Scaling Your Business & Improving Remote Work with Cloud Innovation
Throughout the life cycle of any business, there are obstacles to overcome. Even if you’re close to perfection in one area, there will always be another challenge looming in front of you like an overwhelming math equation on a chalkboard. And unless you’ve got Will Hunting on speed-dial, you may not know where to begin.
Customers come to Effectual with a variety of business challenges, but two have stood out in the era of COVID:
- How to ensure smooth remote work experiences; and
- How to scale quickly to meet growing demand
Challenges of Remote Work
The acceleration of remote work is pushing digital transformation faster as companies adapt and try to deliver work environments that support employee productivity and engagement. Though many of them responded to the remote work reality of the pandemic by offering at-home perks and collaborative online tools, the majority were behind the 8-ball with their remote work options.
Inefficient remote desktops
Remote desktops are one solution companies adopted, yet they can be slow and inefficient – and simply aren’t that innovative when it comes to fostering a positive remote work experience. While using remote desktops for employees that are unable to come to a local office or data center can make sense, latency and performance concerns increase the farther away they sit from the data center serving the solution. The question then becomes, what is their experience like when it comes to latency and collaboration with other remote team members?
There are also security concerns with remote employees. About half of workers in the U.S. were hit by phishing emails, phone calls, or texts in the first six months of working remotely. As personal and professional lives blend together, employees may also become a bit lax about using their social media or personal email accounts on a work device. These scenarios leave companies vulnerable to security threats.
The truth is that we’re likely never going to return to pre-pandemic levels of office work. In fact, only one in three U.S. companies indicate plans for a return to the “in-person first” employment model this year, with nearly half of businesses embracing a hybrid workforce. This means concerns about the remote work experience will remain for the foreseeable future.
Tools like AWS Workspaces allow for distributed remote desktops across regions and availability zones, getting the tool as close as possible to the end user to maximize their experience. We have helped many customers deploy AWS Workspaces in response to the remote work landscape securely and performantly.
The truth is that we’re likely never going to return to pre-pandemic levels of office work. In fact, only one in three U.S. companies indicate plans for a return to the “in-person first” employment model this year, with nearly half of businesses embracing a hybrid workforce.
Roadblocks to Rapid Scaling
Though companies are beginning to recognize that the cloud can help them scale a product worldwide or open new markets, there are still many misconceptions when it comes to how to implement effective modern strategies.
Lack of internal expertise
For example, an executive may get inspired by an article about how a move to the cloud can save money and increase business agility. If they task their internal team with spinning up infrastructure without the guidance of an experienced cloud partner or solution architect, what seemed like a bargain can turn into an expensive project that costs far more.
Not architecting for failure
In times of growth, you can’t simply move everything that’s on-premises over to the cloud as is and expect the exact same results without proper planning and execution. Werner Vogel, Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer has instructed for years that “everything fails all the time.”
It’s a rare occurrence, but availability of your application could be more at risk than when you were in the data center if your cloud presence hasn’t been architected for this reality. In other words, you’re architecting for failure. But if you prepare properly, you can achieve all that the cloud has to offer for reliability, availability, elasticity, and cost optimization.
In times of growth, you can’t simply move everything that’s on-premises over to the cloud as is and expect the exact same results without proper planning and execution.
When you launch an application, you also do not know what the response will be like without proper testing — you may have ten or ten million people hitting an application all at once. If you haven’t built your app to scale dynamically with demand, it will either crash or its performance will be severely impacted. In any case, end-user experience will suffer.
Forgetting to evaluate tradeoffs
Last, companies often fail to evaluate tradeoffs when making decisions. For example, every new technical pattern your team deploys represents a potential increase in cost. It is important to decide how performant you need to be versus how much cost you’re willing to tolerate.
The gaming industry is an example of using the cloud to make informed decisions around scaling. A company has two to four weeks to make money on a product launch that it’s been building for three to five years. In that first month, infrastructure cost almost doesn’t matter. The product must work — and work well — because latency is its biggest enemy. Those infrastructures are frequently over-provisioned on purpose so they stay performant, and then can scale down when demand stabilizes.
Working with an experienced cloud partner can help you identify those tradeoffs and be ready to implement tradeoff decisions at the technical level.
Solving Problems with the Cloud
With a clear strategy and the right expertise, you can use the cloud to address these challenges and deliver high-performing, scalable solutions. Here are some primary considerations:
Build performant architecture
Using the global network of the cloud for distributed performance can dramatically improve the internal experience of your remote employees. When you spin up remote desktops in multiple regions around the world using AWS or another cloud provider, you are putting that infrastructure closer to end users so they can execute more effectively.
Put security tools at the edge
Beyond performant architecture, the cloud offers the ability to put security tools out at the edge. Moving data and compute closer to the end user makes it more performant for them, but we’re also moving all those security tools alongside the data and compute. Because that is happening where the infrastructure lives, it offers a much wider implementation of protection for the whole architecture. You’re not centralizing security at a certain place for all vulnerability identification.
In my role, I’m regularly working with federal civilian and Department of Defense agencies at all Impact Levels, including secret and top-secret workloads — and they’re all using the cloud. These organizations cloud confidently because they’re pushing security tools out in the same regions as compute and storage resources. Those tools protect the point of entry and keep that critical information safe.
Again, that security isn’t as effective without us architecting for each organization’s specific requirements and for the benefits that the cloud provides.
Develop a migration strategy that fits your objectives
In times of growth, moving your on-premises workloads to the cloud requires a well-defined migration strategy in order to mitigate risk and ensure your operations continue to run efficiently. This is not to say that it can’t happen quickly, but must include proper preparation and architecting for failure so that your company can truly leverage the benefits of cloud computing.
A recent customer decided to migrate immediately to AWS as a lift-and-shift move in order to keep up with rapidly growing demand. They plan to pursue application and data modernization efforts in the coming months, but because they needed to address urgent issues, the move to AWS improves both scalability and reliability. We were able to help them take advantage of the immediate benefits of AWS, such as moving databases to the Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) with little impact to the overall application. Once you have successfully migrated your workloads, there are many opportunities for continued modernization.
In times of growth, moving your on-premises workloads to the cloud requires a well-defined migration strategy in order to mitigate risk and ensure your operations continue to run efficiently.
Last, if you are considering a move to the cloud, remember that you don’t necessarily need to change everything all at once. One of our customers recently experienced a massive spike in traffic to their on-premises hosted web application. They called us concerned their infrastructure couldn’t handle the traffic. In less than 24 hours, we were able to stand up AWS CloudFront in front of their servers to ensure all that traffic received a cached version out of the content distribution network. By effectively offloading cached requests to CloudFront, their application remained reliable and highly available to their end users, with nothing migrated to AWS.
The cloud can help you solve even your toughest business problems — if you have the expertise to take advantage of its benefits. Not sure where to start? Learn how we can help.
Jeff Carson is VP of Public Sector Technology at Effectual, Inc.