Locking Down the Cloud

Guest Post by Pontus Noren, director and co-founder, Cloudreach.

The good news for cloud providers is that forward-thinking CIOs are rushing to embrace all things ‘cloud’, realising that it provides a flexible and cost-effective option for IT infrastructure, data storage and software applications. The bad news is that the most significant obstacle to implementation could be internal: coming from other parts of the organisation where enduring myths about legal implications, security and privacy issues remain. The reality is that today such fears are largely unfounded. CIOs need help in communicating this to their more reluctant colleagues if they want to make the move to the cloud a success.

Myth No 1: The Security Scare

In many cases, moving to the cloud can in fact represent a security upgrade for the organisation. Since the introduction of cloud-based computing and data storage around ten years ago, the issue of security has been so high profile that reputable cloud providers have made vast investments in their security set-ups – one that an individual organisation would be unable to cost-effectively match due to the far different scale on which it operates.

For example, data stored in the cloud is backed-up, encrypted and replicated across multiple geographically distributed data centres in order to protect it from the impact of natural disasters or physical breaches.  All this takes place under the watchful eyes of dedicated data centre security experts. If you compare this to the traditional in-house approach – which all too frequently sees data stored on a single server located somewhere in the basement of an office – it is not difficult to see which is the most secure option. By working with an established and respected cloud provider, such as Google or Amazon Web Services businesses can benefit from such comprehensive security measures without having to make the investment themselves.

Myth No 2: Data in Danger

Security and data privacy are closely related, but different issues. Security is mainly about physical measures taken to mitigate risks, while ‘privacy’ is more of a legal issue about who can access sensitive data, how it is processed, whether or not it is being moved and where it is at any moment in time.

Concerns around compliance with in-country data protection regulations are rife, especially when dealing with other countries.  Across Europe, for example, data protection laws vary from country to country with very strict guidelines about where data can be stored.  A substantial amount of data cannot be moved across geographical boundaries, so the security practice of replicating data across the globe has far-reaching compliance applications for data protection. However, data protection legislation states that there is always a data processor and data controller and a customer never actually ‘hands over’ its data. This doesn’t change when the cloud is involved – all large and reputable cloud services providers are only ever the data processor. For example, the provider will only ever process data on behalf of its customer, and the customer always maintains its ownership of its data, and role of data controller.

However, much of data protection law predates the cloud and is taking a while to catch up. Change is most definitely on its way. Proposed European legislation aims to make data protection laws consistent across Europe, and with highly data-restricted industries such as financial services now starting to move beyond private clouds into public cloud adoption, further change is likely to follow as organisations start to feel reassured.

So what can CIOs do to change perceptions? It comes down to three simple steps:

  • Be Specific – Identify your organization’s top ten queries and concerns and address these clearly.
  • Be Bold – Cloud computing is a well-trodden path and should not be seen as the future, rather as the now. Having tackled company concerns head on, it is important to make the jump and not just dip a toe in the water.
  • Be Early – Engage reluctant individuals early on in the implementation process, making them part of the change. This way CIOs can fend off ill-informed efforts to derail cloud plans and ensure buy-in from the people who will be using the new systems and services.

The cloud has been around for a while now and is a trusted and secure option for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. In fact, there are more than 50 million business users alone of Google Apps worldwide. It can hold its own in the face of security and privacy concerns.  CIOs have an important role to play in reassuring and informing colleagues so that the firm can harness the many benefits of the cloud; future-proof the business and release IT expertise to add value across the business.  Don’t let fear leave your organisation on the side lines.

Pontus Noren, director and co-founder, Cloudreach Pontus Noren is director and co-founder, Cloudreach.