Hybrid cloud: why it’s time to get on board
Businesses are now accustomed to maintaining multiple datacentres for their failover, backup, recovery and availability needs. But they need to apply the same principles to data storage in the cloud – whereby a single cloud will no longer suffice.
The integrity of data and services are a major priority for businesses. It’s therefore important to get the right mix of on-premise and various as-a-service offerings, to ensure data is always available and synchronised across various platforms. The key to this is hybrid cloud.
Hybrid cloud is set to be one of the biggest, most valuable technology opportunities for businesses over the next few years. Research firms have confirmed this trend, with IDC stating that organisations will require a mainly cloud-based IT environment by 2019, while 451 Research has claimed that public storage spend will double in the next two years as demand for on-premise storage declines.
Indeed, our 2016 Availability Report found that, despite investing in their datacentres, 82 percent of businesses admit suffering an availability gap between how fast they can recover applications and how fast they need applications to be recovered. They are therefore unable to meet end-users' requirements for an always-on business.
Predictions of hybrid cloud’s promise are already being reflected by the world’s largest technology organisations laying major plans for a hybrid future. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Microsoft recently joined forces to create an innovation centre in Seattle that will speed up hybrid cloud adoption and help customers test hybrid solutions and use cases, such as HPE / Azure Stack environments.
AWS and VMware have also partnered on a hybrid cloud offering that Amazon claims will allow customers to use VMware’s virtualisation and management software to deploy and manage workloads across all on-premises and AWS Cloud environments. While back in November, NetApp announced that it will be moving the focus of its business to the hybrid cloud, claiming that the transformation to organisations relying on flash and the cloud for data storage was “inevitable” in the next few years.
And, perhaps most tellingly CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research, is piloting a hybrid cloud scheme to support its high-performance data-intensive research. The project will be powered by 7,000 servers and 190,000 cores and is being partly funded by the European Commission.
These examples highlight the growing importance and potential of hybrid cloud. Disruptive leaders across all industries are increasingly embracing the public, hybrid and multi-cloud space, and those that still aren’t will soon find themselves left behind.
Hybrid is gaining in popularity as it provides the flexibility and data deployment of private cloud, along with the security assurance of on-premises, private cloud – effectively giving businesses the best of both worlds.
As the name suggests, it allows businesses to store data in both public and private cloud environments, with both communicating over encrypted connections independently of each other. This is a key point, as organisations can now store their most important or sensitive data on the private cloud while storing other resources on public networks.
But before making the leap into hybrid cloud it is vital to consider the reasons for doing so. Businesses must map out the implications of the move, the types of workloads they want to use it for and the business outcomes they are looking to achieve before they embark on the hybrid journey.
Guarantee data availability
The rising demand for cloud is ultimately being fuelled by businesses wanting to embrace the digital transformation process. The modern enterprise needs to be founded on key technologies provided by virtualisation, modern storage systems and cloud technologies to be fully transformative. But this puts strain on the availability of data and information as it involves updating legacy systems and investing time and money.
It is therefore critical that availability is put at the forefront of any digital transformation or hybrid cloud strategy. This will ensure that when applications and workloads are being moved across various infrastructures there’s a backup and disaster recovery plan in place to guarantee that downtime is not an issue. Success in digital transformation will ultimately be reliant on data and application availability in the hybrid cloud.
Businesses and consumers alike increasingly expect their data to be available at all times, wherever they are. The new generation of IT workers are used to a world where around the clock services aren’t just a convenient, nice-to-have feature, but a guaranteed matter of fact. The growing popularity of Software as a Service, and hybrid cloud, allows public cloud services to differentiate themselves from their competitors by ensuring customers can operate around the clock.
Therefore, nothing less than 24.7.365 access to data and applications will be acceptable as enterprises look to new technologies that help them to deliver on customers’ increasingly demanding expectations – and this need has never been more important. The growth in data is already high but it’s going to reach exponential levels that will put even greater strain on legacy IT systems.
The hybrid opportunity
Companies that succeed in getting ahead of the competition by going cloud-first will be those with a hybrid approach. However, there still aren’t enough enterprises leveraging the lower cost and flexibility benefits of the public cloud, and there remains an assumption that data must be kept on-premise due to perceived security issues. As attitudes change, enterprises must look to go beyond simple application testing in the public cloud environment.
Hybrid cloud needs to be used in a way that benefits the individual organisation, and its workloads. For example, a university may choose to move some of its workloads to the public cloud to benefit from its scale and responsiveness at particularly busy times during the year. Events like A-Level results day and clearing will see the university dealing with a vast influx of data, which its on-premise setup may not be able to handle.
Ultimately when it comes to cloud deployments, if you aren’t ahead then you’re already behind. This means that companies must have a clear cloud strategy in place before they invest properly in cloud infrastructure. At the core of this is ensuring data and information is available at all times.
The days when consumers and businesses were willing to accept downtime for any service are long gone and, while the next few years will bring plenty of uncertainties, we can be assured that the importance of data availability — anywhere, anytime — will only grow.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”