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The brave new world of hybrid working is having profound effects on the technological infrastructures of all business, and as it sees soaring demand for SD-WAN and cloud to support the necessary collaboration systems, plans for hybrid working and future tech investment are calling into question the need for businesses to maintain or rely on their on-premise datacentres, according to research from Zen Internet.
The research was conducted via Vanson Bourne, on behalf of Zen, between September and October 2021, among 200 UK business leaders and senior strategic or financial decision makers across all private sectors.
The UK ISP found that in the post-Covid working environment, the majority (93%) of businesses already have a hybrid working plan in place to enable employees to work remotely, with a further 5% set to have one in the next year. As a result, only 55% of office space and desks are expected to be in use over the next year, with workers set to spend three days a week there in 2022.
The survey also found that on-premise datacentres are currently found to take up an average of 8% of office floor space. This comes as 51% of UK businesses’ technological infrastructure is reliant on on-premise. Yet on average, only 11% of planned tech operations are projected to be hosted on-premise.
By stark contrast, off-premise tools, including SD-WAN (26%), artificial intelligence (25%), automation (24%) and application programming interfaces (24%) were identified as the top tech investments set to be made in the next 12 months.
Commenting on the study findings, Becky Turner, workplace psychologist at office furniture and technology company Claremont, said: “As we’re propelled into the hybrid era, the purpose of the office is rapidly evolving, becoming a place where the primary goals are for colleagues to meet, collaborate, socialise and learn – becoming the Destination Office.
“While focused tasks can largely be carried out from home, the Destination Office maximises the office space for those necessary functions that have been noticeably absent from our working lives over the past 18 months,” she said. “With the introduction of each of these spaces, your workspace will become the cultural epicentre of your organisation, a place where your colleagues can come to feel energised and connected with the principles and values of your organisation.”
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Zen noted that regarding datacentre requirements, there should be a practice of “stop, collaborate and listen”. It said that when determining what companies with a datacentre are doing with office space in the post-Covid era, increased collaboration seemed to be the name of the game.
These businesses are looking to add collaborative meeting areas (39%), social spaces (36%) and individual working spaces (33%) to aid hybrid working. Meeting rooms (32%), additional equipment (32%) and leaving it as open space (28%) would also be among the plans if they did not have an on-premise datacentre, according to business leaders.
Business leaders admitted in the survey that their biggest challenges with on-premise datacentres regarded security concerns (51%) and maintenance costs (51%), followed by a lack of in-house IT skills to maintain them (38%) and the amount of physical space they occupy (34%). When asked about the advantages of outsourcing their datacentre to a third party, improving security (52%) again emerges top, with increased reliability (44%) and a reduction in costs (38%) being other key drivers.
With a decreasing reliance on on-premise infrastructure, Zen said the focus then turned to asking why businesses are still keeping it. Providing some clarity on this issue, the research revealed that the majority of business leaders believe relocating or removing the datacentre would be expensive (77%) and time consuming (82%). In fact, 74% believed that the process would be complicated, with a further 62% revealing their organisation was not fully educated in the complexities of cloud technologies. As a result, 75% believed they would need help to move their on-premise datacentre off-premise.
“The emergence of the hybrid era means that dependence on on-premise infrastructure to support a full capacity office is no longer required,” said Paul Stobart, CEO of Zen Internet.
“Moving infrastructure to the cloud through the deployment of software-defined WAN (or SD-WAN) technology, together with proactive use of intelligent cloud and collaboration tools, is not only more efficient but serves to declutter the working environment and allows space to be re-utilised more creatively,” he said. “For some, considering a move to the cloud may seem to be an undertaking fraught with risk. The truth is, though, that more and more businesses are making this move.”