Let's hear it for the digital heroes

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published 2021-02-18 12:33:39

While the medical profession has quite rightly taken the major plaudits during the ongoing pandemic, there’s also been a growing recognition of other key worker contributions – teachers, supermarket staff, transport workers and the like. It’s also key to appreciate the IT and data centre personnel, without whom the transition to the pandemic-induced, distributed, digital workplace would, quite simply, never have happened.

The debate over the right way to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic will rage long into the future. Protecting the elderly and vulnerable and protecting the NHS would seem to be most people’s idea of the priorities; but legitimate concerns have also been raised about the wellbeing of individuals with a range of other serious health conditions, such as cancer, not to mention the mental health of many. And there’s no doubt that our children’s education has been compromised along the way.

When it comes to the world of work, it’s perhaps too early to understand just what the long term impact will be on whole industry sectors and many, many thousands of businesses, not to mention millions of workers. However, one thing we can say for certain – if the data centre and wider IT industries had not done such an outstanding job of helping so many organisations and individuals throughout the pandemic, the (un)employment situation would be far, far worse.

A McKinsey survey (1) states that ‘companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years’. Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report tells how TikTok visitor numbers rose from 5.4 million visitors in January 2020 to 12.9 million in April; and virtual meeting platform Zoom grew from 659,000 adults to 13 million over the same period. Statista (3) says that online transactions increased by almost 40 per cent between January 2020 and January this year. When it comes to the increase of Internet traffic, you pay your money and take your choice when it comes to the percentage increase – with anything from a modest 20 percent, right up to 60-70 percent at certain times. In a previous blog gave you a range of statistics when it comes to the increased uptake of cloud services during the pandemic.

But, let me ask you a question: No matter what your political views, and hence the news sources you might chose to read, can you recall reading many stories outlining a business-related IT disaster story caused by the massive extra pressure placed on IT infrastructure over the past year? Yes, there are still the obligatory, almost daily security/data breaches being reported, but these cannot be laid at the door of Covid. But the servers, the storage, the networks and the data centres in which all of this hardware is housed have coped admirably with the substantial extra demands being made upon them.

And, as we move towards the vaccinated light at the end of what’s been a rather too long tunnel, let’s also remember the debt of gratitude we owe the scientists who are bringing us out. And, of course, the huge debt of gratitude these scientists owe to the servers, the storage, the networks and the data centres which have underpinned their vaccine research work.

One more question for you: Can you think of another industry which would have been able to respond so successfully and quickly as the IT sector has to the demands made of it during the pandemic? And if you can think of such a sector or even individual companies, it’s almost certainly the case that the fast, positive response was made possible by…servers, storage, networks and data centres.

Individual IT organisations do advertise their technology and success stories in the media, but maybe it’s time for the whole industry to be proud about what it does – not just during a pandemic (which we very much hope is a one-off event), but 24x7x365, year in, year out, enabling the digital transformation on which we have all come to rely, both in work and at home?

Those of us who can remember the days of the dial-up Internet, where you almost had time to make a cup of tea between clicking on the ‘Connect’ button and finally getting access to the world wide web minutes later, are perhaps better able to appreciate just what progress has been made by the IT and data centre sectors over the past few years. It’s truly amazing and is a story that needs telling.

And colocation providers have been a critical part of this evolving, revolutionary landscape. A crucial link in the chain that connects the Monday morning, company video call that starts the week for so many. A crucial link in the chain that connects businesses with their customers in an online, virtual world. A crucial link in the chain that has enabled online lessons and that has, put simply, allowed us all to remain connected during the strangest of times.

I’m not sure that a ‘Clap for colos’ would ever take on, but let’s not forget the valuable contribution they have made to so many aspects of lockdown life.

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