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    COVID-19’s Impact On Digital Services and How We Work: The Blind Spots That Businesses Need To Prepare For

    February 15, 2021 | By Sungard AS |

    Reliance on technology has never been higher than during the pandemic. Ninety-three percent of Americans are currently using digital services and nearly all of those (95%) plan to continue using these services even after the pandemic ends, according to a survey conducted online in December 2020 by The Harris Poll on behalf of Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS).

    This raises the stakes for the companies providing those services, which not only face the challenges of optimising their application performance, but must also secure their environments to avoid the kind of disruptions that frustrate users and lead to lost revenue.

    How Are Consumers Responding To Tech Troubles?

    Many U.S. adults cited dropped calls, unavailable apps, and lagging and slow connections among the single biggest or most frustrating technology issues they have experienced during the pandemic1.

    It’s frustrating when I’m in a meeting and Zoom starts to act up,” said one respondent, who has missed work meetings as a result of Zoom issues. Another was frustrated with the “Unemployment system crashing,” while another individual shared, “The VPN I use for work is frequently slow or down. Because of this, I cannot access shared network drives or my company’s intranet.”

    As demand on digital services intensifies, so too will consumer expectations. This feeling has been building for months. In fact, per a May 2020 survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Sungard AS, eight in 10 respondents believe it’s unacceptable for websites or apps to experience an outage or be unavailable because of the pandemic.

    Businesses must be able to respond, navigating changes in workload fluctuations to ensure application performance.

    Unfortunately, consumers are doing more than expressing displeasure; they’re taking action by leveraging their purchasing power. Thirty-eight percent of 18-34 year olds and 40% of 35-44 year olds said they’ve already changed service providers or service levels based on tech issues during the pandemic.

    Some 41% and 42% of those same sets, respectively, stated they would avoid purchasing from certain companies based solely on how they handled the pandemic. Parents with children under 18 in the household too were quick to change services, with 43% admitting they already had, and 44% saying they would avoid certain companies moving forward.

    With consumers continuing to rely heavily on digital services, their patience for tech troubles is only going to wane. Almost 70% of individuals admit to being easily frustrated when faced with tech complications, per the OnePoll survey.

    Businesses must reevaluate their operational resilience and risk, and take precautions to make sure these services remain available, as any outage or disruption to these services could result in a hit to brand reputation or a loss of customers.

    Yet many companies still aren’t doing enough, especially around cybersecurity.

    Cybersecurity During The Pandemic

    Overall, 64% of U.S. adults who are employed full-time and/or part-time are now working from home, which leaves them even more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hackers are exploiting the situation.

    Phishing attacks have risen dramatically since start of the pandemic, with organisations facing an average of 1,185 attacks each month. At the same time, one in four Americans have received a COVID-19-related phishing email.

    A small segment of employers have taken steps to improve the security of their remote workers. Thirty-three percent of those working from home said their employer has provided software to ensure a secure network, while 26% revealed they were given hardware to ensure a secure network. Twenty-eight percent said their employers required them to use a VPN connection to access company sites.

    And yet, those actions are still more than many have done. Thirty percent of remote workers revealed that their employers haven’t done anything to help them better secure their home networks or access to company data.

    Companies should use the pandemic as a learning experience to make sure their employees can work effectively from home. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of their security. Businesses must prioritize security awareness education, keeping their employees abreast on the latest security threats. They must also continue to perform regular cybersecurity tests and require employees to use a VPN.

    A Reminder To All Companies…

    The pandemic has changed how we work and the digital services we use. It also placed a spotlight on both our reliance on these services and the potential consequences of performance issues or disruptions.

    We witnessed a Zoom crash that left many U.S. students and workers in the lurch. When numerous Google services were down for nearly an hour, it disrupted businesses and even closed schools. A three-hour Slack outage interrupted remote workers and contributed to the company’s share price dropping 1% in that afternoon’s trading.

    All of this underscores the significance of having a highly available, connected infrastructure that can scale up and down and support on demand. It also further illustrates consumers’ expectations for application performance, which reaffirms the need for high-performance, low-latency connectivity.

    Any business that isn’t working to improve application performance and boost resilience will start falling behind the competition, sustaining brand reputation damage, and worst of all, losing customers and revenue.

    Survey Methodology

    This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Sungard AS from December 21-23, 2020 among 2,001 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Alison Brooker at alison.brooker@sungardas.com.