Jul 30 2020

CDW Tech Talk: How to Rein In Costs Amid Business Disruption

The world has been thrown into months of chaos, but organizations can limit the damage to their bottom line by knowing where to trim.

The word “disruption” has been used a lot during the global health crisis. Nearly every industry and business has had to alter how it operates in order to continue, while also adjusting to new economic constraints.

“Some of my customers I’ve worked with, they went from 15 percent of people working from home to well over 85, 90 percent of people working from home,” said Darren Pulsipher, chief solution architect for the public sector at Intel. “In some of these organizations, this was a major shift and a major cost, making this move.”

At “Reinforcing Business Stability and IT Cost Control,” part of CDW’s Tech Talk series, Pulsipher said that many of the adjustments organizations have made to the pandemic were already in the works, but at a much slower pace.

“COVID-19 has accelerated what we’ve tried to do for years in modernizing our data centers and moving to the cloud,” he said. “COVID-19 has just accelerated a lot of our strategies.”

To support widespread teleworking, Pulsipher said that most businesses turned to one of three models: virtual desktop infrastructure, virtual private networks, or devices as direct portals to services. Some organizations already had these solutions in place, but they suddenly needed to be able to use them on a much larger scale.

“We had to get people working, so just throw money at it and it will solve a lot of the problems,” said Pulsipher. “Then what they found was that it helped a little bit, but without understanding those modes of operation, they couldn’t understand the bottlenecks appropriately.”

The misunderstanding can end up costing businesses, but knowing where those financial land mines might be could make a big difference.

Common Remote Work Roadblocks for Businesses

There were four major challenges that Pulsipher noticed during the remote work shift: scaling VPN; increasing bandwidth to sites; scaling hosted services, such as VDI and Outlook Web Access; and overwhelmed IT operations.

To overcome the first three, many businesses attempted to buy their way out of the crisis.

“A lot of times they just threw caution to the wind,” Pulsipher said. “I don’t care how much it costs, we need to get our workforce running.”

IT departments then were tasked with implementing the newly acquired tools in new working spaces, as suddenly employees needed to turn their homes into offices with strong, secure networks.

“They have been overwhelmed with all this transition, and not just standing up environments and standing up infrastructure” said Pulsipher. “IT now had to be home network experts because everyone’s working from home now.”

Many departments took time to educate their employees, putting together materials that would help answer some of the basic remote work questions to cut down on the amount of help desk tickets that were coming in.

Now that the initial shock and setup has passed, businesses are faced with reconciling those costs incurred during the transition.

“You take a deep breath and you go okay, costs,” said Pulsipher. “We’ve got to worry about costs now.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Watch this session to learn how to adapt to new challenges by moving data protection to the cloud.

Hidden Costs Businesses Should Watch For

Businesses remain pinched by the economic climate, but they can no longer postpone the costs of moving their workforces offsite. Pulsipher said that the best way to trim is to re-evaluate what you’re already spending, particularly on the temporary fixes many organizations stood up during the transition.

“If you don’t, then they become the de facto way of doing things,” he said. “And they may not be the most cost beneficial way of doing it.”

Sinking money into temporary solutions is just one main area Pulsipher identified as common places businesses can be inefficient with their costs. He’s found that abandoned resources can be another drain on the bottom line.

“Whether they’re zombie virtual machines that have been sitting out there, or there’s storage of copies made in the cloud, you’re paying for that every month,” he said. “So you’ve got to watch out for things.”

When it comes to the cloud, many organizations took a “lift and shift” approach, moving all of their workloads there at once. Now, Pulsipher said, is the time to re-evaluate those workloads and cut the ones that perhaps don’t need to be there. There are other financial aspects of cloud management for businesses to consider as well, including gradient rates of data ingress and egress.

“You can check in your data pretty cheaply, but getting your data back out is very expensive,” Pulsipher said. “Almost 10 times more expensive than pushing your data into the public cloud.”

Another aspect businesses need to consider is security. A breach can end up costing an organization a lot in both money and productivity. Spending resources to ensure it doesn’t happen during this vulnerable time is important.

“If they’re using their laptop more as a portal and they’re not connecting to the network anymore, you may lose visibility into those machines,” said Pulsipher. “You may not be able to put in security patch levels that you want on those machines, through the traditional ways that you’ve done before. They may not have the right versions of software.”

“It’s time to really take a look now at securing that teleworker,” he added.

This is going to be a costly year for many businesses, but by looking in the right places, organizations can limit the amount of damage done during mass disruption.

Follow BizTech's coverage of CDW’s Tech Talk series here. Insiders can register for it here.

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