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Cloud-connected employees may be working harder

An always-connected world may become a more stressful world.

A lot of attention is given to how the cloud changes the enterprise IT ecosystem and the potential security risks of migrating assets to a third-party provider. However, New York Times blogger Quentin Hardy asked whether the cloud will also have a dramatic impact on everyday life. It’s easy to see an impact from business trends such as bring-your-own-device, which has significant momentum due to cloud storage. BYOD intertwines professional and personal lives, but other innovations have shifted how people interact and conduct day-to-day activities.

“Now, thanks to the cloud’s ability to cheaply connect a lot of people and information over a broad array of devices, a similar use of spare resources is going on elsewhere in the economy,” Hardy wrote. “A company called Uber connects limousines that are between jobs with people who want a ride on the spur of the moment – after a boozy dinner, say, or a late night at work. The service Airbnb turns people’s spare rooms into a cheap alternative to hotels, sometimes with with mixed results.”

These services may not be new, Hardy noted, but the cloud has connected people and information in such a way that makes it faster and easier to rent out a room. Another example is LiveOps – a cloud-based call center. Companies can pay LiveOps agents to do things such as take orders or manage customer complaints. All LiveOps contractors work from home and schedule the number of 30-minute sessions they want to compete each week. In other words, people are using the cloud to fill up a significant portion of their free time.

Should utilization reach higher?
Hardy jokingly compared the trend to the gains achieved by virtualization, which has allowed for utilization rates as high as 80 percent. As Financial Post writer Mitchell Osak noted in December, this is largely because of the high cost of hardware maintenance. Osak estimated that companies are able to save 15 to 20 percent of their IT budgets by better optimizing operations in their data centers.

A focus on optimization over purchasing new hardware allows for fewer new purchases, and may be more cost effective in the long run. However, these benefits are matched with the negatives of higher utilization rates. Even technology suffers as it draws close to 100 percent utilization. Most notably, significant delays in queuing processes result, leading IBM to suggest rates above 50 percent are likely contributors to system performance issues.

The lesson may be an important one to keep in mind as cloud storage technology evolves to accommodate larger volumes of information in real time. As Hardy noted, the trend of doing more with less is now reflected in not only technology but in the people using it.

“This kind of machine-made urgency to utilize everything, creating lower prices (and for many, lower wages) will very likely find a lot more areas to attack,” Hardy warned. “Much of our work may come to resemble a Uber or LiveOps model, as shared calendars and documents, along with location-aware devices, make work possible from more times and locations.”

Whether it’s the BYOD-enabled employee that uses his or her smartphone to check work email or the hardware that stores large volumes of corporate assets, businesses are demanding more from their technology infrastructure and workers. However, these expectations must be tempered with careful planning to ensure that resources are not overtaxed.