Social collaboration demands hybrid IT landscapes

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Moving the workplace to the cloud brings with it a whole host of advantages and challenges. [Shutterstock]

Collaboration tools are moving business communication to the cloud. Here, hybrid solutions of private and public clouds provide maximum flexibility.

The digital transformation isn’t only changing how companies interact with their customers; it also has effects on employees and the internal organization. Companies are becoming more digital and more global at the same time. Digital technologies allow simple, worldwide communication and collaboration, without requiring the teams to be in the same room – or even the same continent.

At many companies, this way of working is already commonplace, but is not yet supported by the appropriate tools in many cases. Email and network shares are still the first choice for exchanging information and documents in many cases, although effective social collaboration tools have been available for some time. These modern software tools make it possible to handle global business communication easily and efficiently.

According to a social collaboration study by Campana & Schott (link is in German), using these tools can boost efficiency between 38 and 55 percent, depending on the application area. Companies have huge pent-up demand: banks, insurance companies, consumer goods producers and health care providers in particular – as well as utilities, vehicle manufacturers, transportation and logistics companies and service providers – have hardly begun to capture the full potential of collaboration.

The reason for their reluctance is often concerns related to using the public cloud. After all, the future workplace means shifting business communication to the cloud, which enables scalability, cost savings and worldwide access. A number of other areas are also affected, however: the requirements for data privacy and failure safety, for example, are huge. Moreover, the use of cloud services poses the risk of vendor lock-in.

This, in turn, causes many companies to consider relying on their own data centers. They often believe they are more secure and easier to control compared to cloud solutions. The disadvantage: many new forms of collaboration rely on the cloud to enable interoperability and simple access by mobile devices.

Previously, companies often had to choose between one option or the other. Today, they often elect to implement hybrid IT landscapes, which make it possible to store the data in a public cloud, a private cloud or in the company data center – depending on the specific needs and requirements for access and security.

Vendor-independent selection from a cloud portfolio

The cloud provides an excellent opportunity to respond to the needs of different user groups – even with regard to increased security. Top management shares highly confidential information with the R&D department and has high demands for availability. The works council has to be sure that the employees’ sensitive personal data gets the best possible protection.

Hosting the information in a customer-specific private cloud is an ideal solution to both scenarios, whereas emails from the production department – which has lower confidentiality requirements for communications with its suppliers, for example – are just fine in the public cloud.

As we can see, the requirements are diverse and this diversity grows when customers and partners are integrated in the teamwork. The implementation of hybrid solutions provides the necessary flexibility in such cases to assign privileges for each user and roll, manage them effectively and to host the data in the various clouds or the company data center as needed.

In addition, it should be easy to move data between the clouds. Companies in the EU should implement these new forms of communication rapidly, because a wait-and-see attitude would be fatal, solely for data privacy reasons. All companies must adapt their data protection management to the requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)  by May 25, 2018.

What’s more: instead of trying to escape complexity, efforts have shifted to managing it effectively. Digitization will change the way we work – whether or not a given company provides technical support for this trend. It is wrong to believe that employees will stick to the old ways of working if the IT does not move forward. According to a PAC study on collaboration on virtual teams in German companies, 66 percent of the survey participants become frustrated when efficient collaboration is not possible.

As a result, employees will always find their own ways: using personal devices and downloading their own sharing tools from the Internet without approval – expanding the risks of “shadow IT” at companies exponentially. This makes it all the more important for the IT organization to start on a path to Work 4.0 at an early stage, enabling collaboration to take on its intended role in a connected world.

Hybrid solutions provide more flexibility

Nonetheless, the basic equipment of the future workplace will still include conventional office solutions – they will remain the second major pillar of business IT, along with the collaboration tools. In the interim, this pillar also extends to the cloud: Office 365 has been served directly from the German public cloud since February 2017. Microsoft has appointed T-Systems as its data trustee. And as the data trustee, T-Systems manages the data centers for Microsoft Cloud Deutschland through two cloud control centers, located in Berlin and Magdeburg. As a result, users benefit from compliance with Germany’s strict privacy and data protection laws, in addition to increased security.

A hybrid solution provides companies with more flexibility. The applications and data – such as SharePoint, Exchange and Skype for Business – can be managed in the public cloud, a private cloud or even in the company’s own data center, as needed. As the vendor explains, this makes it possible to customize them to the individual usage and access scenarios. It is possible, for example, to ensure maximum security and high availability for VIP users in the private cloud, while using public cloud solutions for other user groups at the same time.