Cloud service providers step up with free services

Cloud providers are offering free select services to companies as well as supporting research and collaboration efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the world continues to try to cope with the coronavirus crisis on multiple fronts, cloud service providers are doing their part to help.

The efforts include offering select services for free to help companies continue to do business during the pandemic, and supporting worldwide research and collaboration efforts.


IBM is offering nine free cloud-based services to help companies maintain business continuity during the crisis. The offers span areas including artificial intelligence (AI), data management, cybersecurity, integration, remote learning, and others, all provided via the IBM public cloud.

The company is offering free IBM Cloud Virtual Servers for virtual private cloud (VPC) over a three-month time period in select data centers around the world, to help organizations migrate to remote work environments. Companies can build virtual server configurations up to $500 in value. The servers spin up and scale out on-demand, with hourly and monthly billing options for public or dedicated instances.

The offer is subject to availability, and there is a three-month time limit, with one use per customer. The $500 credit is for use with this offer only and can’t be applied to other offers.

IBM is also offering new clients of its Aspera software, which provides fast file transfer and streaming based on its FASP protocol, free 90-day access. The cloud service supports high-speed file sharing and team collaboration.

The company is also offering a number of extended, no-charge access to technologies to help organizations bolster security programs, so as to protect remote employees against cyberthreats such as phishing and hackers.

[ Related: Don’t let the coronavirus make you a home office security risk ]

Yet another offer involves IBM Video Streaming and Enterer rise Video Streaming services. For Enterprise Video Streaming, which is most often used for employee communications, the offer includes free access for 90 days to stream communications to authenticated users, and includes 20,000 authenticated users, 400,000 viewer hours per month, one channel and 1 TB storage.

For IBM Video Streaming, which is most often used for virtual conferences and events, the offer includes free access for 90 days to stream events to public audiences and includes 20,000 viewer hours, 10 Channels and 1 TB storage.

[ Related: Coronavirus: Managing (and pivoting) during a crisis ]

Other free offers from IBM involve its Sterling supply chain suite; Blueworks Live software for collaboration; Cloud Event Management to prioritize, diagnose, assign and resolve incidents from a single service; remote learning resources for schools; and IBM Garage, a design and development platform.


Commvault, in an effort to help organizations support remote workers and ensure data security, announced that it’s enabling instant access to its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, Metallic Endpoint Backup and Recover, available at no cost in the US and Canada through Sept. 1, 2020. The company will provide unlimited Microsoft Azure backup storage for up to 1,000 endpoint devices as part of the offer.

The offering provides new and existing customers with a way to deliver endpoint data protection, and to safeguard data on laptops and other devices from corruption, deletion and opportunistic malware and ransomware attacks.

These types of protections become even more critical in times like these, as they help stave off bad actors looking to exploit the situation, according to Janet Giesen, vice president of Metallic operations and go to market at Commvault.

[ Related: IT hiring trends: What to expect now and in the months to come ]

By leveraging Microsoft Azure Cloud storage with Metallic’s endpoint protection, companies can quickly begin securing remote workers’ devices without physical interaction or downtime. The application can be up and running in minutes, the company says, which is important at a time when organizations are rapidly shifting to work-at-home scenarios for many employees.


Cloud application provide Salesforce launched Salesforce Care, free rapid response products to help companies navigate COVID-19.

The company initially introduced a version designed specifically for healthcare providers experiencing an influx of requests for information, then expanded the program with additional free offerings to help companies in any industry stay connected to stakeholders, including remote workers.

The offerings include Salesforce Care for Employee and Customer Support, a pre-configured employee help center, customer service and contact center application for responding to inquiries fast and keeping customers and employees informed.

Features include Einstein Bots, communities and portals that enable employees and customers to self-serve, and digital engagement tools to help agents handle the increasing volume of questions they are receiving across channels such as chat, texting and social media.

Another feature, Salesforce Maps, provides a built-in data feed with monitoring where virus outbreaks have occurred so customers can overlay critical employee and customer data to make fast, accurate decisions. And a myTrailhead learning platform lets organizations quickly deliver digital content and COVID-19 related information to employees, customers and partners.

By unifying all of these internal and external COVID-19 responses, organizations can eliminate repetitive tasks and streamline work, according to the company.

Another offering, Salesforce Care for Small Business: Salesforce Essentials, provides customer relationship management (CRM) for small businesses.

