The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things around us. It has not only brought about a sea change in the way we live our lives, but also the way we work. To create a more conducive, safe, and secure work environment, many businesses across the world have adapted the work-from-home model, giving a boost to Cloud Computing. And this is happening across the globe, including the Middle East with enterprises of all sizes reaping the many benefits of cloud computing to adapt their business to the new normal.

From reduced IT costs, scalability, ease of functioning, safety, business continuity to collaborative efficiency, and flexibility of work practices, there are several advantages cloud computing brings to businesses. Many organizations in the MENA region (The Middle East and North Africa) are moving towards public and private cloud to ensure that their businesses continue growing in a safe environment even during these challenging times. There has been a considerable increase in small businesses investing in cloud deployments enabling affording these businesses greater security, higher scalability, predictable operational costs and geographic resiliency along with easy pay-per-use access to advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Data Analytics.

What is the future of Cloud Computing in the Middle East? 

Experts believe that many companies will continue to follow the work from home model even after the pandemic, which is being sighted as one of the major reasons for the rise in organizations shifting to cloud adoption in the Middle East. If reports are to be believed, there has been a 70 percent increase in cloud adoption worldwide, and the Middle East is expected to rise to a whopping 95 percent in cloud adoption over the next few years (the cloud computing market is expected to grow from USD 14.2 billion in 2021 to USD 31.4 billion by 2026). Be it small, middle, or large-scale enterprises, cloud adoption seems to be the way forward for organizations in the MENA region.

Sensing this surge in the area, several hyper-local and regional providers have established data centers to meet the demand. Even global giants like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Oracle, and IBM have set up small-scale centers to provide sufficient support in the Middle East. Boutique Cloud providers are creating a niche and offering unique, customizable clouds with value-added services which the big guys don’t. This is a good sign for the economic development and sustainability of industries across the region as cloud technology will provide cost-effective processing capabilities and data storage possibilities to all businesses. Limited on-premise expenditure will further the growth factor.

Cloud adoption is not limited to private enterprises alone. Government organizations too are embracing cloud through in-region providers while complying with local regulations and respecting data sovereignty rules.The Government of Bahrain’s ‘Cloud First Policy’ and national strategic visions like UAE Vision 2021, Saudi Vision 2030, and New Kuwait Vision 2035 are driving the changing cloud landscape in this region.

The challenges that lie ahead for successful implementation of Cloud 

Security 

The Middle East is not unfamiliar with security breaches as there have been many in the past. This poses one of the biggest challenges when it comes to cloud adoption. The overall security infrastructure in several companies is still questionable that makes the organizations here more susceptible to breaches. Not only has there been significant slack in the way security is implemented, but there is also an overall absence of high-tech know-how of how to handle the situation if there is a threat. This has led to several companies falling prey to online threats putting their infrastructure, data, and important information at risk.

To successfully migrate to the cloud, companies in this region will need to implement robust security measures. Organizations must educate their staff in the cyber security landscape and how to secure business operations even after moving to the Cloud because moving to cloud does not ensure everything is now suddenly secure. Security is a joint responsibility of the Cloud provider and the Customer/Tenant. Understanding your part of the responsibility and executing proper security measures will go a long way in mitigating security risks associated with moving to the Cloud.

Connectivity challenges

The Middle East is yet to implement a connectivity infrastructure that can support operations requiring very high bandwidth. This might have led to some hesitancy on the part of organizations jumping on the public cloud wagon, but things are changing rapidly. Some of the biggest brands like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle setting up their data centers in the region, and things are moving northwards when it comes to proper connectivity.

Even so, the cloud providers must provide necessary resources that make migration to the Cloud appealing both in terms of security and response times through innovative networking architectures that address the unique requirements of the region.

It was believed for a long time that the Middle East would be the last to get on board with the Cloud model and that organizations here would always prefer traditional on-premise IT model. But that is more a myth now and the reality is that the cloud is here and here to stay. Not everyone and not everything may move to the public cloud but increasing number of businesses are seriously looking at how to incorporate the Cloud into their IT delivery model while addressing the important issues of security, connectivity and data sovereignty.It is not a matter of if but when and how when it comes to Cloud in the Middle East. Many are looking at the hybrid model where they have the best of both worlds. Some are implementing private clouds of their own by adopting HyperConverged solutions that offer the efficiencies, scalability and cost advantages of flexible and agile architecture.

Most businesses are also looking for anywhere, anytime and any-device services, just like their counterparts in Europe, America, and Asia. There is a great potential in this market and the providers must ensure that the demand is met by delivering the right infrastructure, right security and optimum bandwidth. Resellers in the market have already incorporated Cloud as part of their portfolios and now sell Cloud in conjunction with on-premise solutions. Cloud providers have smartly adopted the channel model in order to reach end customers faster and enable them to work with their preferred resellers already familiar with their existing environments. This is a win-win for everybody.