Cloud’s key role in the emerging hybrid workforce

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Now that things seem to be getting back to normal—traffic, delayed flights, and all those things we didn’t miss during the stay-home phase of the pandemic—it’s time to look at what work is going to be like post-pandemic. I found this article an interesting description of some of the human issues that are popping up and how technology needs to address most of these challenges.

A few things are a reality. Although many employees may be showing up at work, a very large number are staying home. Or more likely, they’re operating in hybrid mode, working part of the time in the office and part of the time at home. This has been my personal way of working for the past 20 years, adding hotel rooms, client cubicles, airports, and Starbucks as default workspaces for consultants.

While some companies are demanding that employees come back to the office full-time, hybrid work is a huge part of the new work culture. Indeed, companies insisting on a full return to the office could lose nearly 40% of their workforce. The future is likely a hybrid workforce, where technology becomes the key enabler to keep that distributed workforce productive.

The cloud has played a major role in this transformation, providing various digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, devops, blockchain, collaboration, and analytics—all technologies that make remote work productive. But the cloud won’t save us from making key mistakes that will likely stress this new way of working.

Of course, pointing out that cloud technology is important to a remote workforce is a bit of “This just in: Fire is hot.” But there are emerging issues that may be avoidable, mostly due to the misuse of cloud technology and not understanding what a remote workforce needs.

One key to the mistakes may be the overuse of cloud computing. Public clouds provide more scalable and accessible systems on demand, but they are not always cost-effective. I fear that much like when any technology becomes what the cool kids are using, cloud is being picked for emotional reasons and not business reasons.

On-premises hardware costs have fallen a great deal during the past 10 years. Using these more traditional methods of storage and compute may be way more cost-effective than the cloud in some instances and may be just as accessible, depending on the location of the workforce. My hope is that moving to the cloud, which was accelerated by the pandemic, does not make us lose sight of making business cases for the use of any technology.

Another core mistake that may bring down companies is not having security plans and technology to support the new hybrid workforce. Although few numbers have emerged, I suspect that this is going to be an issue for about 50% of companies supporting a remote workforce. Typically, the security focus is on lower-level services such as VPNs and not on the types of services that are really needed, such as application- and data-level security, use of identities, and working with the ISP to provide better native security.

I suspect we’ll see a few breaches next year as hackers figure out new angles to attack remote systems that have unaddressed vulnerabilities. It’s a shame that we must learn this way.

Overall, hybrid work is a good thing that most enterprises should embrace. It allows you to find the best talent, enjoy better employee retention, and it can be very cost-effective as well. Just don’t forget the new considerations, including the right way to leverage cloud computing.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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