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Cloud usage is surging as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a Snow Software report found. As more people work remotely and companies reevaluate daily operations, the majority (91%) of IT leaders worldwide said they have been forced to shift their cloud strategies to operate in the new normal.

More than 80% IT leaders said their organizations have increased their overall cloud usage, with 60% saying they believe the increase will continue, and only 22% reportedly feeling the growth has leveled out, the report found.

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Some 76% of IT leaders said they have increased their use of cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and private clouds.

When the influx of remote work first started, many reports surfaced showing the increased use of collaboration tools like Slack, Teams, or Google Chat (55%), and cloud-based video conferencing platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting (52%), according to the report.

Those figures dominated early headlines, however, the rise in popularity wasn’t as sharp as it was for cloud, indicating that cloud resources were not as embedded in organizations to begin with, the report found.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned cloud into an essential service for many organizations, as well as highlighting the complexities of managing cloud cost and usage,” said Jay Litkey, executive vice president of cloud management at Snow, a developer of software asset management tools, in a press release.

“This survey confirms what we are hearing from our customers–that while many CIOs are being asked to trim costs, there will be continued investment in technology that presents the opportunity for long-term growth and stability,” Litkey said. “To weather the storm, IT leaders must take a comprehensive approach to managing cloud, uncovering opportunities to streamline costs, while continuing to provide the infrastructure needed to support their workforce and drive innovation.”

Evolution of cloud spending and strategy

More than half (56%) of respondents said they expect to increase their cloud spending. Despite these reported increases, a third of IT leaders said they are looking for some flexibility in their budgets as 31% are renegotiating cloud contracts. Some 32% of respondents said they are asking their cloud vendors for extended payment terms, the report found.

Additionally, 9% of respondents said they won’t be able to pay their cloud bills this month. While the cloud is a sought-after technology for companies, some aren’t able to invest the amount necessary for upkeep.

Looking closer at the data, the report found that Gen Z and millennial IT leaders (68%) are more likely to increase cloud spending than boomers (41%). Midsized companies (11%) also reported having a tougher time paying their cloud bills than enterprise organizations (6%).

Regardless, the overwhelming majority (91%) of IT leaders still said they expect to change their cloud strategy in some way. Within companies’ cloud strategies, the most popular changes included accelerating cloud migration (45%), accelerating digital transformation initiatives (41%), and holistically examining all tech to search for efficiencies (29%), the report found.

The impact of returning to the office

While some companies plan on working remotely for the remainder of the calendar year, many are looking to return to the physical office sooner.

More than half (66%) of respondents said they will continue to use cloud services and applications that were implemented during remote work when shifting back to the office. Some 24% of respondents said they will continue to use a number of cloud services and applications currently in place, but may discontinue some also.

As for how IT leaders feel about returning to the office, 47% said they feel comfortable doing so once their company outlines a clear plan that ensures their safety. Some 43% of respondents said they would prefer their company offer work from home options after reopening, and 30% said they feel uncomfortable going back, the report found.

While CIOs (45%) were eager to return to the office, managers (30%) didn’t feel the same way. Some 34% of managers said they would rather continue working from home, indicating a possible culture shift within management.

Improved relationship between IT and employees

Despite all of the uncertainty in the current climate, 82% of respondents said they have noticed a positive shift in employees’ attitudes toward IT, which is a significant shift from a traditionally adversarial relationship, according to the report.

IT leaders said that employees seem to be more grateful for what IT has done for them and the company (49%) since the start of the pandemic, have more respect for IT (48%), and seem more aware that IT infrastructure is what keeps a business running (43%).

While tech was important before the pandemic, employees have realized just how critical digital tools are during unforeseen circumstances.

The applications that have been “lifesavers” during the crisis included video conferencing apps (73%), communication apps (65%), business apps (57%), social media apps (48%), and entertainment apps (44%), the report found.

The reliance on collaboration tools shows that personal connection is even more important than entertainment right now. If the new normal prevents coworkers from interacting in person, they are realizing they must resort to online platforms.

For more, check out Web conferencing market projected to reach $19B by 2025 on TechRepublic.

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