Truth be told, the idea of cloud computing did seem a little wacky at the beginning: You want me to put my data on servers that will be outside my enterprise? Across a network connection that may or may not be reliable? People were used to cradling their data close to them, so they could ensure access to the right people at the right time. After all, any glitch in availability rests on their shoulders. The idea of shifting to the cloud sparked worries about data being accessible, without anyone noticing that it was stored off-site.
Times have changed.
It’s not clear what the inflection point was. Perhaps the cost equation was too tempting not to try cloud, and the safety record of cloud computing companies – like the airlines – began to speak for itself.
Kudos, too, to advances in networks. Communications providers – which either offer cloud computing options or partner with cloud services providers – have ratcheted up reliability to the point that performance no longer rears its head as an issue. The result: Data doesn’t get lost. It doesn’t get corrupted. It is always available when employees or customers or anyone else needs it, any time, day or night.
That’s not to say that other concerns have evaporated – they haven’t. According to a recent IDG Research Services survey, issues such as performance and reliability are less of a concern than before. But respondents reported that other issues have percolated higher on the list.
The first is security. It was cited by 78% of respondents as a concern, far and away the highest percentage. Even compliance, the second-highest rated concern, was only a worry for 42% of respondents.
This shift speaks to cloud computing’s popularity, because it means that enterprises are worrying about more than just accessing the data. They’re worried about protecting the data at rest and in transit. Security will continue to be an issue until the industry achieves advances that make it more of an afterthought, just as performance and reliability have diminished in importance (40% and 38%, respectively, in the survey results). If you’re a technology optimist, you’re confident that day will come sooner rather than later.
So what’s the next step for enterprises in the meantime? When it comes to both security and compliance, enterprises should grill their cloud computing providers on these issues the same way they grilled them about performance. What are their procedures? What are their processes? Why are they better than anything that the enterprise can provide itself?
Compliance is a slightly trickier issue, almost always involving a specific industry challenge: Healthcare, finance, retail, and other industries all have their regulatory concerns. But there are horizontal concerns as well – there are regional issues regarding data privacy, and regulations governing where data can be legitimately stored and transferred. Enterprises must be confident that their cloud services provider understands this matrix of how – and why – data needs to be handled properly.
A really good cloud services provider will be able to show who, what, where, and why regarding what they do, in order to alleviate both new and old concerns.
Not too long ago, the biggest worry about cloud computing was whether data would be readily accessible. But network improvements have pushed performance and reliability down the ranks of cloud worries. Security and compliance now reign.
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