In recent months, organizations across industries have been forced to adopt new approaches throughout their entire operations. Barbers started giving outdoor haircuts and accepting contactless payments. Schools have equipped their students and instructors with laptops, sent them home and invented new methods of teaching and learning on the fly. Sports teams have even played in empty stadiums, with professional basketball players enclosing themselves in a “bubble” for a COVID-free playoff tournament.

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The pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have also led to changes in many data centers. This new business environment has forced companies to embrace modernization, especially those that may have previously lagged behind on needed changes.

Here are four ways that I’m seeing savvy IT and business leaders improve their data center infrastructure and operations through digital transformation.

1. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to Support Remote Users

Believe it or not, some customers I work with hadn’t embraced virtualization at all going into 2020; their data centers were still bare metal. Many companies that embraced server virtualization in their data centers long ago still hadn’t taken full advantage of the possibilities of virtual desktop infrastructure.

With so many employees working remotely, VDI gives organizations a streamlined, secure way to provide remote workers with access to the technology tools they need to do their jobs. Additionally, VDI can help ease the management burden on IT shops, many of them sorely challenged by the additional responsibilities of the COVID-19 era. It’s much simpler for a help desk and infrastructure team to manage thousands of VDI sessions than thousands of disparate laptops with varying images. Some organizations opt for cloud desktops, while others host their VDI environments in their own data centers. In either setup, a robust VDI deployment typically requires an accompanying investment in storage and networking upgrades.

2. Accelerated Use of Software as a Service

The move to cloud software, or Software as a Service, is nothing new. Even before the pandemic hit, many organizations had migrated at least their email environments to the cloud. However, we’re seeing that the current remote work environment is spurring many organizations to expand their SaaS deployments, giving users direct access to cloud-hosted software programs without having to ping the corporate network.

Many of these companies were already looking to move to the cloud for solutions such as office productivity suites, enterprise resource planning tools or customer relationship management systems. The pandemic has accelerated the moves that businesses were already looking to make.

3. Increased Attention to Disaster Recovery Capabilities

There’s a difference between basic security and backup tools and true disaster recovery solutions. This difference is even more important at a time when nearly everyone is doing at least some work outside the corporate network, exposing themselves (and their companies) to threats such as ransomware attacks. A number of companies are taking this period as a wakeup call, adopting a security posture to prevent attacks and investing in DR solutions that will allow them to recover their data and get their systems back up and running in a timely manner if there is a breach.

4. Improved Training for Cloud Environments

My LinkedIn feed is filled with notifications about contacts who have recently earned new cloud certifications for environments such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. I don’t know whether these people are seeking out these training programs on their own or whether their companies are taking the initiative to train their employees. I can tell you what should be happening: Businesses should be taking every opportunity to train up their IT workers for cloud environments.

A shortage of cloud-trained workers has plagued companies in recent years, and it’s often less expensive and more effective to train internal employees than to hire from outside. With the acceleration of digital transformation over the past year, cloud-trained IT professionals will likely find themselves in even higher demand. If companies won’t train their employees for digital transformation, top talent will leave for organizations that will.

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