Over the past few years, organisations have witnessed cloud computing move higher and higher up their business agenda. It was a movement, which first began as an operational and strategic investment, initially requiring significant change management, but eventually reduced enterprises’ costs, which led to an approach focused more on innovation management.
Thanks to the virtualisation of IT, the transfer of data from physical servers to the cloud has enabled businesses to work in a more flexible way to better embrace the concept of an open enterprise. Yet, so many years after the public cloud first rose to prominence, many companies are still wondering whether it’s the right step for their business.
There are many business benefits, which come with storing data in the public cloud, as opposed to on premise. The main benefit is the flexibility – public cloud offers an ‘on-demand’ service for data access, storage and management. This flexibility can drive adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) solutions, as well as enabling more flexible working practices, allowing employees to work with familiar devices whilst being able to access required data from any location. Storing data in the public cloud can be a great fit for companies, which do not deal with highly sensitive information. As well as providing flexibility and scalability, public cloud can also greatly reduce overheads. By opting for public cloud, businesses no longer need to store data on physical servers and can outsource the cost of talent needed to secure and manage that data to the cloud provider.
Over the years, public cloud has been best suited for smaller organisations and start-ups, as due to the nature of these businesses, they don’t tend to have the scalability or disposable budget to invest in strong hardware and back office functions. Public cloud, therefore, can be a beneficial solution for smaller businesses considering their storage options and looking to speed up their workflows.
However, public cloud’s greatest asset can also be seen as its greatest downfall. Lack of geographical limitations restricting users as to where they can access the data from, can expose organisations to a security breach, especially if data is stored in one country with its own set of regulations, but accessed in another. Which brings us to the cons.
More sensitive data will always require stricter security and preferably a highly regulated network, at least until organisations invest in better identity management. Deciding to jump into the public cloud with a one-network-fits-all strategy is a common mistake, which can get businesses into hot water. Before deciding to move to the cloud, it’s critical for companies to examine the nature of the data they handle, in order to establish how many virtual information networks comprise their infrastructure, what data should be handled by which network, and which security settings should be attributed to each.
For now, many organisations utilise private cloud for that purpose, yet for companies, which require an ‘in-between’ solution for public and private cloud, a hybrid cloud infrastructure may be the solution. CFOs will be pleased to hear that properly configured hybrid solutions will not compromise sensitive and confidential corporate data as this model gives businesses the flexibility to choose where to store different sets of information – allowing users to take advantage of the scalability and cost benefits associated with the public cloud whilst still maintaining security levels for sensitive data. The continued pressure to drive down IT costs can ultimately make the financial implications of hybrid cloud adoption the defining business driver: getting the cost right can often outweigh all other discussions with the CFO.
Public cloud’s journey to prominence is not over yet. In the long term, there will inevitably come a time when the public cloud will be a place for enterprises to store all of their data and applications – under the condition that organisations are able to solve issues around identity management and information rights management. Security will eventually become device, system and data agnostic – focusing instead on people, data and permissions. Once that happens, sensitivity of information will no longer be an obstacle to storing data and applications in suitably secure public clouds.