CCS Blog

Using the Cloud for Your Business

by Jim Martin

You can use the cloud for storage and save substantially. If you own a data-intensive business, you can avoid the cost of buying more memory capacity. The public cloud won’t work for every storage or application need, but you can evaluate your use by looking in these areas:

Security. The security of the cloud is heavily debated. Detractors point to two issues: you can lose control of your data, and the cloud might attract hackers looking for data. To prevent lack of control, hire really talented people; budget for aggressive and thorough penetration testing; and contract with a cloud provider with good skills. You can further protect through encryption. Many cloud providers encrypt your data. If you also encrypt it, you add an extra barrier to intrusion.

The hacker fear assumes someone can steal all the data in a cloud. That is unlikely. The cloud is like a school of fish, providing safety in numbers. If your data center is a fish swimming alone, it’s vulnerable to attack. If you’re one of many fish in a cloud, you have to be the unlucky one that the shark randomly bites. A smart CIO will be careful in picking a cloud provider. Certifications and Standards for cloud security are still evolving. The only way to identify a secure cloud is by carefully examining the reputation and track record of the providers you consider.

Compliance. Many vertical markets, like healthcare and finance, have strict rules regarding data movement and storage. Most cloud providers cannot (or will not) guarantee transparency into where your data might be at any given time. Many can’t even guarantee what state or country it is in. If your data must be kept in strict regulatory compliance, the public cloud may not be for you.

Commodity Clouds. One point is clear: there is little difference between one vendor’s offering and another’s. Cloud providers have begun to compete at one of three levels: price, service, and niche offerings. If your needs are standard and simple, the race to the bottom for pricing among the big providers will help you out. Before you consider taking the lowest bid, consider services. Moving data in and out of the cloud isn’t as easy as it needs to be. If you’re a company that has serious compliance issues, you might want to consider one of the newer niche cloud offerings that have expertise and service levels that support compliance while gaining the benefit of the cloud.

Exit Strategy. A critical consideration in the cloud is an exit strategy for both your company and your data. Your data sits on someone else’s servers, in their building and their network. They may back up your data many times. They want your business, and they don’t necessarily want to make it easy for you to switch to another provider. Ensure you are in agreement about data ownership, how quickly data has to be transferred to a new location, and how backups will destroyed

People. An often overlooked element of a cloud strategy is that much of your long term savings will come from your ability to shift operating expenditures to your provider. One such expense seems to be your data center staff. It could be easy to lay off a few people and look like a short-term hero with those savings. The goal of cloud use shouldn’t be to get rid of people, but rather to free them to innovate in other areas. Have a plan in place to keep as many as possible to help serve the business. It will improve both morale and your bottom line.

The cloud offers huge benefits to a business when used in the right way. The onus is on you to use it correctly. Start carefully and you can reap big benefits from intelligent use of the cloud.