What’s Stopping Businesses From Using the Cloud?
In essence, cloud computing means the transfer, creation, and storing of data on the Internet. The following characteristics are commonly applied to cloud computing.
- A reliable on-demand service that provides security, speed, and easy access.
- A flexible provision of scalable resources.
- A service that is fully managed by a cloud provider – who supplies servers, data storage, and software applications to an organisation over the Internet.
A private cloud provides infrastructure for a single organisation, whereas a public cloud is a network open to the public. Public clouds are provided by vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Hybrid clouds are also available.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IasS) is the fastest growing area of public cloud computing with a compound growth rate of 41.3% through to 2016.
The major concerns of switching to cloud based computing
Despite such a growth rate, many organisations remain skeptical about the benefits of cloud services, with lingering doubts centred on the four major issues discussed below.
Loss of control
Fear is one barrier to companies switching to the cloud. This is a human reaction to the consequences of losing control. When data systems crash, it is the IT Director or CIO who has to face the music and, with corrective actions out of their control, they feel powerless to rectify the situation.
Indeed, the reliability of data systems is vital for an organisation to operate efficiently. There are a number of justifiable concerns in relation to the control of data resources.
Adequate Service Level Agreement (LSA). The issue here is the need to obtain guarantees for network availability and server scalability.
The best solution to this problem is to contract a cloud provider who is accredited to the highest industry standards. Depending on the country in which the provider resides, the following accreditations are available:
- Unified Certification Standard (UCS)
- Cloud Industry Forum Code of Practice
- CSA Open Certification Framework
Cost of internal hardware vs. the cost of network bandwidth. The larger the organisation, the higher is the demand for the network resources needed to provide services to users and developers.
However, self-managed data storage is dependent on in-house hardware resources, whereas cloud storage is a flexible, on-demand resource.
Dependence on a single service provider. Reliance on a single cloud provider is a well justified concern on the basis that clients have no direct control over their resources, service standards and personnel practices.
The solution to this concern is to use a multi-cloud management platform and contract more than one provider.
There following issues are of concern with data protection:
- Regulatory compliance – This concern relates to national laws and audit procedures which seek to protect confidential and personal data. To alleviate this concern, an organisation may wish to refrain from storing client data such as credit card information on a cloud server. The cloud provider should also have adequate accreditation.
- Data access and data theft by hackers – There are a number of security measures that can be put in place to protect you from this situation, which will be mentioned below.
- Unauthorised data access because data is kept outside the corporate firewall.
- Security flaws caused by the cloud provider neglecting to keep security patches up-to-date.
- The issue of giving developers access to cloud servers without compromising security.
- The provision of secure network infrastructure that facilitates adequate communication between the cloud servers and internal service applications.
- Secure configuration of Virtual Machine (VM) facilities and associated software.
The contrary argument to these concerns is the recognition that cloud computing is the cloud provider’s core business and they are likely to have trained staff dealing with security issues.
Some of these concerns can also be alleviated by implementing security applications, data loss software, encrypted files systems, and hiring a system admin person to monitor security.
As previously stated, data system access is of vital importance to the efficient operation of any organisation. The following issues are of concern with cloud computing:
- Cloud server outages. The concern with service outages is that control and recovery procedures rest with the cloud provider.
- Cloud provider taken over by a larger organisation. This concern which is best addressed in a Service Level Agreement.
The question of data availability is best solved by performing frequent in-house backups and sending these to a secondary cloud provider.
Other solutions to cloud concerns
Finally, it is possible to implement longer-term solutions which address the concerns with cloud computing. Such measures include:
- Building software applications designed to cope with failure instead of systems designed never to fail.
- Implementing cloud abstraction layers like Active Record which enables easy transfer between cloud providers.
- Optimising network speed and cloud server access for developers.
- Implementing system orchestrations tools to control system configuration.