Johan Arts, senior vice president sales EMEA, Equinix contributed to this article

While we are still grappling with many uncertainties in businesses and lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one thing is clear – organizations large and small have crossed the Cloud Rubicon. Retail brands with a purely physical play are now online to keep up with the digital consumer, and food and beverage stalls and hawkers are embracing online channels to maintain their already razor-thin margins.

According to the Equinix 2020-21 Global Tech Trends Survey 47 percent of IT decision-makers globally reported they accelerated digital transformation plans because of the pandemic, while a significant majority (60 percent) of respondents across all regions said the pandemic forced them to revisit and revise their IT strategy.

How does cloud fit in?

Beyond the immediate concern to continue business-as-usual with a remote workforce, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have now focused on enhancing their employees’ digital experience. Hybrid cloud is a major building block in these digital infrastructures and IT decision-makers (ITDMs) are quickly realizinng this, with more than 2 out of 3 (68 percent) of ITDMs in the recent Equinix survey1 saying they want to move more IT functions to the cloud and two-thirds hoping to accomplish this within the next 12 months.

On top of providing staff with the necessary digital tools to access company apps and services outside of the office’s network, SMEs have to strategise how to deploy business-critical information to make timely decisions, manage supply chains and serve the changing needs of customers. According to the same Equinix survey1, nearly 6 out of 10 ITDMs (58 percent) want to invest in technology that makes their companies more agile in the post-Covid era.

As a single, central touchpoint to manage data how and where they want it, hybrid cloud allows SMEs to house and scale their workloads based on compliance, policy, and security requirements, and replicate business-critical data to the cloud. This not only helps them backup key data, but also accommodate fluctuating computing demands – whether to meet surging workload in online platforms or maintain a seamless and secure digital employee experience.

Keeping costs low

Keeping overheads low is always a priority for SMEs in a pre and post-pandemic world. Requiring lower capital expenditure upfront, but arming SMEs with the option of buying IT resources when they need to, hybrid cloud keeps SMEs nimble and responsive while dancing around roadblocks that they cannot just stride over like bigger companies can. An IDC study notes that organizations reported a 69 percent lower migration cost in hybrid cloud compared to the public cloud3 from its ability to consume resources on-demand and when needed.

Where scalability and performance may come at the expense of higher capital and operating expenditures in other cloud models, hybrid cloud is the best option to protect and preserve SMEs’ bottom lines, while providing the flexibility to migrate data and apps at any given time.

One less uncertainty to cope with

Modernizing and moving legacy, monolith systems is a major roadblock in any SME’s cloud journey. Yet another key advantage of the hybrid cloud approach is that it saves time and resources needed to adapt to new architectures and frameworks. With hybrid cloud models that are capable of seamlessly integrating local software to public cloud, enterprises can enjoy the advantages of public cloud without re-architecting their familiar on-premise work environment and succumbing to disruptions on network and security.

For SMEs embarking on and pivoting their journeys – instead of building another layer of complexity to slow down their transition – the jump to hybrid cloud should be as speedy and as painless as possible. This is particularly critical as going online becomes a make or break situation.

As employees adapt to new efficiencies in remote working, hybrid cloud fundamentally protects their time in having to cope with IT changes or even learn a new digital workspace system from scratch. This also gives employees a peace of mind in not having to struggle with yet another uncertainty, resulting in a happier and more productive workforce.

The perfect union

At the end of the day, SMEs not only need a hybrid cloud infrastructure but also a proper hybrid cloud strategy to truly recover and grow – one that can deliver high performance, secure cloud workloads, provide consistent operations and access to vibrant business ecosystems like that of Equinix’s, and to support business innovation and growth without the worry of costs and an incompatible existing infrastructure.

SMEs should also understand that businesses are on their own personal cloud journeys and no journey is identical. They need to select the right public cloud service provider that is able to bridge their business operation needs, without sacrificing security.

As SMEs bound forward towards an increasingly digital world, they should look to hybrid cloud to protect their business-critical applications, and reduce operational expenses while seamlessly ensuring a smooth working experience for employees at home or at the office.