CEO and Co-Founder of OpenVPN Inc., leading-edge networking and software technology with over 25 million downloads since inception.
Work as we know it is changing forever, and the way companies utilize the cloud in their remote work will shape our workforce and culture for decades to come. Of course, this was always true; the advent of cloud computing is one of the most significant developments of our age. However, the more we’re compelled to rely on it, especially in the current era, the faster and more intensely our lives and livelihoods are likely to change.
How The Cloud First Changed How We Work
Before cloud computing, the major change to how we work came in the form of virtualization. Before this, one piece of hardware could run only one operating system. Virtualization made it so one piece of hardware could run multiple operating systems in their own isolated environment. It was hardware that could do more than one thing, which made a major difference in cost and energy consumption.
It saved extensive space in data centers and allowed companies to really maximize their use of each piece of hardware. Rather than having a web server running on one piece of hardware taking up only about 20% of its processing power and, say, a database on another piece taking up only 50% of that processing power, you could put multiple projects and services on one piece of hardware and use it to its full capacity.
This, of course, still involved managing hardware; you were in charge of acquiring, managing and maintaining any hardware you had. Even with virtualization, that was a significant cost. Cloud computing changed all that. With cloud computing, companies like Amazon and others took over the hardware management side of everything. Rather than managing your own hardware, you could run as many instances as you wanted on their machines, which they maintain and manage. That was a powerful game-changer for companies of all sizes; it made growth and scaling far more accessible, not to mention remote access.
That, of course, is where the security challenges come in. When everything is localized on specific hardware on your local network, you don’t have to worry about attacks as much. You know physically where that data is. You can physically see who has access to it. But how do you secure and insulate data on the cloud? How do you make sure that the right people have access to those resources and the wrong people don’t? It’s not the same thing as protecting access to a building; remote access is much trickier to manage, mostly because at first, it was simply the public internet.
If you wanted to access those resources over the cloud, you had to travel over the public internet. That means that data passes through all kinds of hands. After all, the initial idea of the internet was a flat network where everyone could talk to everyone. Privacy was hardly even considered. However, the more people there are communicating, and the more resources you’re sharing, the more you’ve got to start thinking about security. You’ve got to start encrypting that data.
This development — cloud and the security that must go with it — profoundly affects how we work, how we connect, how we learn and how we really do anything online. It always has, but the pandemic is accelerating that in a profound way.
Cloud Computing Is Building The New Normal
We’ve been taught “social distancing” thanks to Covid-19, but now we must consider network distancing — keeping our networks secure and remote. It used to be that a VPN, for instance, was only used for travel, but now it’s all about centralizing your resources and distancing those resources from the people accessing it because everyone has some distance from the data they need to access.
The pandemic has forced us to make remote network access not just an option but a requirement for employees, and we’re all getting adjusted to that. At this point, I doubt very much it will all just “go back to normal” once social distancing is no longer required. This is the new normal, and the cloud is an essential part of it.
Part of this acceleration means it won’t just be online jobs that go remote. There are, of course, industries for which remote work is a natural fit — finance, software, marketing, etc. The biggest aspect of that transition is simply applying appropriate security. However, there are some jobs that require more than just security to be remote. These are the employees who have to be physically present for their jobs — or so we’ve always thought. Now that so many companies are forced to reckon with required remote access, I believe we’ll see a significant increase in remote control.
Remote Control Is The Next Big Step For Cloud Computing
We’re already seeing more telehealth than ever, which will likely lead to more and more remote work for doctors. With digitized tools, some basic health care can already be controlled remotely. We could see more and more devices that can measure your heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure and share that data securely with your doctor.
That’s the key thing to remember: This change isn’t just about remote security or remote access like the initial cloud push was about. This is about remote control.
This is the doctor who can monitor your blood pressure remotely. This is the manufacturer who can operate a robotic tool remotely to assemble their product. This is the driver who can manipulate the driverless car from his own living room. Remote control is the next step in what we can do through the cloud — it’s the next step in our new normal.
Every industry will address this differently because every industry is different. However, the companies that can get on board and maximize it will be the ones that see true growth and success in the years to come.