Three years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a global adoption of work-from-home (WFH) quickly and urgently—and the effects remain long-lasting. The traditional office environment has shifted to hybrid or remote work.
And the numbers back this up: Stanford University and the Census Bureau’s household survey found remote work remains prevalent, accounting for over a quarter of full-time paid workdays in the United States. By the end of 2023, it’s estimated that 39% of global knowledge workers will work hybrid, up from 37% in 2022, according to Gartner.
It’s clear that WFH’s rapid adoption has ushered in a permanent shift in workplace norms. As we move through the hybrid work revolution, small and medium businesses (SMBs) have a unique opportunity to think of remote work as more than increased flexibility for employees—it can also create a path to improve how a business fundamentally operates and rethink certain business tools and processes. And, if flexibility is the new currency of talent attraction, then SMBs have a competitive advantage—their smaller workforce size allows prioritized flexibility, offering more personalized policies that fit employee needs.
Still, with so many tools and suggested approaches at their disposal, some SMBs struggle to understand and leverage the necessary resources and technology that successfully enables hybrid work. Fortunately, cloud technology is providing real-time solutions for business leaders to create workforce solutions for employees that simultaneously enhance their business.
Staying agile through preparation
In the wake of rapid shifts in working structures, many SMBs are looking to prepare as best they can for future unknown disruptions. This means that SMBs must employ the right infrastructure stack, finding ways to remain agile and current to meet changing business demands.
Cloud infrastructure is both cost-effective and easy to employ. Pay-as-you-go pricing allows companies to adjust to demand and reduce operational costs by trying different services and seeing what works—instead of investing in expensive licenses or signing contracts. If, for instance, another disruptive event occurred, requiring an entire workforce to work remotely, businesses wouldn’t lose money by surrendering access to pricey on-premises technology.
Creating a flexible infrastructure cost framework also allows for better risk management should customer demand contract due to unforeseen events. The cloud allows businesses to scale their infrastructure with any contracting demand, scaling down cost to match customer demand and save from the bottom line.
Cloud migration also allows for flexibility in managing and maintaining equipment for remote and hybrid workers. Businesses can replace traditional desktop deployment methods and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions with managed, secure cloud remote desktop services, which enables them to instantly scale cloud desktop deployment up or down to support fluctuating numbers of remote employees. This also reduces the burden of maintaining desktop inventory and spending on hardware, power, and cooling costs. And, businesses have added security since data is not stored on end-user devices.
The first step to becoming agile? Finding a cloud provider that will helps businesses prepare for future disruptions, and work to make sure operating costs are optimal for specific business needs.
More devices lead to more cybersecurity needs
Security is a fundamental component of making remote work solutions possible, regardless of the size of a business or its IT staff.
With more remote workers, come more remote devices to secure. On top of that, many employers are finding that the shift to remote work has brought a behavioral shift in employees. In some cases, this includes picking up bad security practices. These challenges mean that business security practices must remain top-of-mind for leaders in any industry.
SMBs that migrate to the cloud benefit from enhanced security features and an underlying secure infrastructure, making it secure for remote workers to utilize cloud resources. Data stored in the cloud is less susceptible to the site crashes and hardware failures that often come from using legacy IT infrastructure. In addition, employees are able to meet and share files more securely with easy-to-use, integrated interfaces.
Cloud users can also benefit from secure remote network access with client-based Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that allow employees to access any authorized internal and company resources—from anywhere—without having to install and manage on-premises hardware. Fully-managed, pay-as-you-go VPN services offered by cloud providers can scale with a business, accommodating up to thousands of remote users.
Using cloud for scalability and collaboration
SMBs switching to remote work scenarios need the scalability, reliability, and performance that go hand-in-hand with cloud computing solutions in order for everything to run smoothly. If there is a sudden requirement to move an entire workforce to be remote for a fixed period of time, it can be done instantly using the cloud.
Transitioning to the cloud can also help remote employees access, share, and collaborate on secure files. File servers sit on expensive storage devices that require capital investment. Cloud-based storage can be extended to work in tandem with on-premise file storage solutions and seamlessly extend their document storage to the cloud without a new capital outlay. The cloud also enables employees to convene more easily with “face-to-face” video meetings. Even better, many of these interfaces boast intuitive interfaces with little to no learning curve.
One SMB that has used the cloud to scale and collaborate is the digital health platform Qure4u. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Qure4u used the cloud to scale its offerings in response to a 4,000% increase in demand for online appointments. They were able to go from providing less than 1% of their appointments virtually to a whopping 60%. Machine learning has also armed Qure4u with pivotal data that helps providers better serve their clients and transform virtual healthcare.
SMBs looking to prioritize scalability and collaboration should look for a cloud provider that prizes fluid collaboration, offers integrated interfaces, honors fluctuation, and enables users with fully operational virtual contact centers.
Improved remote work via cloud-based solutions
The way we work has permanently changed, and shifts to remote work now require specific tools, resources, and management. At first, trying to understand and manage it all can feel overwhelming for a smaller team— but it doesn’t have to.
By baking cloud-based solutions into the business operations of today and tomorrow, SMBs can capitalize on the hybrid work revolution, create lasting, dynamic team environments, and drive brand outcomes.
Ben Schreiner, Head of Business Innovation, US SMB, Amazon Web Services (AWS), brings an unusual blend of Global, Fortune 500 and tech startup experience both as a technology customer and provider to his work at Amazon Web Services (AWS). He has been advising CIOs and business leaders for over 20 years, his knowledge culminates as an empathetic senior trusted advisor focused on strategic customer outcomes.