‘The cloud’ once posed a complex evolution in the story of internet technology—confusing those accustomed to traditional infrastructure and leaving skeptics uncertain of its true potential. Today, cloud computing is becoming the next big step in an organization’s drive to gain greater productivity, agility and innovation among other benefits. In fact, perpetuated by the pandemic, it’s inevitable that some part of nearly every organization’s network will be moved to the cloud as a means of future proofing its business model.
As the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) commissioned global strategic consultancy Public First to conduct a report on AWS’s impact on the Canadian economy. Its findings share not only a glimpse of how the cloud has impacted businesses on a surface level, but also how widened adoption of the cloud can significantly enhance the state of the country’s economic health. For example, the report found that in 2021, AWS generated roughly $8.5 billion in economic value for Canada—supporting 380,000 businesses. By 2030, it’s estimated that greater use and uptake of cloud computing could help increase the GDP by an additional 1.7%, or the equivalent of over $40 billion.
And it’s not something that only a niche of companies are leveraging. “There’s so much evidence of the impact of cloud computing in every kind of industry,” says Eric Gales, AWS Country Manager. “The question of why a business might utilize the cloud has passed—today, businesses are asking how and when they can apply it.”
As digitally-native brands grew during the pandemic, AWS supported their resilience in a number of ways. For companies that were already using the cloud, they were able to scale and meet the demand of ecommerce and remote work. For the Canadian government, AWS helped customers quickly develop digital solutions for everything from tracking the spread of COVID-19 to launching cloud-based call centres able to assist people applying for the Emergency Response Benefit program (CERB).
“It would have been very difficult to do this without the flexibility and utility of the cloud,” adds Gales.
As the benefits of cloud computing become common knowledge, it should be no surprise that many of Canada’s unicorns (startups worth more than $1 billion) are running on AWS. Among them, Calgary’s Neo Financial.
Neo Financial combines digital banking with a network of reward offerings that are personalized to individual spending behaviour. Despite being a relatively new company, founded only in 2019, Neo has quickly grown to become one of Canada’s top in financial services. “We’ve always believed that we can add more value to our customers’ lives and Canada’s financial landscape through the use of data, machine learning and analytics,” says Kris Read, co-founder & CTO of Neo Financial. The company began using AWS Data Lakes and Analytics from its inception, and has been able to help customers with budgeting, mortgage payments and financial planning by way of this tool.
With more than one million customers, Neo has a lot of information to organize—when it comes to storing financial data securely, the company considers AWS’s Quantum Ledger Database to be the most robust and cutting edge solution. “Tools like these have given us the agility to develop new products and solutions faster,” says Read.
Among the 58% of businesses using AWS that reported growing in the past three years (compared to just 39% of businesses that had not invested in any cloud), Neo Financial has used AWS cloud computing tools to scale its infrastructure and services alongside the brand’s nationwide development. “It was important for us, in adopting AWS, to know that our technology could scale infinitely along with the growth of Neo,” says Read. “We’ve been able to scale up our processing systems to serve more than one million open Neo accounts and attend to every transaction as they’re made in real time.”
Beyond the world of fintech, AWS has also made a big impact in the areas of innovation and sustainability. Eco-conscious digital thermostat company Mysa, founded on a clear mission to fight climate change through energy efficiency, joined AWS’s Activate for Startups program upon its founding in 2016. Today, the company is part of the 74% of Canadian businesses that said using cloud services helps them reduce the environmental impact of their computing. “We’re very invested in our own sustainability, so any technology we adopt needs to fit that mould,” says Peter Woodman, head of software development and new products at Mysa. “AWS has allowed us to streamline our digital infrastructure without dedicated servers, which is easily scalable and incredibly energy saving.”
Peter also claims one of the most attractive parts of AWS early on was its financial support for startups. “Accessibility to free services through their Activate for Startups program and a generous free tier of services allowed us to save a lot of money during a very important time in the company’s development.” Like 84% of AWS users who reported saving money by using the cloud, Mysa has been able to focus on broadening its innovative offerings through new products and services. “Our innovation strategy is always to stay aligned with how we see the future of energy,” says Woodman. “There is, of course, a big technical push in energy to improve the climate crisis—which is where we’ve pushed our innovation efforts by offering an energy-saving and carbon reducing product that is easy for anyone to use.”
As the phenomenon of cloud computing scales up, so to speak, and the technology becomes demystified, Canadian businesses can agree that AWS is an essential part of a company’s growth. And in areas spanning productivity, innovation, agility and even sustainability, Canada’s veteran companies along with the country’s booming startup ecosystem have the tools to maximize impact.
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