The world of data centers is constantly adapting and evolving to complement technology and business. With new applications come new enterprise demands and with new end user requirements come new IT architectures to support them — digital business and data ecosystems are changing by the day. However, the extraordinary circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has created are expediting, and, in some ways, redefining this path to the future and the place of data centers within it.

This pandemic and the resulting changes to business as usual have presented disruption, but they have also driven a renewed focus on existing data center elements, making them more vital than ever for business continuity. Here are some shifts and trends that are currently impacting the growth and operations of the Texas data center market.

Hands-On Help

For now, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the nature of work and of data center operations. In order to keep safe distances, teams and entire companies are working remotely instead of in office buildings or other central locations. For internal teams, this may not be a very difficult shift. Many are familiar with online platforms and collaborative tools, such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Slack, so while the transition period has impacted every data center provider differently, working and communicating can largely remain uninterrupted.

On the customer or client side, however, this new remote work opportunity is changing the way data center services are consumed and the way IT housed in these facilities is managed. Clients are far less likely to visit and tour prospective data centers in person, and their own teams are also less likely to come on-site to manage their IT due to the pandemic. Yet, it’s more crucial than ever that clients remain in touch with their data. This means data center providers must find a way to ensure they are supporting customer success, and the ability to deliver hands-on, high-touch services is being tested.

Remote hands services has been vital for bridging the gap in data center maintenance and management, and has become necessary for the data center industry and its users to continue with minimal disruption. Delegating key IT functions to a data center provider’s skilled technician keeps in-house IT teams safer, keeps the company more focused on core strategic initiatives, and delivers reliability during the time when it’s needed most. These benefits are part of why the remote infrastructure management market will be worth a projected $35 billion by 2023, according to MarketWatch.

While remote hands were once helpful options, they’re now central to many tenants’ ongoing success. When navigated successfully, this shift presents a unique opportunity to build a deeper level of trust between providers and customers and, in turn, between those customers and their own end users.

The data center and its always-on, reliable IT services are the foundation for this chain of value. As a result, we’re likely to see these remote services continue to grow in importance and in prevalence in the post-COVID-19 world.

The Future Relies on Networks

The newly remote workforce has also created an acute focus on robust networks that are capable of handling a dramatic increase in traffic. Without a capable network foundation, the platforms, software programs, online services, and disparate locations that are now being used to conduct business cannot be combined into one seamless and successful business environment.

To solve this challenge, many non-corporate networks are now being leveraged to ensure adequate connectivity and overall business efficacy. Subsequently, the enterprise investments in both human capital and network infrastructure assets are on the rise, affecting the supply chain and the ability to deploy new assets in a timely manner. This puts additional pressure both on the enterprise, which needs to ensure it has adequate infrastructure in place to support new work strategies, and the data center, which needs to be able to deliver the services to help them achieve this. The data center industry will see a focus on network-centric services, and demand for network management and assessment, private data networks, transport, and other customizable services will rise as digital transformations focus on making networks more capable than ever.

Safety Remains Paramount

With the increased volume of remote hands opportunities and other business continuity measures in place, maintaining a full and healthy workforce is key to facilitating the ongoing enablement of customers’ needs. Now, ensuring companywide safety has meant keeping employees informed of critical changes and new procedures as the situation changes and businesses adapt. While this isn’t specific to data centers, it’s nevertheless vital to maintain enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing and other appropriate practices throughout facilities and across locations. With data centers serving as critical enablers of digital and data-intensive business strategies and requiring on-site essential staff to provision 24x7x365 care, it’s important these individuals can perform their duties and keep customers supported — all while remaining safe.

Moving Forward

While these trends are regional observations from the Texas market, they aren’t limited by geography. Instead, they are representative of a nationwide and nearly ubiquitous pivot on the part of data centers and enterprises as a result of unprecedented disruption. Despite uncertainty and change, however, these events are equipping providers and customers alike with the knowledge needed to adjust and prepare for a more secure, resilient, and empowered future.