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As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we can hope that we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel. That's the good news. However, we also now realize that unexpected, unthinkable events will happen—and can happen again. This is where business continuity and agility must be top priorities moving forward.

We learned a valuable lesson in 2020. Forced to adopt new technologies quickly to continue operating, many businesses turned to the flexibility of cloud communications. For example, 2020 saw a sharp increase in the number of white-collar employees working from home, and videoconference calls replaced many in-person meetings and conferences. Restaurants and supermarkets relied heavily on apps like Instacart and Door Dash to reach and serve their customers. None of this could have happened without web-based software residing in the cloud.

Given what we've learned about how essential it is to have resilient communications, the value of cloud technology has become more apparent. As a trusted, reliable element of any business communications plan, here's why the cloud can provide peace of mind:

1. Resiliency in the Face of Disaster

COVID-19 has been a real-time exercise in crisis management. Companies that had "crises" in their business continuity plans and the right technology in place were able to pivot quickly to remote work with cloud-based communications tools. Many of the lessons learned from the pandemic will be useful for future business continuity plans, just as other disasters―both natural and man-made―informed the plans we're implementing today.

For instance, during Hurricane Katrina, IT leaders in and around New Orleans learned the value of having a disaster recovery that included the cloud. As the storm pummeled the city and water rose, IT support staff were displaced. The lesson? The ability to transition smoothly to remote work was essential for keeping operations running, especially as offices of government agencies and businesses lost power or flooded. Today, many of these leaders rely on the cloud to provide immediate access from any location to critical systems.

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2. Protection Against Cybersecurity Threats

Natural disasters aren't the only disruption business continuity teams need to prepare for. Man-made threats like data breaches have made cybersecurity a mainstay of planning.

McKinsey estimates that by 2030, system downtime and cybersecurity breaches will cost companies worldwide approximately $650 billion. However, using the cloud to migrate applications could reduce that downtime by almost 57%.

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Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation (TCCSC), a Los Angeles-based healthcare non-profit, factored these concerns into its communication needs. In addition to requiring a geo-independent and fully redundant solution, its new system had to protect highly confidential medical data.

"We needed a solution that delivered security, call quality, flexibility and disaster recovery," said Simon Dayan, director of IT for TCCSC. By moving to the cloud, the organization was able to realize this for less money than its premise-based telephony cost. Now healthcare professionals easily collaborate from any location, using any kind of device. With a cloud-based solution, personnel are always reachable and advanced encryption meets HIPAA compliance requirements.

3. Innovation and Opportunity

The speed at which scientists around the world developed COVID-19 vaccines was breathtaking. Never in the history of modern pharmaceuticals has such a feat been accomplished. One of the first vaccines available was developed by Moderna, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology firm.

CEO Stéphane Bancel made a bold decision to use the public cloud as his company's research and development platform. This enabled scientists to design research experiments, use automated laboratory capabilities and quickly translate data to manufacturing. To achieve this, Moderna uses a proprietary cloud-based application called Drug Design Studio. By using the cloud, the company can scale instantly. There's no need to buy more servers to meet data storage demand. Applications are uploaded easily for all employees and partners to access.

Moderna's example demonstrates how the cloud can support innovation and a competitive advantage. How could your organization benefit from this kind of computing power?

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Hybrid or Full Cloud?

If you're considering moving to the cloud, remember you don't have to do it all at once. In fact, experts advise against it. Step back and create a plan, even if you're under duress. Identify what should stay on-premise and what should go to the cloud. Focus on what you'd need to operate if a major interruption or disaster occurred. Focus on the connectivity your employees need to do their jobs remotely. Also, focus on consistent and seamless end-to-end communications. Then work with a partner to build a hybrid or full cloud solution that meets the needs you identified.

6 Signs Your COVID-19 Workforce Needs Cloud Phone Technology >

By offering ease of access and reliability, the cloud is your security blanket in the face of disaster. It gives your company the agility it needs to respond to any disruption, be it a natural disaster, a global pandemic, a security breach or a failure of your network or hardware. Knowing your staff can access files, data, applications and their coworkers as if they were sitting in the office provides peace of mind, and ensures business continuity.

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