Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Marcus Austin. Marcus has over 25 years of experience in tech and the business sector. He currently works for Firebrand Training as a Technical Author.
There are Cloud solutions for practically everything you can think of, but Cloud isn’t right for every problem and in some areas, Cloud is definitely not the right solution. 2013 brought with it the certainty that the Cloud is not a fad. It’s passed the hype tests, and we’ve kicked the tires.
If we were to plot the Cloud on IT analysts Gartner’s Hype cycle of technology, we’d have to pin it somewhere between the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ and the ‘Plateau of Productivity.’ However that’s not to say that Cloud should be accepted with open arms. In short, the Cloud is not the answer to every question, but it is the answer to quite a lot of questions.
Recommended Reading: Cloud Hosting: How Does it Really Work?
Cloud, get it right or pay the price
One of the advantages of joining the move to the Cloud in the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ stage is that thankfully many businesses have already gone ahead and triggered the potential traps and pitfalls (which we can now avoid).
It’s that moment when the guy from Sales (with no clue about IT) gives (or gets) unauthorized access to sensitive information in a Dropbox account, or signs himself up to Salesforce’s Cloud-based CRM to handle his sales enquiries… without telling IT.
The result: sensitive information is now in the Cloud with no organizational oversight and is susceptible to unauthorized exposure. The best solution is to get your teams up to speed on Cloud security, and to make sure that they’re using the right sort of Cloud applications, i.e. the ones that are written for businesses not consumers, before someone outside of the business spots the weaknesses.
Restoring Cloud backups can cause problems
Surely that’s the whole point of Cloud – everything gets backed up by people who know their way around a copy of Tivoli Storage Manager or EMC’s NetWorker. Well that’s true, but what happens when your Cloud provider goes belly up? Where is your data and who has access to it?
If you can’t backup your data directly from the Cloud, then make sure there’s something written down in the Service Level Agreement (SLA), that says who owns the data, and what happens to it should everything go wrong.
Additionally, if like many businesses you’re using the Cloud as place to backup your data, then make sure you can recover your data. You’d be surprised just how many businesses can’t restore their data. A recent survey by Symantec on Cloud storage found that nearly a half of all enterprises (47%) had lost data in the Cloud and had to restore their information from backups with a staggering two-thirds of those organizations failing to recover data.
Do you know where your data is stored?
If your answer to the question ‘Where’s your data stored?’ is something along the lines of ‘it’s in the Cloud,’ then go to the back of the class now. There are a number of issues when it comes to storing data with a third-party, and compliance is one of the big ones.
Fines for not knowing where your data is kept and how it is managed can be in the millions of dollars. In the UK the Financial Services Agency (FSA) fined insurance business Zurich £2,275,000 (US$ 3,444,00) for failing to have adequate systems and controls in place to prevent the loss of customers’ confidential information.
Additionally the Information Commisioners Office (ICO) has the ability to levy fines of up to £500,000 (US$ 757,000) for breaches of the UK’s Data Protection act, and recently fined Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited £250,000 (US$ 379,000) following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.
If the data you are storing in the Cloud has any personal information, or any financial information, such as credit card data, then keep it in the country of origin, or face the consequences of a heavy fine. If in doubt keep it on the premises in a private Cloud. If you are unsure of the laws then Forrester have published an interactive map of privacy and data protection laws for the majority of the major countries in the World.
Being efficient with your data
The main benefit of the Cloud is you only pay for what you use, but if you’re not vigilant then you can end up paying for data that you don’t use anymore and people who no longer work for you. It’s simple to setup an account on a Cloud service and then to add more users as they join in. Unfortunately it’s also easy to forget to delete the account when those users leave.
Likewise it’s also simple to keep throwing data at the Cloud. The Cloud just keeps on soaking it up and unlike a server-based solution it never spits back a message saying ‘your mailbox is almost full.’
So sooner or later you’ll find that you have 200 versions of the same email, 20 versions of the same PowerPoint presentation, and 30 copies of that amusing 50MB video. It all add up and you will continue paying for every single byte to be securely stored and backed up.
Be firm but be flexible
The reason Cloud has been able to grow so fast, is all down to plastic. If the IT department isn’t playing ball, and has assessed a project to the bottom of the pile, with a delivery date sometime in 2015, then the answer for many users is to go native and buy a Cloud solution on the company card.
However you can guarantee that your rogue IT buyer will never ask any of the questions your IT department would have asked when they choose an enterprise solution, nor will they have thought about all of the consequences if anything goes wrong? While burning the credit cards sound like a good solution, a better solution is to have some flexibility and help from the IT department and to educate employees to the potential problems of the credit card Cloud solution.
Finally, as we said at the start, Cloud is no longer a fad, but nor is it the answer to everything. So make sure that when you look for a Cloud solution you should always keep the potential pitfalls in mind and don’t be blinded by the headline benefits.