The coronavirus pandemic has drastically accelerated the pace of cloud adoption, as organizations nationwide were forced to migrate to a fully remote workforce in a matter of days. Even as many organizations return to the office, remote work and cloud infrastructure is here to stay.
Here are our top 5 cloud trends for small and medium businesses:
1. Cybersecurity for Office 365 and G Suite Must Be Tightened
The pandemic has radically accelerated the pace of cloud adoption—for example, Microsoft added 58 million new Office 365 licenses in Q1 of this year (a 29% increase). Predictably, cybercriminal attacks on Office 365 and G Suite have gotten even more aggressive with the increase in new users. These cloud services were already the number one target for cybercriminals before the pandemic, so tightening up their security is more important than ever.
The Department for Homeland Security recently released specific cybersecurity recommendations for Office 365, which are equally relevant for G Suite. Here’s the high-level summary:
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA), also known as two-factor authentication (2FA).
- Protect Global Admins from compromise and use the principle of “Least Privilege.”
- Enable unified audit logging.
- Enable Alerting capabilities.
- Integrate with organizational SIEM solutions.
- Disable legacy email protocols, if applicable, or limit their use to specific users.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is especially important, as it is the single most effective tool for fighting off cyberattacks. According to Microsoft, it can prevent up to 99% of automated account breaches.
If you’re not sure whether your organization’s Office 365 or G Suite accounts are secure, check with your IT team or reach out to us for help. You can learn more about our cybersecurity offerings here.
2. Exponential Growth in Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools
Unified Communications platforms and cloud-based productivity suites have seen exponential growth over the last few months. For example, Microsoft Teams adoption grew from 32 million daily active users on March 11 to 75 million users on April 29, a 235% increase over a 7–week period. G Suite’s Google Meet has seen similar growth, with Google reporting a “30-fold increase in usage since January”.
In other words, remote work is here to stay, and businesses are looking to adapt to new communication and collaboration challenges. Unified Communications platforms like Microsoft Teams are the perfect solution to fill in these gaps, allowing team members to seamlessly collaborate via voice, video, and chat no matter where they’re working.
At TechMD, Microsoft Teams has replaced a significant amount of our day-to-day email correspondence, improving productivity and collaboration. During the pandemic, it has also enabled us to continue holding meetings with full video support, without exposing ourselves to the security risks associated with consumer-grade video platforms like Zoom.
If you’re on Office 365 or Microsoft 365, you likely already have Teams licenses included with your subscription, and if so, you can get started right away. To learn more about Microsoft Teams, check out our recent Tech Talk covering what it can do, how it works, and how to get started.
3. Mobile Workforce Creates Access, Identity, and Data Control Issues
The mass adoption of cloud platforms like Office 365, Teams, and G Suite means that people are now using personal devices to connect to corporate networks on an unprecedented scale. Company data used to live in a controlled environment, where it was accessed primarily by company-managed devices, but this is no longer the case. The new distributed workforce will require a new approach to managing access, identity, and data governance.
There are plenty of tools available to help sandbox personal devices and secure company data, but most businesses have not yet adopted them. We expect that this will change over the next year, with cybercriminals increasingly targeting personal devices as an entry point into sensitive corporate networks.
For our money, Microsoft 365 is one of the best options for this, offering a full suite of security tools that allow organizations to implement secure bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, control how company data is accessed and shared, and remotely manage identity and mobile devices. For example, you can prevent users from downloading or saving sensitive documents onto personal devices, and you can manage access permissions for those documents remotely. You can also sandbox company data on personal devices, allowing you to wipe data or revoke access remotely, without affecting any personal data on the device. For more on how this works, check out this quick video from Microsoft.
Access, identity, and data governance tools will become a key feature of business cybersecurity strategies over the next year, allowing teams the flexibility to work conveniently without sacrificing a robust security perimeter. If you have any questions about this, you can contact us here.
4. Big Players Begin to Dominate the Cloud Desktop Space
Remote work is becoming the new norm, but many organizations still rely on legacy applications that are not yet cloud-native and cannot be easily accessed outside the office.
This is where cloud desktop solutions from major players like Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop or Amazon’s WorkSpaces come in. These solutions provide a feature-complete desktop that is fully hosted in the cloud, providing access to all your software applications, files, data, email, and contacts from any device, no matter where you are. This gives your team the flexibility to handle remote work without sacrificing productivity or access to critical line-of-business applications.
Cloud desktops also reduce dependence on computer hardware during a time when it is difficult to support and replace company computers. When combined with the proper cybersecurity measures to protect company data, cloud desktops could allow organizations to migrate away from owning computers at all. Employees can bring their own device and access everything they need via their cloud desktop, while the company cut costs on computer hardware without sacrificing their cybersecurity posture. Learn more about cloud solutions here.
5. Cloud-Based Phone Systems Become the New Standard
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many organizations to reconsider their phone systems. We’ve talked to many businesses recently that ran into issues migrating to an all-remote workforce because their phone system required specific phone hardware and was inoperable from outside their office.
For many organizations, cloud-based VOIP has been the lynchpin holding business operations together under work–from–home requirements. It provides employees with the flexibility to make or take calls from anywhere on any device, ensuring businesses can remain available to their clients and coworkers without being tied to a desk in an office building. It also tends to be more cost effective than maintaining the telecom hardware and infrastructure associated with conventional phone systems.
We were already seeing significant growth in adoption of cloud-based VOIP solutions before the pandemic, and the rapid adoption of remote work has only accelerated this trend. If you are looking for guidance on why and how to move to cloud-based VOIP, contact us and we can put you in touch with someone who can help.