businesses must respond. But they can also face difficulties, not least in the cost of public cloud.

“It’s almost too easy to turn some of these services on [so] we can do a cost-optimisation assessment, looking at things you can do yourself or we can do for you. We look to help customers save on their cloud spend and look at where we could help offload some of the support, so they can free up their staff to work on the highest value initiatives.”

This inevitably led to a hybrid approach, he said, because the right workloads needed to be put in the right places. “In my opinion, hybrid is at the centre of every environment; it's no longer a question of when.”

Want to find out more about how Arkphire can help you with your journey to the cloud? Get in touch!