When Cloud Meets COVID-19: Threats and Opportunities

How cloud providers react to the pandemic will vary, but it is possible to thrive during and after the crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended how organizations work and operate. The increased volume of employees working from home using conferencing and collaboration services is stressing back-end support services and increasing traffic on networks that connect users to these services. Only providers with robust and abundant architecture that deliver an uninterrupted customer experience will be able to manage the increased load.

Cloud providers often get challenged regarding their business continuity strategies. They have to answer difficult questions like whether their public cloud model is sufficiently scalable and resilient enough to handle increased demand and if it can continue to deliver services if support staff falls ill. They need to continually demonstrate that the supporting infrastructure is robust enough to ensure continued access to public cloud services and that the network infrastructure can handle increased traffic volume.

But for them to do this, cloud providers need to understand the threats, opportunities and events that will occur as a result of the pandemic. They have to demonstrate how prepared they are to handle unexpected demand spikes. On the flip side, however, they also have the opportunity to demonstrate the strength and adaptability of their services tested by the sudden and dramatic increase in the number of people working from home. Cloud providers must also keep an eye on unfolding events to ensure they are proactive about meeting demand. Those that choose a reactive approach will struggle.

Increased demand poses threats to cloud services

Cloud services providers should be aware of the challenges arising from the increased demand. In addition to remote work, digital events in place of live meetings and streaming services will add stress to the already increased demand.

Operational support for cloud offerings will need to be maintained while working remotely or with less staff, and supply chains will be affected by short supplies due to manufacturing facilities being based in China and other areas impacted by current events. Those cloud service offerings that have not been stress-tested may not be prepared to address these threats.

New technologies present opportunities

The cloud computing model is inherently designed to handle fluctuating demand and, if implemented correctly, should be able to support increased requests such as those created by the COVID-19 crisis.

In reality, though, few providers have reserved enough capacity to make the adjustment. Those that can demonstrate their strength and adaptability can do so by, for example, providing collaboration and conferencing services at a discount or for free, demonstrating the power of new technologies such as virtual reality to make virtual meetings feel more real or forming new partnerships with telecom providers to ramp up their telco cloud offerings. By taking advantage of these and other opportunities, cloud providers can have a real impact on how much cloud-based digital work becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Provide services to offset IT spending cutbacks

No organization has been untouched by the pandemic, and cloud providers should keep an eye on the ongoing impacts. Additional demand for collaboration and videoconferencing will continue, but at the same time, a looming market recession may reduce IT spending down the road, which means less spending on technology. Oversubscribed providers may implement surge pricing and private networks will be more stressed than the public internet.

Cloud providers can ease customer concerns by demonstrating their ability to handle increases in remote work and build confidence by stress-testing their data centers, networks and services and by informing customers of the performance results. In addition, offering financial relief to customers, particularly small and midsize businesses, can help ease their burden.