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COVID-19 Business Resilience: Cloud Desktops Are A Simple Solution for a Complex Challenge

Business continuity (BC) crises are inevitable and having a BC plan in place is the key to ensuring resilience when the unexpected happens. In any given year people and businesses are harmed by hurricanes, fires, floods and other natural disasters. In a previous blog, we talked about the yearly toll the influenza virus takes on people worldwide. and how removing any lingering stigmas around working remotely could literally save lives. Today I want to share more specifics around the steps many of our customers are taking during the growing COVID-19 crisis in case it is helpful in your planning discussions.

COVID-19 Business Resilience Challenges Today

We’re experiencing a significant BC event – the coronavirus COVID-19. I have some trepidation writing about this in such direct terms because one might think Workspot is being opportunistic in the face of a serious situation in which people are losing their lives. But it’s precisely the seriousness of the rapid spread of this illness that is compelling me to address it head-on. As I stayed on top of the latest news I learned a new term last week which is a standard part of Public Health parlance – “Social Distancing” –  which is the practice of avoiding close interaction with other people in an attempt to limit the spread of disease. The World Health Organization defines this as maintaining at least 3 feet (1 meter) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This makes sense in a more normal cold and flu season, but with COVID-19 it is believed that asymptomatic people are also spreading the disease – so from whom do you keep your distance? One can wait for the Public Health authorities to require social distancing by canceling large events and shutting down gathering places such as movie theaters and public transportation, or we can choose to take voluntary action as individuals and corporations.

Social Distancing Includes Remote Working

We all need to take meaningful steps to help stop the spread of this virus. In addition to the obvious handwashing and disinfection steps individuals must take, this is decidedly where corporate leadership comes in. Smart companies recognize that their people are the most valuable asset they have and keeping them safe is their top priority. One way to do so is to allow people to work from home, thereby mitigating their exposure to the virus and reducing the risk of asymptomatic transmission. Each day, we’re seeing new examples of the kind of leadership we need now. Major, global corporations aren’t waiting around for government edicts; many are instructing, if not requiring, their employees to work from home. They are canceling their large customer events and reinventing them as virtual events. It simply stands to reason that choosing social distancing for ourselves early in a disease outbreak rather than waiting for public authorities to require it can mitigate its spread. Unfortunately, in this case, if we wait for the bureaucrats to tell us what to do, it might be too late. The steps leading companies are taking is normalizing remote working, and it’s going to save lives.

Workspot Customers Are Protecting their People

As you might imagine, as a company that enables remote work with our cloud desktop solution on Microsoft Azure, we are having more conversations than usual about how we can help in this crisis. Many of our existing customers are expanding their Workspot cloud desktop implementations as a direct result of the COVID-19 threat as they take the important step of preparing for all their people to work from home. The good news is that we are able to spin up these new cloud desktops anywhere in the world they are needed – in hours (sometimes in minutes). Here are three examples of how our customers are responding.

Global Law Firm Prepares for COVID-19 Business Resilience in Europe

This customer came to Workspot with an initial use case of supporting mobility for their attorneys and staff. But they always had disaster recovery in mind as a natural use case for our cloud desktops. Since the desktop is delivered from the cloud, the end-user can be anywhere – at home, at a hotel, at the courthouse – and they can securely access all their case information from their device of choice. This is the “built-in” disaster recovery nature of cloud desktops. But the firm took this a step further and secured another large pool of “standby” cloud desktops, which can be activated by their IT team at any team. These standby desktops are outfitted with their corporate Windows image just like their everyday cloud desktops, so they are up-to-date and ready to go at any time they are needed. This gives the firm a solid remote work plan that can be executed in minutes. They astutely realized that business resilience is not all about recovery. Having the “insurance policy” for when a disaster strikes – such as a fire or flood – is critical for sure. But cloud desktops will also help them to proactively mitigate the negative consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, so they are ready to send people home to work until the crisis is over. As part of their plan, they are expanding their Workspot cloud desktop implementation.

Major U.S. Design/Build Firm Planned for Hurricanes But is Now Ready for COVID-19

Another customer implemented Workspot GPU cloud workstations for their CAD engineers after a legacy VDI solution failed to deliver the performance they needed. They came to us with the top priority of supporting an aggressive corporate growth initiative that would entail having the ability to pursue new business beyond prior geographical boundaries. At the same time, the IT team had serious concerns about their ability to bounce back from a business disruption. Having had a close call with a hurricane and with wildfires in California that threatened their branch offices, they knew they had to improve their business continuity plan. With their Workspot implementation came the ability for all of their employees and contractors, even those who require high-performance computing, to work from anywhere, using a low-cost endpoint such as a Microsoft Surface Go. While they planned for recovery scenarios, they’re now well-prepared to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all their employees by sending them home to work – while also continuing to keep projects on track for their customers.

Japanese Enterprise Sends Its Employees Home with Workspot

As we know, Japan is being hard hit by COVID-19. One of our customers came to us on Monday urgently asking for additional cloud desktop licenses so they can send all of their employees home to work. Under normal circumstances, this is a significant value point for our solution, because our customers can quickly and easily scale their Workspot implementation to respond to business expansion. In this case, the company’s top priority is the safety of its employees, and right now that means sending them home to work using a cloud desktop. Our customer success team reacted to the request immediately, and they’re able to spin up all the extra cloud desktops in hours. We applaud their leadership and we wish them well during this difficult time.

Two Primary COVID-19 Business Resilience Approaches

Workspot customers can address COVID-19 business resilience in two primary ways:

Every Day Cloud Desktops Have Built-in Business Resilience

Cloud desktops inherently provide disaster recovery capabilities, because they can be delivered to any device available to the user, anywhere on the planet. Users who have a cloud desktop as their “everyday” desktop can work from home during this time and have complete access to all their usual applications and data. Since most enterprises already have collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, as well as virtual meeting solutions such as Zoom, there’s no learning curve or transition period. People just get comfortable at home and they get to work.

Standby Cloud Desktops Are Activated On-Demand During a Crisis

Many people still use a physical desktop.  In this case, as part of a business continuity plan, the IT team can set up a pool of “standby” cloud desktops. These cloud desktops are kept up to date with the latest corporate Windows image, so when they are needed, they are activated and ready to go. As long as it’s safe for people to come to the office, they can continue to use their physical desktops.  But once the company makes the call to send people home, the standby desktops can be activated with a single click, people can head home and continue working on whatever devices they have at home, or from a corporate-owned mobile device, such as a tablet or laptop. The standby cloud desktops can be used for as long as the threat persists, and then they can be returned deactivated and return to their standby status.

COVID-19 Driving Higher Demand for Cloud Desktops

As we react to the growing demand for cloud desktops, it strikes us that there could actually be capacity constraints at the major cloud providers. The sheer number of companies adding cloud desktops to their risk mitigation arsenal is one reason, but a more subtle reason is the overall supply chain constraints we’re seeing as a result of the virus. Can the major cloud providers actually obtain the servers they need for their cloud data centers to keep up with demand? We’re keeping a close eye on this as we seek to take care of our customers’ needs.