Salesforce is also offering free continuous support and guidance from experts to help customers successfully deploy and use Salesforce Care products. The company says all Salesforce Care and accompanying support services will be available free to both customers and non-customers for at least 90 days unless otherwise stated.


Rackspace announced an offer in which current customers can add Microsoft Teams to their Office 365 account for free for six months. The goal is to support company work-at-home efforts by providing increased connectivity.

Features include chat, file-sharing, email, calendaring and video calling. Microsoft Teams meetings provide high-definition audio and video that enables users to interact and collaborate, regardless of the device or network. It supports one-on-one video calls on mobile and desktop devices, conference meetings, or global live events delivered to thousands of people.

Users can share and edit documents in real-time using Office and OneDrive for Business. They can collaborate with customers, co-workers, and suppliers using chat and shared workspaces in Microsoft Teams.

Rackspace says it’s setting aside $10 million in free OpenStack Public Cloud hosting resources over the next six months for organizations participating in COVID-19 relief efforts.

The program is open to anyone participating in relief efforts, including pharmaceutical and scientific research, healthcare, educational and nonprofit organizations that need massive amounts of compute services to fight the spread and reduce the impact of COVID-19.

The company says the program is intended for organizations requiring automated deployments at large scale and is not available to current OpenStack Public Cloud customers.

Computing power in the cloud

Some cloud providers are also offering services at no charge to organizations directly involved in efforts to combat the virus.

Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, announced it is offering medical personnel around the world advanced cloud-based technology applications in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AI-enhanced capabilities are based on learnings and insights garnered during the initial outbreak of the virus. The series of cloud-native anti-coronavirus services stem from joint efforts of Alibaba Cloud's product experts, scientists and researchers from Alibaba DAMO Academy and the technical team at DingTalk, one of the platforms UNESCO has tabbed as facilitating distance learning during the crisis.

DingTalk has also launched an International Medical Expert Communications Platform, hosted on Alibaba Cloud, to provide a means of free communication for medical workers worldwide to directly contact doctors from medical institutions.

Through videoconferencing and real-time AI translation into 11 languages, Alibaba says it’s aiming to build a virtual community, inviting doctors to share their experiences and answer questions from global peers.

From Alibaba DAMO Academy, a global research initiative by Alibaba, three services are being made available via free trial for medical professionals and research institutes worldwide. Alibaba Cloud will work with local partners to deploy relevant services in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) created the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative (DDI), which provides support for rapid and accurate patient testing for COVID-19 and other diagnostic solutions to mitigate future outbreaks.

Accurate testing and diagnosis at point-of-care or regional locations for patients with COVID-19 is critical to early intervention and treatment, the company says. AWS is offering technical support and providing promotional credits to support the use of its cloud services to advance diagnostic research for selected institutions and companies.

The program is open to accredited research institutions, research consortia, and private entities that are using AWS to support research-oriented workloads for the development of point-of-care diagnostic (testing that can be done at home or at a clinic with same-day results) and other diagnostic techniques. It will not support administrative workloads to run routine IT operations through the program.

The company is committing $20 million over the next year to accelerate research, innovation and development to accelerate collective understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other diagnostic tools to mitigate future infectious disease outbreaks.

Google Cloud is providing service for the health research community to identify new therapies and treatments; and assist hospital systems with tracking the pandemic and providing telehealth and remote-patient monitoring solutions.

In health research, the company is making several COVID-19 public datasets free to query, such as Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering COVID-19 data, the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey data and OpenStreetMaps data.

Google is also providing $20 million in Google Cloud credits to academic institutions and research organizations as they study potential therapies and vaccines, track critical data and identify new ways to combat the virus.

Researchers at accredited academic institutions can submit a proposal either directly to Google or to the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a group of healthcare, technology and research organizations recently launched by the White House to share computing resources in order to fight the virus.

In addition to Google Cloud, the consortium includes IBM, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, as well as a number of academic institutions, research facilities and federal agencies.

The goal of the initiative is to provide COVID-19 researchers around the world with access to the most powerful high-performance computing resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus. Members of the consortium are donating free compute time and resources on their systems.

The sophisticated computing systems available through the effort can process massive numbers of calculations related to bioinformatics, epidemiology and molecular modeling, which can help scientists develop answers to complex scientific questions about COVID-19 in hours or days vs. weeks or months.

By bringing together the world’s most advanced supercomputers and matching them with the best ideas and expertise, the consortium can drive real progress in the global fight, said Dario Gil, director of IBM research.