It’s no secret that the role of technology in our lives – and our livelihoods – grew exponentially since the pandemic began in early 2020. The internet became our lifeline for entertainment, remote working, education, shopping for everything from groceries to PPE, and for staying in touch with friends and family. The businesses that survived did so not by luck, but by racing to transform their operations and digitize their services. Restaurants all over the world were forced to close their doors, but many were able to continue to serve their customers by putting their menus and ordering services online and providing contactless payment and delivery. Grocery stores had to establish virtual shopping carts to give home-bound people access to much-needed food and supplies. Schools and enterprises with once bustling offices and classrooms had to make a dramatic shift almost overnight in order to facilitate entirely remote workforces and student bodies.
All of this was made possible by the cloud. Cloud service providers (CSPs) like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure saw unprecedented demand, with cloud spending increasing to $39 billion. Caught off guard, IT professionals everywhere scrambled to ramp up network connectivity so that it could support this new normal. They had to not only facilitate business processes in the cloud, but they had to do so via fast, reliable and secure connections. Staff members needed uninterrupted access to mission-critical apps no matter where they were located. Employees and students alike needed full virtual access to their desktops, and the data needed to be secured to ensure compliance with regulations. Restaurants and retailers had to protect valuable customer credit card accounts. Smooth customer experiences were integral to business survival. And organizations couldn’t afford exposure to attacks during an already tumultuous time.
An uncomplicated, efficient solution
For many of these organizations, the answer came in the form of hybrid connectivity, or dedicated network connections from premises to cloud. AWS Direct Connect for example, enables private connections between AWS and customer data centers, offices or colocation environments, which increases bandwidth throughput and provides a safer, more consistent network experience than internet-based connections. Businesses with strict regulatory requirements that demanded the use of private connectivity were able to build hybrid environments with services such as AWS Direct Connect that allowed them to continue utilizing their existing infrastructures.
Elasticity is another benefit of AWS Direct Connect, as it provides 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps connections, and you can easily provision multiple connections if you need more capacity. Many organizations were even able to reduce their bandwidth costs by transferring their data to and from AWS directly instead of via their ISP — a major perk during a time of economic crisis.
Preparing for the future
As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, many enterprises are bringing their employees back to the office. However, a recent study from the Becker Friedman Institute in Chicago predicts that 20% of workdays will continue to be work-from-home (WFH) after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5% before. According to the study, this shift can be credited with better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH.
More than a year since the pandemic started, consumer habits have also permanently changed. Judging by how online grocery sales are estimated to increase from today’s $106 billion to over $250 billion by 2025, according to market research firm Mercatus, it’s clear that many people prefer to do their grocery shopping online and will continue to do so. As life returns to normal, ecommerce offers busy consumers a more convenient way to shop for whatever they need – from groceries and personal care items to clothing, furniture, home décor and even automobiles. Studies have also shown that higher education students have a strong preference for hybrid learning, as it combines the social experience that they crave with the flexibility of remote study.
If these predictions are any indication, cloud spending will also continue to increase in the coming years. Gartner projects that by 2024, cloud will make up to 14.2% of total global enterprise IT spending, while at the end of 2020, cloud made up just 9.1% of global enterprise IT spend. Cloud interconnection is the way organizations can build a hybrid cloud that facilitates low latency, highly secure and available data transfer between their on-premises data centers and the cloud. Hybrid connectivity services such as Direct Connect from AWS is a cost-effective way for businesses across all industries to provide employees, students and customers with fast, reliable and secure access to their desktops and shopping carts.
One major takeaway from the events of the past year is that organizations must be prepared for the unthinkable. Hybrid connectivity models such as AWS Direct Connect can do just that by future-proofing businesses and giving them the flexibility they need to survive when disaster strikes. Business continuity must be a priority not just for large enterprises, but for every business across every sector. Moreover, since many of the consumer habits adopted during the pandemic are likely to remain with us permanently, you can gain an edge over competitors by using this opportunity to augment or even remake the online components of your business.
Lightstream can help
Lightstream first began as a WAN service provider way back in 2004. Our expertise is deeply rooted in networking and interconnectivity – and more recently with AWS Direct Connect and global network connectivity – which makes us uniquely qualified to deploy complex dedicated interconnections. Lightstream is proud of its status as an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner and is well versed in meeting compliance requirements and determining your cyber exposure for AWS. We’ll help you get AWS Direct Connect up and running quickly from a network of global service providers reaching 198 countries. Contact us today to find out how we can take the complexity out of your on-premise and cloud convergence, including network integration, cloud migration, security and system monitoring, all supported through 24/7 managed services.