According to a 2020 survey, 69% of CEOs are planning to downsize their office space. It’s not surprising. Many businesses forced to experiment with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic have found that not only can it be done, but many employees actually prefer it.
And, with digital tools enabling continued communication and collaboration, it is likely that a new hybrid pattern, a combination of remote and office working, will emerge as the ‘new normal’.
The hybrid working model
In a hybrid working week, you might spend three days at the office and two at home, or vice versa – or perhaps schedule in just a few days a month in the office, with the rest of the time spent working remotely.
This gives people the opportunity to make the most of office time for in-person meetings and less formal (but sometimes more productive) chats, as well as plenty of commute-free days with fewer interruptions. It does, however, require a flexible IT system capable of managing both remote and office working, seamlessly.
The advantages of downsizing
If you employ 50 people and only 25 of them are in the office at any one time, you don’t need 50 desks anymore. That’s the main argument driving CEOs’ decision to reduce office space. And of course there’s a significant cost benefit. A smaller office lowers the cost of:
Some organisations are also considering a slightly different approach:
In this setup, the central corporate hub is dismantled and replaced by smaller, satellite offices in places that are less expensive, and which are closer to where people live. This not only reduces costs but also broadens the talent pool, building further resilience into the organisation.
But any conversation about reducing office size also needs to factor in the other things – besides people – that are stored in the office.
Server rooms, for example, take up valuable floor space. Should you include that same footprint in your new office plans, or look for an alternative solution?
Should you look to the cloud?
For many businesses, the cloud seems like the best all-round solution – a flexible, resilient solution for switching between home and office working, and a way to free up space. With cloud-based systems, your employees can access everything they need, wherever they are. It’s simple for multiple people to work on individual files (without having endless, confusing copies in a folder), and there are a myriad of solutions for quick-fire messaging, virtual meetings, and online collaboration.
It’s easy to use and it frees up space – but there are also other advantages to cloud, for those who need them:
- It’s easy to scale up with the cloud – you simply upgrade your contract
- If you finish a project and find yourself needing less capacity, you can stop paying for what you’re not using
- You can also wave goodbye to the overheads you had with onsite storage since power, cooling and server maintenance will be handled by your cloud provider
- Cloud providers will guarantee complete redundancy, so you don’t have to worry about the power going out or the cooling system failing
Moving on up
Sadly there is no ‘MAKE IT SO’ button on your computer that magically uploads all your existing applications, documents and utilities to the cloud. (Hopefully someone is working on that!) Cloud migration can be full of technical challenges, so the more you prepare in advance the smoother the process is likely to be.
Compatibility with digitalisation
The first thing to do is check the compatibility of legacy systems. Some older or bespoke applications simply aren’t cloud compatible and would need upgrading or even rebuilding before they could move online.
Critically important is your office/home office connectivity. As an online medium, the success of your move to the cloud will largely depend on the speed, reliability and capacity of your internet connection. (Your home-workers will also need reliable internet, but if they can connect to your current system, they’ll be able to connect to your new cloud.)
Another point to bear in mind is budgeting. In theory, the cloud is entirely flexible to your needs. In practice, it can be difficult to know how much capacity you need and many organisations find themselves overpaying for unused capacity. Conducting a thorough audit prior to cloud migration will give you a better sense of how you use your IT and what your needs actually are. You can continue to refer back to this for comparison and analysis once you have completed your cloud migration.
There could be a better way
Cloud can be a great solution, but for many businesses it is not the cure-all you would hope. Those legacy applications can be a real sticking point, making full cloud migration impractical. Yet getting the servers out of the office is undoubtedly a space and cost-saver.
Thankfully, there is another option if cloud isn't suitable for you. Two, in fact.
Colocation is a service that hosts your existing IT infrastructure in a data centre, where the power, connectivity, cooling and physical security is handled by someone else. You retain responsibility for the servers and everything on them.
In many ways, it feels like the cloud. Everything is accessible remotely and so it is just as easy for home/office/hybrid working as the cloud. But because it’s still your IT, it all works in the same way it has been working – which means you shouldn’t need to change or upgrade your existing applications. And you get to keep control of the servers, which can be a real benefit to businesses that have the necessary IT knowhow in place and need to keep things secure.
2. Hybrid cloud
You move partially to the cloud, and keep everything else on your own servers – either in the office (if you can afford the space and have the power and cooling systems required) or in a data centre.
This is a flexible option, enabling you to take advantage of the cloud's flexibility and scaling capability, while retaining control of your most secure systems and keeping your legacy applications.
Flexibility works best with strong support
One of the big things we’ve all learnt during the pandemic is the power of flexibility, and how a hybrid work setup offers all that flexibility, plus a good structural grounding through difficult times – as long as the right IT infrastructure is in place.
Colocation, cloud, or a hybrid of the two will give you the support you need to pursue a flexible, cost-effective business setup that accentuates the positives of both remote working and office time. As a managed infrastructure provider, we at 4D offer cloud and colocation solutions, and could even assist you with every element of a hybrid cloud. If you want to learn more and ask about what solution would be best for your company, get in touch.