Business image, cloud

By Alex Hooper

Storage continues to be the most popular cloud service, while recent surveys have shown an increasing awareness of practical issues such as provider reliability and migration between suppliers as the market matures. Against this backdrop, the number of cloud service providers and the diversity of the options on offer are both increasing.

Business IT architecture is beginning to reflect the routine uptake of cloud services, as IT departments define their cloud requirements more exactingly. Detailed objectives and specifications are becoming more perceptive and precise, requiring more than just the cheap bulk storage for data overflow that may have been the case less than a decade ago. Industry leaders have, understandably, come to expect cloud computing infrastructure solutions that are more closely tailored to their company’s needs – whether for shared application performance, data volume and confidentiality, or database response speeds.

Amazon is a major player, holding more data than the aggregate held by Google, Microsoft, IBM and three or four other leading firms – no mean feat in itself. This month (August 2016), Google released three new cloud database solutions, apparently in an effort to attract business customers away from Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s Azure product. It is thought that uptake will triple over the next five to six years, due to new users and Big Data applications.

However, there are challenges; the cloud may not be as simple as the schematic woolly drawing might suggest. Cloud computing environments are best designed and developed with foresight, built with scalability and maintained with the correct outlook. Whether the organization is looking for responsive pricing models, rapid data access, future expansion or confidentiality in the treatment of financial and personal data, a number of areas need monitoring to ensure compliance with regulations and fulfillment of project objectives.

When sharing data between organizations and environments, links with rogue data need to be avoided. Detailed standards are set out in SOC 2 (Service Organization Controls) and in GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) covering security, processing integrity and privacy. In computing environments such as healthcare or finance, the correct treatment of offsite data is essential for compliance. According to a recent report, some new cloud sharing applications may not necessarily conform – even if through endorsed office software products.

IT experts have commented that the cloud is becoming a de facto norm for offsite data storage, in addition to file sharing, routine backups, disaster recovery and – increasingly – virtual processing. According to a 2015 survey of IT professionals carried out by Spicewords, 78 percent of respondents stated that employees in their organizations would use Dropbox for cloud and /or file sharing without IT approval and 45% would use Microsoft Onedrive. Logically, therefore, business IT provisioning teams will need to become as accustomed to fine-tuning cloud computing requirements and resources as they are (or were) to traditional IT infrastructure and physical server hardware in their onsite data centers; especially with news such as the recent major cyber attack involving over 68 million personal Dropbox records. The idea is not unlike visiting an unlimited restaurant buffet with seemingly countless options, while trying to avoid indigestion through proper planning and not trying too much at the same time.

The good news is that corporate data and IP can be digitally protected and encrypted even if, somehow, it ends up on public storage cloud services. Mobile application managers and users activity reporting should be used to control enterprise’s’ data journey and planned within security strategies as a priority, especially when an increasing number of organizations allow BYOD device storing.

Alex Hooper is the CTO at Cisilion joined in 2014, after previously running the global presales team at nscglobal. He brings over 15 years of experience of working for system integrators and service providers. His primary focus at Cisilion is developing a full breadth of networking and IT security services to our customers and has a passion for creating value for our customers.