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The impact of COVID-19 on projects and cloud adoption IT In The Era Of "The New Normal"

My last few posts were packed with information on 4xOps. I figured you might be tired of DevOps, SecOps, and other Ops for now. Let’s take a short break from them.

Instead, I’ve decided to make this update a bit broader, and share a few thoughts about the current state of the IT industry, useful tools, as well as some links, and information about the company and myself.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. How has COVID-19 impacted the industry?
  2. What do you need to watch out for?
  3. What are the opportunities?

We live in exciting times, so it is good to take a look back at the last couple of months from company and business perspectives.

What does the industry situation look like following the last three months?

I’ve kicked off this series back in April with an article about COVID-19 (you can refresh your memory of it by reading it here).

Right now, we are getting back to the office in a limited capacity, but we still don’t fly, and we continue to deliver projects 100% remotely.

Initially, the majority of our customers’ and our efforts were focused on switching to a remote working environment. For us, it was rather easy. Still, we had to adjust a few procedures in terms of operations (there was a question about it during the live event I did on LinkedIn – you can watch or listen to it here).

For many of our clients, it was a complete shift from a state where everything was local to one where everything is remote. Based on what we saw, it was, indeed, a shock.

Currently, things are back to “the new normal”. But what is this “new normal”? From what I can observe:

  • Companies are getting back to offices, but not in full capacity
  • Almost all companies we asked are planning to keep more people working remotely
  • Concerns shifted from “how to work remotely” to “how to make remote working efficient and secure.”
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What should we be mindful of for the future?

The full fallout of COVID-19 on the economy and industry will be visible in months (years?) to come, but one thing is apparent. The last 3 months have accelerated a change in organizations. What was planned for the next couple of years, in some cases, happened within a quarter of a year. Quite fast.

A note from my point of view: try to keep up this momentum. 

The fact that you have adopted services for remote meetings and conference calls doesn’t mean you have completed a transformation to digital or cloud. Right now, you and your organization are well prepared for it, as things are in a constant shift anyway.

Plan your cloud journey in small steps and adapt along the way.

The impact of COVID-19 on projects and cloud adoption

In the first phase, we assumed that COVID-19 would significantly increase the number of companies using and adopting the cloud. Indeed, it had happened, especially for Microsoft Teams and Office 365, which noticed a massive spike in usage. Some of you might have seen it if you were affected by MS Teams outages at the beginning of the year.

From this perspective, I encourage you to listen to Mark Russinovich’s (who is the Azure CTO) session on Azure response to COVID-19 and read this related blog post.

You will hear that, for example, WAN traffic for Azure has increased 40x at its peak (yes, 40 times its normal usage).

What it showed is that even with all the hiccups, the public cloud can scale in case of such an event. It also allows us, its customers, to scale and still be operational.

It wasn’t planned, but it was one, colossal stress test on the cloud provider’s capacity and our ability to use it.

For now, the result is an A- (passed).

By now, I would say the situation has returned to “the new normal”. What’s “new” in this case is that companies are limiting spend on non-essential projects because of uncertain economy outlook for the future.

However, there is a single area where the demand for new projects and skills is at its highest. What is it?

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Keep your business productive in a remote working environment

In times of COVID-19, you can’t neglect security

What has also increased with remote work frequency is the threat to organizations from external actors. Simply put, the bad guys decided that it is a good opportunity to make some money.

All vendors are reporting it, but we are observing it from the front seat with our customers:

  • An increased rate of incidents related to security of remote workers
  • A spiking number of COVID-19-related phishing attempts
  • An increased number of events related to ransomware attacks.

Public cloud and security vendors have responded to this situation with new rules and detection, but also by sharing signals and information about it. One of the examples is open-sourcing COVID-19-related cyber-security intelligence by Microsoft.

phishing email screenshot

(An example of a COVID-19-themed phishing email; source)

We are also witnessing it first-hand as we help companies recover from ransomware attacks, and secure their environments. Only in May, we did two such projects with our customers.

How to protect your organization from threats?

To increase your chances of preventing cyber attacks:

  • make sure that you address your security basics
  • use to the full extent the security features of services like Microsoft 365 and Office 365
  • leverage IP around security developed by the community for Azure Sentinel (full disclosure: we run a managed service version of it – see more here).

In most cases, you can improve your security posture with existing technology in place, and you don’t need to invest a lot. Not sure how? Let us know, and one of our engineers will talk to you about it (free of charge)!

Ransomware is a real threat with a potentially huge impact on your organization, and we’ve seen a large uptake in the number of companies affected by it over these last three months. Consider whether you are ready to fight it and act now to patch the gaps in your readiness, if any.

A brief personal note – Microsoft Regional Director

The last thing is a bit personal. I was accepted into the Microsoft Regional Director (RD) Program. It is a small group of people – at any given time, it is limited to 160 – who are connecting with Microsoft leadership to provide the customer point of view.

From the Program website:

The Regional Director Program provides Microsoft leaders with customer insights and real-world voices it needs to continue empowering developers and IT professionals with the world’s most innovative and impactful tools, services, and solutions.

You can read more about the Regional Director program here.

Not writing about it to brag (however, it is an excellent achievement), but to ask you:

What would be the one thing that you would want a person in this program to bring as a message to Microsoft leadership?

Think about it, and if you have any such questions or topics, just comment below or connect with me over on LinkedIn or Twitter, and let’s talk about it there.

Microsoft Regional Director logo

The future is being written right now

All in all, things are getting back to “the new normal”. The “new” part is still being defined and it is work in progress but for now, it seems that for all of us, remote work, virtual conferences, and similar changes are here to stay.

We can use this period of transition for good. People are more willing to anticipate changes, and more open to them – it’s a good time to begin your cloud transformation journey.

If you have your own story to share about this change, I would be happy to hear it. Comment below or contact me and we will chat about it. Maybe we can write a story about it together!

Key takeaways

  1. The current state of the IT industry means that this is a time of great change. Many organizations progressed in their cloud journeys as a lot of projects have been accelerated.
  2. Cyber security is just as important as ever. Watch out for new threats under the guise of COVID-related information.
  3. Now’s a great chance to begin or advance your digital transformation. Think about it, and take your next step!

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