The COVID-19 global pandemic has changed our lives in just a few short months. The way we work, spend our money, relax, and connect with others is very different from how it was at the start of 2020.
Some changes may revert once restrictions on social interaction begin to lift. But other things—such as the rapid expansion of remote workforces, the drop in business-related travel and an even higher demand for home deliveries and online shopping—may be here to stay once the crisis is over. Whether or not these changes are permanent, the current spikes in remote working and eCommerce activity—and the drop in demand faced by other sectors—have created a set of unique challenges that businesses are solving with cloud technology.
The role of cloud and network connectivity in business today
Flexible, cost-efficient cloud resources are supporting the collaboration and conferencing tools pressed into urgent COVID-19 duty by the many businesses that have suddenly found themselves with almost entirely remote workforces. Downloads of Zoom, for example, have increased 30x year-over-year, and it has been the top free US download app for iPhones since March 18. Outside of commerce, educational institutions are using similar cloud-based technology to make online learning available to their students. In order to ensure that applications are accessible, they have to be powered by a reliable, resilient network.
While online shopping has been on an upward trajectory for some time, the closing of many bricks and mortar businesses due to COVID-19 restrictions is driving even greater eCommerce traffic. The scalability of cloud resources is helping those sites handle the increases. The same is true of at-home entertainment. Thanks to their cloud-based infrastructures, strong network connectivity, content distribution and streaming services, as well as social media channels, have remained up and running despite facing massive surges.
Telemedicine and advanced analytics
Social distancing and strained healthcare resources are keeping many people away from a physical consultation with a doctor. As such, cloud-based telemedicine is even more vital for caregivers and patients. The cloud is also becoming a formidable tool on the COVID-19 frontlines. It’s enabling researchers and data scientists to run complex analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning workloads that can lead to point-of-care diagnostics and faster vaccine development.
But the cloud isn’t just helping businesses cope with peak demand or new medical challenges. It’s also offering a solution to sectors that are dealing with massive swings in demand or affected by supply chain disruptions. The airline and manufacturing sectors, for example, are using advanced cloud-based analytics to remain operational at a particularly challenging time for them.
Businesses experiencing an increased demand for their products or services or looking to step up the use of analytics software for future planning should check that their cloud service provider has plenty of redundant architecture and necessary network connectivity for maximum uptime and response even during peak demand. This should ideally be backed by a robust availability performance metric around 99.995%. It’s also worth checking to see if your cloud service provider can access additional optimizing website performance tools such as network prioritization, edge caching, route optimization, and image compression.
More cloud usage, more potential crime
If there is a downside to organizations relying more heavily on the cloud to keep them operational, it’s the accompanying increase in cybercrime—and no-one is immune to the threat. Just last month, The US Health and Human Services Department suffered a cyberattack on its computer system. The attack was explicitly designed to undermine the national response to COVID-19.
Cybercriminals are always seeking ways to exploit vulnerabilities and panic—and the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. Many businesses lack in-house security expertise and the resources to stay on top of the changing threat landscape. IT staff are also increasingly bogged down dealing with new users as a result of the increase in remote workforces—and in supplying those users with the necessary resources to work remotely.
Solutions for cloud security
Security teams must adjust their threat detection and response approach to combat the recent COVID-19-related rise in ransomware, phishing schemes, targeted intrusion, and other malicious tactics. But even with plenty of good advice out there, implementing the most effective security strategy or finding third-party assistance can seem like a daunting task. As a first step, continuous automated network monitoring, fully up-to-date antivirus software, and a secure firewall are vital tools for managing and mitigating security issues before they become significant problems.
Businesses should also look to partner with a service provider that has security built into the heart of its network and operations. Ideally, they should be able to offer protection against threats such as volumetric, distributed, and multi-vector DDoS attacks, SQL Injection attacks, and content scraping—whether an organization’s websites and applications are hosted on-premise, in colocation, or on cloud-hosted servers.
Data protection is key
It’s critical that any third-party data center incorporates current security protocols and technologies to ensure compliance with data protection directives such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GDPR. Businesses risk fines and prosecutions for failures to protect customer data, and cybercriminals seek to exploit those fears with the threat of obtaining sensitive data and releasing it into the public domain.
It’s tempting to wait until the COVID-19 crisis is over before reviewing how effectively your cloud architecture can scale and how much protection it affords you from cybersecurity threats. But that would be an error. Customers will remember dips in peak time service levels—particularly when they may have to make tough financial choices in a harsher economic climate a few months down the road.
COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation plans of many companies causing them to adapt to the new business environment faster and in ways that many CIO’s would not have thought possible just a few months ago. With these new changes, it is important to make sure that the cloud and network provider are financially secure and able to weather the storm, in addition to offering secure, highly available solutions to meet the needs of your business.