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Post-Covid tech world to see 89% of UK tech operations hosted off-premise

Leading UK ISP releases research showing that emergence of the hybrid era means that dependence on on-premise infrastructure to support a full capacity office is no longer required

The brave new world of hybrid working is having a profound effect on the technological infrastructure of businesses. With soaring demand for software-defined wide-area networking (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 by Vanson Bourne on behalf of the internet service provider (ISP) between September and October 2021, gathering the views of 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 likely to average around three days a week in the office in 2022.

The survey also found that on-premise datacentres currently take up around 8% of office floor space, with 51% of UK businesses’ technological infrastructure reliant on on-premise systems. Yet, on average, it found that only 11% of planned tech operations were 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 to be made in the next 12 months.

“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”
Becky Turner, Claremont

Commenting on the findings of the study, Becky Turner, workplace psychologist at office interior design fit-out, 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. 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.”

Regarding datacentre requirements, Zen Internet noted that there ought to be a practice of stop, collaborate and listen. It said that when determining what companies that have a datacentre are doing with their 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%), installing additional equipment (32%) and leaving it as open space (28%) would also be in the plans if they did not have an on-premise datacentre, according to business leaders.

Survey respondents admitted that their biggest challenges with on-premise datacentres were security (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%) topped the list again, with increased reliability (44%) and a reduction in costs (38%) also noted as key drivers. 

With a decreasing reliance on on-premise infrastructure, Zen said the focus then turned to why businesses were keeping it. Providing some clarity on this issue, the research revealed the majority of business leaders believed relocating or removing the datacentre would be expensive (77%) and time consuming (82%). 

In fact, 74% believed 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 Zen Internet CEO Paul Stobart.

“Moving infrastructure to the cloud through the deployment of SD-WAN technology, together with proactive use of intelligent cloud and collaboration tools, is not only more efficient, but also serves to declutter the working environment and allows space to be utilised more creatively,” he added.

“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.” 

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