It is almost a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and everything, including the way we do business and how we communicate has changed. No industry and sector have remained unscathed. In this blog, we examine the transformation in IT infrastructure as a result of the pandemic. We also discuss the way forward to improve business resiliency and continuity.
Before diving into the disruptions caused by the virus, let us take a look at the different components and types of IT infrastructure. IT infrastructure typically includes hardware, software and networking. The type could be traditional, cloud or hyper converged infrastructure. Most companies had migrated to cloud, either partially or completely, before the pandemic. This is evident from the total expenditure in cloud infrastructure, which went up from US$78 billion in 2018 to US$107 billion in 2019 (approximately 37% growth), according to Canalys Cloud Channel Analysis January 2020.
Effects of the pandemic on IT infrastructure
The pandemic brought about widespread quarantines and travel restrictions. Organizations had to let their employees work remotely and deploy their business continuity plans. However, these business continuity plans were not designed for such a situation; they typically accounted for operational continuity in case of disasters, outages and cyberattacks. In spite of such issues, organizations quickly made the necessary changes. A survey by McKinsey found that in case of remote working, companies moved 40 times more quickly than they thought possible before the pandemic, i.e. time required to implement remote working and increase collaboration went down from the expected 454 days to 10.5 days.
Apart from operational difficulties, there were many IT issues at hand. Most organizations did not have a tech stack in place to implement remote working at this level. IT teams had to ensure that the endpoints were completely secure, connected to the company backbone network and always updated as sensitive data started piling up on the remote devices. The gaps in the IT systems led to a massive wave of ransomware attacks. Check Point Research found a 50% increase in the daily average of ransomware attacks in Q3 2020, compared to the first half of the year. As a result of this, most organizations had to increase their spending on Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), endpoint backup, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and endpoint security tools. In the long term, this will lead to increased demand for security solutions.
A positive trend observed in the IT infrastructure space is the adoption of cloud. Cloud provides on-demand, scalable and cost-effective resources for organizations and the pandemic has reconfirmed these benefits. It is helping organizations to ensure business continuity and expedite their digital transformation while lowering infrastructure and storage costs. Gartner predicts that by 2024, the proportion of IT spending in cloud will be 14.2% of the total global enterprise IT spending, up from 9.1% in 2020, in the aftermath of COVID-19. Even during the pandemic, a survey by McKinsey found that there was 24-fold increase in the speed of migrating assets to the cloud. Even after this pandemic is over, the shift towards cloud will certainly continue with extreme rigour. Moreover, increasing cloud adoption is beneficial for all the stakeholders involved - Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and customers.
Leveraging the pandemic as a strategic opportunity
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tipping point for all businesses. The IT strategy for most organizations has undergone a paradigm shift, and the changes are here to stay. Hence, CIOs and CISOs need to keep the momentum going and proactively experiment with new technologies to build a highly available, resilient and scalable IT infrastructure.
Having survived the global disruption, the next important activity organizations need to focus is on building a long-term plan that accounts for such untimely and sudden events. There are a few things to keep in mind:
- With increased spending and dwindling revenues, companies need to optimize their IT cost. For IT, it can be achieved by optimizing the organization’s resources, both cloud and physical. There are many tools in the market that monitor and provide recommendations to optimize cloud resources, storage and application performance, but organizations need to look for tools, both open-source and proprietary, that also bring in automation of IT operations and act on the recommendations without any manual intervention.
- Customers are opting for digital channels of communication and interaction. Organizations need to build an infrastructure that is resilient and highly available to the customers. Cloud and digital adoption should continue to be in focus even after the pandemic as the changes that this pandemic has brought in, are likely to stick